Atomic Habits

I discovered that the missing piece of the puzzle to accomplishing my desired goals was atomic habits. It should have been obvious to me, and it was, but I didn’t realize the consequential difference between acknowledging the need for habits and having the right knowledge of how to build them. If you are like me, you want to be productive and feel successful. You want to achieve your goals. But you also know what it’s like to fail in achieving a goal. The frustration. The pain. The being upset. Yes, all the feelings that come with it. And here is what we have been missing: atomic habits.

Habits are those actions you do without noticing anymore. They are an extension of you and happen easily and effortlessly, somewhat like breathing or walking, but not exactly. The hard part is realizing that small, consistent, repetitive actions over time create habits. Contrary to what we may think, the championship-level effort we spent “one-day, one-time” does not create a habit––that was an event. Events are not habits. Events are one-time occurrences. We get lucky or don’t “one day, one time”. That is why “one day” in the gym or “one day” eating healthy food or “one day” studying for the exam doesn’t give us the results we want or expect. The results that prove we have met our goals come from the labor of tiny, incremental actions compounding over time. Little actions, consistently, over time, get you to your results. In that space, you achieve your goals, sometimes without even noticing the “one day” it happened. You just became the type of person who gets those results. Your identity has evolved so that those tiny, repetitive actions shine a new image of who you have now become.

This has all come to my mind as a result of reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Actually, I first listened to it on Audible a few times! You can see his work here: What James Clear has done is show us an operational system of how to build good habits and how to break bad habits. It truly has opened my eyes.

Let’s take a look at this figure below from Atomic Habits. It shows the three levels involved in achieving goals (also known as outcomes).

To me, it has become clear what my problem is. At the third and deepest layer, I imagine and believe in a future version of myself (desired identity) who is better than my current version of myself (actual identity). In this state of desire, I wish or give myself a goal or desired outcome (this is the first and outermost level). For example, I say to myself: “I want to save $25,000 this year.” However, the bridge between my identity and my desired outcomes is the process required to get there–in other words, habits (the second or middle layer). Habits are the boat that carry me from this side of the land across the sea to the island of results.

So, how do we build habits? Well, James Clear puts it forward very simply: In four simple steps he calls Four Laws of Behavior Change.

So, again, to make the point clear, how do we achieve our goals? The “stuff” you need to do must meet the 4 criteria of being obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. For example, the reason we have bad habits, like spending too much time on social media is because:

  1. It is obvious – we get notifications on our phone, which is almost always in our sight of view
  2. It is attractive – we like what we see and it draws our attention to celebrities, images of wealth and beauty and drama, and so on
  3. It is easy – how much effort does it take to scroll up and down the pages of Facebook or Instagram? With one finger and one eye we can spend hours laying in bed or on the couch with our phone, wasting our precious limited time
  4. It is satisfying – Our desires, ego, fears, and anxieties get fed by what we see and hear on the pages of social media, which make us come back for more, like addicted people

So, you can clearly see my point– the reason social media is powerful is because making its use a habit follows and meets the criteria of 4 Laws of Behavior Change.

Thus, I challenge you and me today to apply the 4 Laws of Behavior Change to good use in our lives. Let’s put into practice Atomic Habits (small, repetitive, consistent actions over time) to get the results or outcomes we desire and thus achieve our goals. I’ve started already to apply this knowledge of habits to my goal of getting healthier and losing weight––and have lost 10 pounds over the last three weeks. It’s not earth-shattering but it’s a start!

Friends in learning, we can do this!

Dr. Joel Tapia

“Learn into” 2022

Dear Friend,

You have probably heard the phrase, “lean into”, meaning, to grab the opportunity that is in front you. But today I suggest that we “learn into” 2022, meaning that we should take hold of our past experiences and learn from them (i.e. the good and the bad) and pull and stretch them forward into the present and into the future so that (1) we don’t repeat the same mistakes, (2) we don’t forget or toss away what is already working, and (3) we do increase our intentionality of actions leading to desired results.

