Applying the Influencer Model to Learning ePortfolios
Change is difficult for most people. We become comfortable with the old way of doing things, and then we fear what will happen if we stray from our usual paths. However, change is often a necessary aspect of most important areas of our lives, and it can often times lead to many positive outcomes. At Owen J. Roberts, we have been teaching the same way for so long that many teachers don’t know how to even begin changing. Our learning ePortfolio initiative will cause a positive change in our learning environment, and because the students will be taking ownership of them, the changes will occur organically. Our desired result comes in two phases. The first phase is for the English department at Owen J. Roberts High School to adopt and consistently use the learning ePortfolios in their instruction over the next school year. The second, final phase, is for all teachers and students in the building to adopt and consistently use the learning ePortfolios as a vital integrated part of the curriculum.
This is a difficult process to track because it is such a significant change. However, there are some measures we can take to help assure that we are making forward progress. We will use digital tools such as Google Forms to poll both teachers and students. In the teacher polls, we will ask them who is using the learning ePortfolios and how. For students, we will ask for students to provide essential feedback on the process so that we can better train teachers in the facilitation of learning ePortfolios. We also plan to collect exemplars from teachers in each department so we can see how the learning ePortfolio has been used and how it can be improved. We (Ryan King, Kelly Trupe, and Erin Sanchez) will help initiate the plan in school by working closely with department chairs and other tech-savvy teachers in the building. We will also be collaborating with the rest of our colleagues in the building, as we want this to be a process, not a directive, and we will need the complete support and involvement of our administration team.
In order for us to achieve our desired result, it is not enough to simply share the plan, educate our colleagues, and emphasize why these changes need to be made. We must also implement vital behaviors that will lead to that ultimate goal. Our administration is strongly admired at the high school, which is why their consistent encouragement regarding the use of learning ePortfolios is essential for its success. We will ask for administration to highlight this during each faculty meeting held once a month, but also in monthly department meetings as well. We will also ask them to add this topic to teacher observations to help facilitate more dialogue about ePortfolios.
It is also necessary for all staff to positively advocate for this tool, so each teacher will need to have students add at least one assignment to their learning ePortfolios each marking period. This is a similar requirement that was placed on English teachers regarding the use of certain rubrics, which is why that minimum expectation seems appropriate. Finally, those who are teaching the ePortfolio course will be asked to collaborate with other teachers and oversee and support the use of the learning ePortfolio. Each classroom will be visited at least twice at a time arranged between the two teachers, or the teacher can choose to sit in and observe the ePortfolio course.
These vital behaviors all address social motivation, which is something that Dr. Jeni Cross highlights in her video (TEDx Talks, 2013). The repetition used in our three behaviors is also supported by John Kotter’s interview, The Importance of Urgency (Harvard Business Review, 2008). With these expectations set in place there is a better likelihood that we will reach our audience and our desired result will become a reality.
At Owen J. Roberts School District, there are a variety of organizational influencers. Beginning at the top, there is the School Board and the Superintendent. In order for organizational change to be able to go into effect, these two influencers must be supportive of the change. Although the support of the School Board and Superintendent is important to get the ball rolling, it is imperative that building principals encourage and support the use of learning ePortfolios within their buildings. With their support, they can empower the department chairs who can work with the teachers in their individual departments to find ways to authentically integrate the learning ePortfolio within all of the different courses that are offered in Owen J. Roberts School District. Then it is up to the teachers to embrace and use the learning ePortfolio in their classes while helping students see the benefits of the learning ePortfolio so that the students are intrinsically motivated to use it in other classes and outside of class as well. Clearly there are a lot of organizational influencers within Owen J. Roberts School District, and it is important to get all of them on the same page to successfully implement the learning ePortfolio.
Personal Motivation and Ability
The desired vital behavior for personal motivation and ability is for staff to advocate for the learning ePortfolio, so each teacher will need to require for students to add at least one assignment to their learning ePortfolios each marking period. There are two questions to consider for the motivation aspect. The first is, how can we help teachers value the learning ePortfolio? The second is, how do teachers approach change initiatives? We have developed a few strategies to address these concerns. The first is that we’d like to show teachers various videos, specifically the Revolution video by Ken Robinson through Ted Talks, to help them feel how urgent a change is needed in our system. We would also employ multiple surveys to both teachers and students that would ask them about their experiences with the ePortfolio thus far and for their feedback and concerns. We also feel that we should address teachers in small groups, not always in a large professional development meetings, so that everyone’s questions are sure to be answered. Finally, we feel it would be extremely crucial to offer FLEX time (hours needed to be exempt from certain professional development days) so that teachers would have a strong incentive to jump on board with training and implementation of the ePortfolio.
There are two primary questions to consider when dealing with the personal ability aspect. The first is, how will teachers authentically integrate the learning ePortfolio in their classrooms? The second is, do the teacher have the technological skills necessary to implement the ePortfolio? We will be sure to provide ample training on the WordPress program so teachers will be able to easily implement the use of the ePortfolio in their classrooms. We will also be sure to provide (with administrative approval) paid collaborative curriculum writing time so that the use of the ePortfolio is authentic and useful, and not just something teachers throw into their already existing units.We will make sure that there is always a consistent and reliable support system available, whether that is through our technology team or the ePOrtfolio experts in the building. Finally, we will also be sure that there are FLEX time options for collaborating and curriculum writing so that all questions and concerns can be addressed on a personal level.
