I have sat in on leadership meetings where we talk about extrinsic motivators for positive student behavior. When students are asked, "what would motivate you to do your homework, tuck in your shirt, not chew gum in school. . .?" students have answers, from the far fetched to the practical. Homework passes, free dress day (if uniforms are the norm), pizza party (or other food incentives), pool day, inflatables, etc.
Sound familiar? We are trying to incentivize challenging tasks for the 13 year old who is in a hormonal battle that tops the cognitive/logical battle.
I know I will sit in on more of these types of meetings, and I will be as professional as possible and "watch my face," but really, it's not going to work. Dan Pink's point on this TED talk is that science has found that the more challenging the task, the less people are affected by extrinsic motivators.
In fact, the more incentive offered, the lower the performance.
Dan Pink's TED talk on motivation
The question is what do you want to learn? What do you want to master? What matters to you? What is important/interesting to you? If you were given the autonomy to learn anything or get better at anything, what would you want to do?
Those are better intrinsic motivation questions, but are we brave enough in the schools to ask the questions that are really important?