Over the course of history, humans have been driven by three different stages of motivation. Motivation 1.0 was about survival (e.g. food). Motivation 2.0 was about punishment and reward (e.g. money). Daniel Pink, author of “Drive,” argues 1.0 and 2.0 represent the old science of human motivation and that we should implement Motivation 3.0.

Motivation 3.0 consists of three basic elements: autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the drive to improve ourselves in things which are important to us; purpose, the longing to contribute to something larger than ourselves.

Motivation 3.0 presumes that we want more out of life than just food and money, but rather we aspire to “learn, create, and better the world.”

We’re now seeing this new science of motivation demonstrated in the business world. An increasing number of businesses are creating environments which foster inspiration and creativity in the workplace. Businesses are emphasizing results over methods, offering employees more control over how they structure their time.

We’re also seeing the new science of motivation through the rise of entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset, which inspire us to create and choose our own paths (Autonomy). In addition, it’s demonstrated through the rise in popularity of the 10,000 hour rule — a belief that says it takes 3 hours a day for ten years to become an expert in something (Mastery). Additionally, we see through the commencement speakers who encourage us to make meaning out of life rather than just money (Purpose).

And, finally, we’re beginning to see Motivation 3.0 in education.

“The New Culture of Learning,” a recent book by Professor John Seely Brown, provides examples of teachers who engage students’ internal motivations and tailor their classes accordingly. At the University of Michigan, the application for the Ford School of Public Policy asks students how they want to change the world. A recent student movement titled 1000 Voices rallied for more action-based education around campus, conveying students’ desire to learn not only through text, but also experience.

Enter Uncollege, which describes itself as a “social movement empowering you to create tomorrow — with or without letters after your name.”

Uncollege is a blog with an insightful, even provocative manifesto. It’s a public forum for people to discuss pedagogy, self-directed learning and the current state of higher education. It’s a community for students who are intrinsically motivated and who are looking to learn from each other. Soon, Uncollege will even have its own official curriculum.

The social movement is led by Dale Stephens, a 19 year-old Californian entrepreneur. After being homeschooled since fifth grade, he attended Hendrix College in Arkansas before dropping out. He states: “The direct impact I could have on the world by engaging the community around UnCollege far exceeded the impact I could have by completing homework assignments.”

But Dale’s position should be clarified. Dale, who has been featured on CNN, FOX and NPR, states: “I’m not against school; I’m for learning, and I think that learning happens everywhere — not just in the classroom.” Uncollege aims to design the ideal environment for learning, and prove that such an environment can be cost-effective. Dale’s efforts have gained a significant following.

However, Uncollege is not without critics. Dale’s column on CNN received negative comments in addition to praise. It may be natural to be skeptical of changes to tradition. But, at the very least, let’s have a discussion. Let’s explore what 1000 Voices and Uncollege have in common. First, they involve students who ask not only what they are doing, but also why they are doing it. Second, they involve students who rethink what they need to learn (Is memorizing all of this information important?) and how they learn best (Is it in a structured class room?). Third, they involve students who think about how they can attain a better education (What skills are really important? How can they be learned?).

In other words, college students today are seeking autonomy, mastery and purpose. We, perhaps more than any other generation, march to the beat of Motivation 3.0.

Erik can be reached at erikto@umich.edu.

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