Social Motivation and Ability
The desired vital behavior for the social motivation and social ability sources of influence is for all teachers to advocate positively about the ePortfolio course and for those who are teaching the ePortfolio course to regularly collaborate with other teachers and to oversee and support the use of the learning ePortfolio. When it comes to social motivation there are two questions that we have and the first is: Who are the possible detractors and how can we get them to become advocates? Every school building has detractors and it is important for us to identify them and use strategies to get them to become advocates for the ePortfolio course. In order to do this we need to tap into detractors’ negative attitudes towards ePortfolio practices. The best way to do this is to ask these people to meet in small groups to help contribute to the implementation of the ePortfolio course. By doing this, they feel like they are a part of the planning from the start and are more likely to be motivated to positively advocate for the course with administration, colleagues, parents, and students. It would also beneficial for these possible detractors to observe the ePortfolio course in one of their colleague’s classrooms so they can see firsthand how it works and see the value in it for the students.
A second question we have about social motivation is: How do the relationships between different groups of colleagues impact the staff’s approach toward the ePortfolio? In order to have the ePortfolio course permeate all departments and groups of staff members, it is important to include administration in every aspect of development so they can take ownership. A great way to do this is to have teachers, from a variety of of groups, teach the learning ePortfolio course and pair them up with an ePortfolio mentor to help them use the ePortfolio. There should be weekly meetings with the mentor for support, collaboration, and troubleshooting. It also would be beneficial for administration to send out monthly exemplars of how teachers are using the ePortfolio to show their support and for all staff to have the opportunity to peruse this information at a time and place that is convenient for them.
Not only is social motivation important, but social ability is also crucial if we want the learning ePortfolio course to be accepted and effective. Two questions we have about social motivation are: How can teachers collaborate to build the foundational knowledge necessary to successfully run the ePortfolio course and curriculum, and how can we best support colleagues as they implement the ePortfolio? In order to address both of these questions, it is important for us to offer small group drop-in sessions where teachers can collaborate with us to build the foundational knowledge they need to be successful with the ePortfolio. Once we have collaborated and established a strong foundation, then we can collaborate even further in regards to incorporating the ePortfolio with the curriculum. This can be done through weekly meetings with a mentor for support where teachers can have all of their questions and concerns addressed in a positive and meaningful manner.
Structural Motivation and Ability
Structurally, we want to lay a foundation in which our administration consistently encourages the use of learning ePortfolios. As noted earlier, we will ask our administration to highlight this during each faculty meeting held once a month, and also in monthly department meetings as well as individual observation meetings. When thinking about how to achieve these structural goals, it is important for us to keep in mind structural motivation and ability.
Structural motivation includes how we can create an environment that encourages the use of ePortfolios. When thinking about this, we asked ourselves two major questions. The first is how can the administration help to incentivize staff? Our strategy is to use similar techniques that have worked in the past at our school by providing certain technological tools to be used in the classrooms of those who use ePortfolios and providing paid and FLEX time for planning. One of the major deterrents from past initiatives is a lack of time and supplies, and these options will address these issues. The second question we asked is how can administrators help to market the ePortfolios as a worthwhile tool? We believe that reminders through email, faculty meetings, department meetings, and individual observations will emphasis the connection between learning ePortfolios and lifelong learning. By doing these things to motivate teachers, we will at the same time enhance their ability to effectively implement the learning ePortfolios.
Even if the culture motivates teachers to implement our initiative, if it does not also equip them with the skills and technology needed we will not succeed. There are another two questions that require strategies when it comes to structural ability. First, how can administrators support the staff as a whole and individually? Second, what tools and technology are needed to enable student and staff use of ePortfolios? To provide support as a whole, staff will need consistent available technological support through drop in professional development sessions. Individually, support must be made available for teachers and they should also be able to request classroom observations so administrators can provide feedback based on first-person experiences. To make sure students and teachers are equipped with the necessary tools, they will complete short surveys that help administrators and the technology department understand what is working and what needs to be adjusted. This is extremely important for structural ability and motivation because if the tools do not work efficiently, teachers and students will not be able to use ePortfolios and will become unmotivated due to frustrations.
Taking on a department- and school-wide initiative for change entails more than we ever imagined. To ensure success, we must look at potential issues from all angles and approach change realistically. Using the Influencer Model (Grenny, Maxfield, & Shimberg, 2013) helps to determine measurable results and strategies to achieve them. Change might be a difficult concept for most people, but with these research-based strategies, a focus on appealing to the heart and the mind, and an emphasis on social influence we are that much closer to implementing learning ePortfolios within Owen J. Roberts High School.
Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., & Shimberg, A. (2013). How to 10X your influence. [eDocument].
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Harvard Business Review. (2008). The importance of urgency [Video file]. Retrieved from
TEDx Talks. (2013). Three myths of behavior change- what you think you know that you don’t:
Jeni Cross at TEDxCSU [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?