Some questions to ask ourselves as we rework our focus for 2022:

(1) What was my biggest regret in 2021 and why?

(2) How did I hurt myself in 2021 and for what reasons?

(3) How did I hurt others in 2021 and what was the impact?

(4) How could I have used my talents and gifts in 2021 more appropriately?

New Year, Same Problems?

Nothing is more frustrating than feeling stuck in past cycles of defeat and despair. Let me tell you, however, that the year 2022 will be your best year yet. Why? Because you are hungry for change, for improvement, for growth. You won’t settle for mediocrity anymore. You are worth more than that. If you are reading this, COVID and its harms didn’t defeat you. You are alive. Opportunity awaits you. You will seize your moment and will do so through the process of applying what you have already learned about yourself, others and the world this past year.

2022 Will Bring… What?

It’s up to you to decide. Let me share with you some possibilities:

(1) Better Health?

(2) Quality Time with Loved Ones?

(3) Tight Alignment Among Values, Thoughts and Actions?

Don’t let 2022 happen to you; be the one who happens to take appropriate actions that bring about your desired results.

Simple Thoughts

To help you achieve a successful 2022, keep these simple thoughts in mind:

(1) People are not your God, so don’t worship or fear them. Respecting is enough.

(2) Acceptance brings freedom. So, start afresh, learn from it, and do your best moving forward.

(3) Your best chance to change the world is to change yourself. You owe it to you.


Maybe you feel tired coming out of 2021, moving into 2022. I believe that God is willing, ready, and able to help you with your breakthrough. Give yourself space, time, and forgiveness to find the way.

Your friend in learning,


James 1:23-24

23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

Why Do New Teachers Leave the Profession?


The education problem being addressed in this article is the high attrition rate of new public school teachers in the United States. This is a problem because roughly a quarter of all beginning teachers leave the profession within three years and 40-50% leave within five years (Galant & Riley, 2014; Ingersoll & Smith, 2003; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2003; U.S. Department of Education, 2007). Historically, when there has been a shortage of teachers to meet the demands for filling classrooms, many of the nation’s schools have lowered their standards to fill teacher vacancies (Darling-Hammond, 1984; Loeb, Darling-Hammond, & Luczak, 2005). High attrition rates also disrupt the quality, continuity, and planning of teaching programs, causing increased expenditures on the part of school districts in their efforts to recruit and hire replacement teachers (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2013; Shen, 1997). This problem is important to address because a less qualified educator workforce results in lower school performance and achievement (Borman & Dowlin, 2008; Boyd, 2008; Ronfeldt, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2013).

Given this problem, the purpose of this article is the following: 1) to understand how research on attrition is approached by scholars 2) to examine three factors related to high attrition rates: students, teachers, and schools.

Review of Relevant Research

A challenge to understanding new teacher attrition is that researchers have varying constructs and approaches for studying it. For example, Djonko-Moore (2015) has grounded her studies in social ecological theory. Gallant and Riley (2014) have examined attrition from a more holistic perspective. Shen (1997) proposed that there are essentially two general approaches to studying new teacher attrition: multivariate or theoretical, and bivariate. The multivariate approach makes inquiry into a set of variables to test theories as to why teachers leave or stay; some examples are the human capital theory, social learning theory, and theory of teachers as rational economic decision-makers (Shen, 1997). Chapman and Green (1986) utilized a multivariate approach in their study of four groups of University of Michigan graduates; their findings concluded that attrition could be ascribed to the social learning process. Bivariate approaches are more prevalent in the literature, such as in Hughes’ (2012) study that examined the relationship between a teacher’s gender and attrition. Similarly, DeAngelis and Presley’s (2011) study measured the impact of teaching assignments on attrition. Though approaches have varied, the evidence is unanimous that student characteristics are factors that have contributed to new teacher attrition.

