Te{a}ch Talk

Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts on Transformation

Volume 1, Number 9, March 12, 2015

Purpose: A cause larger than ourselves

"One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to something greater and more permanent than oneself." -Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


This is the third leg of the tripod of Daniel Pink's motivation theory in his book, Drive. As he states, "Autonomous people working toward mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more" (p. 133).


When we work toward something that betters the world around us or leaves a positive impact or legacy that outlasts us, we are generally motivated to put forth our best work, even when the work is challenging.

Where and how do our students find purpose in learning?

Most of us went into teaching because we feel great purpose in our work, both in providing a positive influence on our young people, and in the value of our content. In each interaction and lesson, we have the opportunity to teach and lead with purpose. At our best, we are also able to foster a learning environment in which our students experience their own sense of purpose in the learning process. While much more complex than these few thoughts, here are a few ways to add purpose--and increased motivation--for our students:


  • Collective products--collective work for which our contributions are valuable to others
  • Service to others--coursework that provides a benefit to our class, school, family, or community
  • Expanded audience--coursework that is shared beyond the classroom and can be seen or used by others
  • Real-world application--learning that involves interacting with real-world problems in an authentic context
It was a pleasure to deliver coffee to Mary Magnuson and Angie Sletten last week! I look forward to another Friday coffee delivery. Please complete the form below to enter this week's drawing.