Personal Motivation at ATI


Dan Pink's Drive analyzes motivation into purpose, autonomy, and mastery. We can all relate to the idea that a sense of purpose is necessary in order to feel motivated, and every one of us knows that things we choose to do are more motivating than things we are told to do. The third key element of personal motivation is often overlooked—it is the inherent human desire for mastery.

At ATI, each of these components of personal motivation is carefully nurtured to allow each teen's internal motivation to naturally build and thrive.

Each of these elements is an essential component of a teen's personal motivation.

A. Purpose

During adolescence, teens begin to seek their own purpose in life, looking for a meaningful role to play in the world. In a traditional society, tribal roles were relatively simple and well-established. In the modern world, there are no necessary roles and the world is constantly changing. ATI recognizes that our increasingly-complex world requires that teens today direct significant time and effort towards the vital work of exploring identity and defining purpose.

At ATI, we use the “Bliss” diagram developed by Aristotle Bancale and Dorothy Shapland as a template for discovering purpose.

Every student at ATI explores these 4 areas in order to begin to define their personal purpose. Learn more about the Bliss diagram here.

In addition to integrating the exploration of the Bliss diagram into student coaching, ATI facilitates an ongoing dialogue which supports the development of each student’s sense of purpose. Both our Life Design and Socratic Humanities courses initiate daily community conversations regarding what is most important in these various spheres and include assignments designed to cultivate a personal sense of purpose.

To support students to place their work in the context of their larger life purpose, each year students set academic, personal, and project goals for shorter and longer timeframes. Annual goals are carefully subdivided into monthly and weekly benchmarks that students are expected, and supported, to achieve.

B. Autonomy

Within the ATI structure, teens have extraordinary autonomy. Because they have set their own goals in alignment with their life purpose as they understand it at any given time, students feel committed to and excited about completing the associated work responsibilities. School faculty members play a supporting role as mentors and coaches without the power struggles which are prevalent in traditional schools.

Students are required to participate in these three community-wide courses:

  1. Life Design

  2. Socratic Humanities

  3. Mathematical Problem-Solving

Within each of these courses, students set their own specific goals in service of their own learning. A powerful positive side effect of our autonomy-based approach is that teens at ATI are consistently bought in to the work they are doing. ATI's school culture resembles the positive, aligned, committed culture that exists in the best corporations, and students, teachers, and parents feel the difference.

Learn more about how students design their experience at ATI here.

C. Mastery

We know that once students experience the rewarding feeling of achieving mastery at a difficult task, they are motivated to pursue mastery with increasingly challenging skills and projects. We also know that a certain profile of educator is most effective at coaching and supporting students to achieve mastery. ATI staff members are carefully chosen to fit the profile, and are supported by systems that allow them to excel in this art.

Dr. Charles Reavis, in Lessons from Extraordinary Educators, examines educators and coaches from small schools who consistently take their teams to national or state championships. He finds that these educators provide constant performance corrections of their team members while demonstrating unambiguous care for and belief in each teen. In short, Reavis found that these extraordinary educators who elicit elite performance from ordinary teens share three characteristics in common:

  1. They care for the overall well-being of the teens and the teens know it.

  2. They set very high performance expectations.

  3. They have the technical expertise to coach to high standards and provide constant corrective instruction to achieve top performance.

In the context of a solid relationship based on love and respect, when directed towards goals that the teen takes seriously, teens become eager to receive expert feedback to improve their own performance.

Interestingly, the result within these teams is a distinctive subculture with norms that are quite different from the adolescent culture at large. While Reavis' work is focused on specific teams, such as debate, basketball, or chorus, ATI focuses on creating a distinctive, performance-focused subculture school-wide.

Learn more about the principles that guide ATI's carefully-designed focus on excellence.

A high school for teens who want to excel on their own terms.

In the right learning environment, high school students are capable of much more than conventional education permits them to achieve. Teens that choose ATI are ready for responsibility and able to take ownership over their own education in a way that the control mechanisms of typical schooling make virtually impossible.

If the average high school experience just doesn't inspire your teen, consider the Academy of Thought and Industry. We're looking forward to connecting with you and answering all of your questions.

Thank you!

Please check your email for our welcome note.

Your information is secure with us, and we'll never sell it to third parties.

Book a Campus Tour

Thanks for your interest in ATI San Francisco. For a personalized tour of our campus, or to have a phone call with our admissions team, please make selections below. We’ll be in touch with you to confirm your meeting.