Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Drive-By Staff Development

While staff development budgets have been slashed in recent years, millions of dollars are still spent on workshops designed to improve teaching and learning. Despite the money spent, things aren’t significantly better in most schools. Sure, there are notable exceptions, but too many schools continue to tread water.

An issue like staff development clearly involves lots of variables. No single factor explains why too many schools aren’t getting a reasonable return on the money they invest. As someone who provides staff development, I have noticed a couple of things that I believe contribute to the problem. Since many of you who read this are instrumental in bringing staff development sessions to your school/district, I’ve decided to share a few thoughts.

One problem is what I call “drive by staff development.” Sadly, this is fairly typical. A consultant is brought in to work with a school or district for a day. Typically, things go well, people are engaged, the consultant gets positive reviews, and ….nothing changes.

I have this experience frequently. I make some money. The staff and I share a pleasant day together. But nothing really changes. I have this reoccurring waking nightmare. It’s several months after one of my sessions and a bunch of teachers I worked with are in the staff lounge at their school. Someone says, “Hey, remember that guy Bob who presented for us? I don’t remember what he said exactly, but he was OK.” Unfortunately, my waking nightmare is probably someone else’s reality!

These “one offs,” as my friends in Australia and New Zealand call them, are not the most effective way to spend scarce dollars. Teachers need (and deserve) follow-up if they hope to move from the awareness level to the application level. And skilled application requires ongoing coaching and support. Unfortunately, most schools erroneously believe they are ready to rock and roll once they have “done it.” (As in, “Internal control psychology. Yeah, we did that last year. Somebody came for a day before school started.”)

My worst experience with this happened many years ago. I was contacted by a district interested in a session for their entire staff. “What would you like me to focus on?” I asked. “Oh, it doesn’t really matter. We have some grant money we need to spend. Do whatever you usually do, I guess.” I took the job and was grateful for the money. But the only thing I got from that experience was pay. I didn’t have a sense that I was engaged in meaningful work.

Compare that to this:  I was recently contacted by someone interested in having me provide training to a group of teachers working across a number of districts. The person coordinating the training approached me with a plan that was well thought out and will give participants the chance to internalize and apply the content I will share. After an initial two-day training, we are planning a series of short, ongoing follow-up sessions. Because cost is always an important consideration and this group is quite a distance from where I live, the follow-up sessions may be conducted using Skype or something similar. While I’m not usually a fan of distance learning, I’m comfortable with it if I’ve already had a chance to spend a couple of days with participants engaged in face-to-face learning and interaction. Because this will save the districts considerable money, it’s an accommodation I am comfortable making. At the conclusion of the school year, I’m confident the participants will have gained knowledge and skills that will enhance their professional lives and lead to increased student achievement and improved student behavior.

A thoughtfully considered, comprehensive approach to staff development is one way to ensure that limited funds are utilized wisely. To those of you who help bring staff development to your school or district, please avoid most “drive by” experiences and put together a comprehensive experience that supports deep learning, application, and student achievement.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo
PO Box 1336
Sandwich, MA 02563

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Bob. I agree training must be ongoing, and follow up is essential for reinforcing a collaborative learning cycle of Planning, Teaching, and Revising. However, there is also a good amount of professional development not deserving of being being called back for a second visit.

    At the very beginning of the process, schools need help selecting professional development that will produce results, and is therefore worthy of follow through.