Name Your Carrot

Posted: 14th January 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking about change lately. How do you encourage lasting, progressive change for a group of people? What are the things that inhibit change? What are the things that enhance change?

Today I reflected on this with some other school leaders. We were given several words that represent puzzle pieces to support change. Some of the words – resources, vision – were understandable and ones I think we consider when supporting growth and change. But there was one puzzle piece I am still thinking about.


People generally like routine; they like knowing what to expect and how to do what is expected. We need a push of some kind to make change. We need a big push to make long-lasting, significant change.

In education, we ask people (educators, students, leaders) to make changes to their practice and their thinking quite regularly. Some changes are ones people are eager to make while others will take more convincing.

We know that the most sustainable motivations for change are those that are intrinsic. If we are all waiting for extrinsic motivation – a sticker, shiny new toy or award to make change – change is going to be sporadic and limited at worst or, at best, require constant vigilance and support. I’m trying to figure out what the intrinsic motivations we have to make good change.

For educators, our incentives could include our passion for our jobs and a desire to do the best we can, or our strong belief in life-long learning, or our understanding of how change can positively affect our students, or our understanding of how working collaboratively with colleagues towards change is good for students and for a culture of learning.

I think we all recognize that change is hard. If incentive is the missing puzzle piece to make change in education, what could those specific incentives look like? What do educators feel they need to want to change? And in particular, what kinds of intrinsic motivations do they need to want to make change?

  1. Aviva (@avivaloca) says:

    Kristi, I never really thought of incentives for change. Here’s my incentive though, and I guess you could see it as extrinsic and/or intrinsic: the kids! I change because I think it will help me better reach more students and/or lead to increased student success (in academic areas, social-emotional areas, or both). I can’t imagine a stronger motivation. I’m curious to hear what others have to say.


  2. Paul says:

    Interestingly, I think some people avoid motivating themselves because seeking the motivation intrinsically (as Aviva does) would require change. It is much easier to rationalize that there is not a reason to change and therefore no incentive required. I am not sure that change matters to all people, in fact many people look for reasons NOT to change. I think Kristi’s observation about incentives clearly identifies why we often remain stuck with school initiatives. I look forward to future blogs where you solve this problem 🙂

    Perhaps, when we introduce new initiatives we need to do a better job of selling the internal incentives (and repeat these often) as part of our action steps.

  3. Aviva (@avivaloca) says:

    Paul, I can’t help but wonder if the “kid motivator” is also partially an external one as well. Yes, we feel good when more of our students meet with success, but we also see our students becoming more independent, self-directed learners. This usually helps decrease behavioural issues, and give us more flexibility in both our programming and our time spent with students. Maybe this flexibility because almost an external motivator, as what we can do as a result, is like our “carrot on the stick.”

    I do agree with you though, Paul, that I’m not sure that everyone wants to change. Many people feel confident in their program and in the success they’ve seen over the years. Often change is just seen as another “passing fad.” I hate to think this, but it’s what I hear often. Maybe we need to look beyond the “good job” we are doing, and how we can do a better one. That’s hard, but I think ultimately, it’s what leads to change. We also need to be okay with that “uncomfortable feeling” that comes from change … hence my “one word” goal for this year –! 🙂