The Student Factor

Student characteristics have been identified across research studies to explain why new teachers leave the profession. A study using National Center for Education Statistics’ 2007-09 survey data found that negative student behavior in high-poverty, racially segregated schools increased the likelihood of new teacher attrition by 368% (Djonko-Moore, 2015). Kukla-Acevedo (2009) discovered that the behavioral climate created by students was a critical factor the contributed to the attrition of first year teachers. They were 16 times more likely to quit teaching when they perceived their students’ behavior to be severely negative or one standard deviation higher than average (Kukla-Acevedo, 2009). Loeb et al. (2005) examined the predictors of high rates of teacher turnover and found that ethnic, racial, language composition, and poverty level of a school’s student body strongly contributed to higher attrition. In addition to student factors, teacher characteristics have contributed to higher attrition.

The Teacher Factor

Much research has been conducted to examine how teachers’ own characteristics factor into attrition. Studies have been inconsistent about the impact of certain personal and background characteristics like gender, race/ethnicity, and age (Borman & Dowling, 2008; Boyd, Grossman, Ing, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2011). For example, when attrition rates of White teachers to minority teachers were compared, study results have been mixed. In some cases, White teachers were more likely to leave than Latino teachers (Imazeki, 2005). In other situations, minority teachers were more likely to leave the profession (Kirby, Berends, & Naftel, 1999). However, studies that have inquired into teachers’ academic and professional preparation have been more conclusive in their findings (Guarino, Santibañez, & Daley, 2006). DeAngelis and Presley (2011) analyzed 30 years of population data in Illinois that included 23 cohorts of new teachers. It found that 44% of new teachers with ACT scores of 25 or higher left teaching within their first 5 years compared to an average of 36% for teachers with scores of 18 or below. In addition, 47% of new teachers who had a graduate degree (master’s degree or higher) left the profession compared to 39% of those who only possessed a bachelor’s degree (DeAngelis & Presley, 2011). Boyd, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff (2005) demonstrated that teachers who graduated from more selective undergraduate institutions, as defined and ranked by Barron’s College Guide, were more likely to leave the profession.

Research has shown that a psychological factor known as teacher self-efficacy is related to new teacher attrition. Self-efficacy can be understood as a teacher’s belief regarding his or her ability to influence matters in the classroom and school (Hong, 2012; Hughes, 2012; Shen, 1997). Hong’s (2012) study compared 14 new teachers, seven of whom quit while the other seven remained. It found that both groups faced similar challenges in terms of work environment, classroom management, and lesson delivery. However, the teachers who quit often doubted their abilities and imposed heavy burdens on themselves that led to stress and burnout. Studies have also shown that teachers who displayed stronger self-efficacy beliefs more positively impacted student achievement (Ross & Gray, 2006; Ware & Kitsantas, 2007). Policy makers, researchers, and educators can also learn much about new teacher attrition by examining school characteristics.

The School Factor

School characteristics can be understood as the many components that form the operational and cultural climate of a school. Research suggested that the cultural climate of a school may be the strongest indicator influencing the attrition of new teachers (Hughes, 2012; Kukla-Acevedo, 2009). School leadership has been shown to powerfully influence attrition (Boyd et al., 2011; Goldring, Taie, & Riddles, 2014). A study that involved former and current teachers highlighted that the most influential factor (over 40%) for both groups whether or not to leave teaching was dissatisfaction with administration (Boyd et al., 2011). A meta-analysis was conducted using 34 attrition studies, and it was found that new teacher attrition was much higher in schools that lacked a culture of teacher networking and collaboration (Borman & Dowling, 2008). In a study that involved nine beginning teachers who left the profession within five years, major findings were that each of them did not feel welcome, veteran teachers were reluctant to share their expertise, and schools were full of conflict (Gallant & Riley, 2014). One teacher confessed in her narrative about the situation with colleagues: “[they were] too embroiled in their own affairs and internal politics to really give me the guidance that I needed” (Gallant & Riley, 2014, p. 573). According to the literature, this was not a unique experience. In a large scale study that involved 26,257 teachers, Ware and Kitsantas (2007) analyzed 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey data. They found a direct link between teachers’ level of career satisfaction and their perceived support from leadership and colleagues. The lower the perceived support, the lower the career satisfaction; many who have left teaching have reported low career satisfaction (Ware & Kitsantas, 2007).

