Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose

When considering the how technology is changing the learning landscape of global education we must first look at what we think is happening within our schools.  Life is a series of problems to be solved, however are we giving our learners the skills they need to solve real life problems.
Learning tasks and activities are just that, tasks and activities.  We give our students narrow problem, provided with all the tools needed within the problem – we spoons feed them the solution.  Problems then become formulaic, you no longer need skills you just need to be good at finding patterns.  Dan Meyer highlights this in his TED talk.  Posing the question,
“what problem have you solved, ever where you have all the given information in advance…?”
He suggests that we must create patient problem solvers, who are not merely looking for these patterns and routines.  Thought provoking problems look for conceptual understanding, they create dialogue, promote collaborations, ask students to use their intuition and allow the problems to be built based on prior knowledge and understanding.
This is a sentiment that is echoed by Dan Pink, although his does not make a case for education he talks about the business world and how to increase motivation.  We must make parallels has, after all, it is the world of work that we are preparing our students for.  Pink suggests that there are three aspects of the working world we must consider:
“Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose
  • Autonomy
    • “The urge to direct our own lives”
  • Mastery
    • “The desire to get better and better at something that matters”
  • Purpose
    • “The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves””
Design thinking is beginning to permeate our teaching practices – we are recognizing that this is vital to developing thinking skills and collaboration.  Technology is key to promoting these practices.  Classrooms are beginning the embrace Maker Spaces, Genius hours, 20% time, Fedex days.  Here the emphasis is on intrinsic motivations, back to Meyer and this idea of allowing students to construct their own problems.
We should move away from using technology as a reward, this is a narrow vision! Pink suggests that rewards only work for mechanical operations, if we are to more closer to deepening our students conceptual understanding we will find that the rewards may in fact lead to poorer performance.
More and more left brained work is being out sources and done by software as it is straight forward and narrow in vision – you just don’t need to think.  You need to look for a pattern within the question that will help you to arrive an answer – we can create a computer program to do that.  What we must do as teachers and instructors is become the ‘guide from the side’ and encourage our students to engage in far more right brained activities.  As both Pink and Meyer agree that real life problems don’t have a clear set of rules and a single solution.  Problems found in text books are not real life, not real 21st century life anyway.  The rules are complex and the solution, if there is one at all, is surprising.  Therefore as this is the case then the ‘if then rewards’ don’t work.
Through the use of technology within the classroom, used as a tool to aid thinking and learning, we can ensure that our learners are ready to solve 21st and 22nd Century problems.



The following is an excellent tool that can be used in the classroom to support conceptual learning and use Blooms taxonomy within lessons.




One thought on “Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose

  1. Sylvia,

    I too focused on Meyer’s Tedtalk and that I feel a lot of what I do does potentially fall under the “spoon feeding” classification. A lot of my MYP curriculum is focused on “Mastery” or potentially more so, getting students technically ready for the DP – can they structure a proper essay, thesis statement, give/write an adequate oral/written commentary? Etc. Unfortunately it is a necessary evil. Equally, so much of our time with this long-term skills-based instruction does not always pay off when they get to university as many programmes will never touch upon either a written or oral commentary.

    You bring up a number of points that I’ve been looking at for a very long time and trying to wrap my head around when and where such student-led learning such as, “Classrooms are beginning the embrace Maker Spaces, Genius hours, 20% time” can fit into very skills-based preparatory curricula. These seems to fit in so very well with PYP and generalist time tables, but with subject specific secondary time tables and curricula, things get a little sordid.

    Thanks for sharing the The Pedagogy Wheel. I found this nice video
    where Carrington explains his concept behind the Wheel. Ha! In 2015 he says this same document had been downloaded over a 100k times in 14 months. You and I have just added 2 more. The version you linked seems to be the latest installment (Version 5). Thanks again and nice post!

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