The Need for Inspiring Training

Dear companion,

Are you inspired by your organization’s training?

When I started my career as a teacher 15 years ago, the professional development we received was not always inspiring.  If you don’t know, in public schools, traditional training often happens like this:  it’s Friday afternoon, you’re exhausted from teaching all week, and the staff is physically crammed into a small classroom without AC where someone is mentally cramming a PowerPoint into your brain.  This is often called a “non-negotiable” training in education circles.

It’s not hard to imagine why teachers keep teaching the way they always have: little has been done to engage them in meaningful and personalized learning. You better believe that this has a trickle-down effect on teachers and the motivation they transmit to students.

Fast forward 15 years. The other day, my school psychologist shared how the district’s special education department had provided a very lengthy PowerPoint (containing very important information) that needed to be shared with all staff members at school sites. She needed me to provide her with a staff meeting date for sharing the information so that we could be in “compliance”.

I immediately arranged a meeting with my site’s special education team to review the purpose of the training and the PowerPoint.  What did we really want to accomplish? As we reviewed the information together, I thought to myself, there is no way teachers are going to take anything from this session if we just dump this information on them on a Friday afternoon! There has to be a better way!

Research shows that individuals are more likely to be motivated to engage in learning when the information presented aligns with their interests (Renninger, Hidi, & Krapp, 2014) and values (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2012), and when the training is structured to encourage and foment the trainees’ positive sense of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977; Pajares, 1996) and attributions (Schunk, 1990; Weiner, 1974).

Knowing the research, our team brainstormed and leveraged our collective intelligence to create a much more personalized, differentiated, and meaningful training.

We sent the PowerPoint ahead of time so staff could read and review it. However, each of the five members of our site’s special education team planned a more interactive learning session.  Based on their self-identified strength of knowledge and experiences related to the topics included in the presentation, we negotiated how each teammate would become the facilitator of a small “special education topics” workshop.

When the Friday’s staff training came, after a brief introduction, the staff transitioned into break-out sessions. Teachers were able to choose and attend the special education topic most interesting to them.  The smaller groups created great engagement. Teachers were nodding, waving their arms energetically, taking down notes, pointing to charts, and generating more questions for the team to follow-up on.  Teachers were also given time to rotate into a total of three distinct sessions. To wrap up, each facilitator shared some highlights and key questions that emerged from the small group sessions.

Teachers can be very protective of their contract time. And, on a Friday afternoon, 30 minutes past the scheduled end-time, teachers still wanted to engage in more conversation! It was good stuff.


Learning for adults happens more readily when it is meaningful because it is aligned to personal interests and occurs in smaller group settings where there is less fear to take risk to participate.

So, I ask you today: How does training occur in your organization? Is it a one-size-fits-all approach or are you able to influence the way you receive and engage in training?

People are inspired when they have a voice in what and how they learn.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review84(2), 191.

Pajares, F. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of educational research66(4), 543-578.

Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of educational Psychology95(4), 667.

Renninger, A., Hidi, S., & Krapp, A. (Eds.). (2014). The role of interest in learning and development. Psychology Press.

Schunk, D. H. (1990). Socialization and the Development of Self-Regulated Learning: The Role of Attributions.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (2012). Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. Routledge.

Weiner, B. (Ed.). (1974). Achievement motivation and attribution theory. General Learning Press.

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