Importance of the Problem

The issue of high attrition rates for new teachers continues to capture the attention of American policymakers, researchers, educators, and the public because of the adverse impact on education organizations and student learning. This problem is important to solve because research has shown that teachers generally need five years of solid teaching experience to become effective at improving student achievement (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). Part of the solution involves providing new teachers with sufficient preparation and support to provide all students with a quality education across geographic and demographic areas (Boyd et al., 2011). Providing this support is difficult when recent research demonstrated that new teachers tend to be placed in more difficult schools, faced with more challenging students and work conditions, furthering the likely cycle of burnout that leads to quitting (Boyd, 2008; Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2002). Failing to solve this problem of new teacher attrition in the United States will make entering the profession unattractive to new, qualified candidates (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003).

Utilizing Professional Learning Communities

Looking forward, however, a promising strategy to address the problem of new teacher attrition is the implementation of a learning communities perspective in schools (Wynn, Patall, & Carboni, 2007). Dufour and Eaker (1998) describe a professional learning community as an open, adaptive school system where teachers are valued and committed to personal and organizational growth. It is more advantageous in addressing the problem of new teacher attrition than a one factor solution such as proposing higher teacher salaries (Wynn, Patall, & Carboni, 2007). Additionally, a professional learning community provides a multifaceted solution to the problem: student achievement is improved, teachers’ skills are increased by way professional development learning cycles, and the school climate is more positive as a result of supportive leadership and colleagues (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, (2006).


Borman, G. D., & Dowling, N. M. (2008). Teacher attrition and retention: A meta-analytic and narrative review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 367-409.

Boyd, D. (2008). Who leaves? teacher attrition and student achievement. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). Explaining the short careers of high-achieving teachers in schools with low-performing students. The American Economic Review, 95(2), 166-171.

Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Ing, M., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 303-333.

Chapman, D. W., & Green, M. S. (1986). Teacher retention: A further examination. The Journal of Educational Research, 79(5), 273-279.

Darling-Hammond, L. (1984). Beyond the Commission Reports. The Coming Crisis in Teaching. Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation.

DeAngelis, K. J., & Presley, J. B. (2011). Toward a more nuanced understanding of new teacher attrition. Education and Urban Society, 43(5), 598-626.

Djonko-Moore, C. (2015). An exploration of teacher attrition and mobility in high poverty racially segregated schools. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1-25.

DuFour, R. & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service.

Gallant, A., & Riley, P. (2014). Early career teacher attrition: New thoughts on an intractable problem. Teacher Development, 18(4), 562-580.

Goldring, R., Taie, S., & Riddles, M. (2014). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2012–13 Teacher Follow-up Survey (NCES 2014-077). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Guarino, C. M., Santibañez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208.

Hong, J. Y. (2012). Why do some beginning teachers leave the school, and others stay?Understanding teacher resilience through psychological lenses. Teachers and Teaching, 18(4), 417-440.

Hughes, G. D. (2012). Teacher retention: Teacher characteristics, school characteristics, organizational characteristics, and teacher efficacy. The Journal of Educational Research, 105(4), 245-255.

Imazeki, J. (2005). Teacher salaries and teacher attrition. Economics of education Review24(4), 431-449.

Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2003). The wrong solution to the teacher shortage. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 30-33.

Kirby, S. N., Berends, M., & Naftel, S. (1999). Supply and demand of minority teachers in Texas: Problems and prospects. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis21(1), 47-66.

Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Leavers, Movers, and Stayers: The Role of Workplace Conditions in Teacher Mobility Decisions. The Journal of Educational Research102(6), 443–452.

Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher sorting and the plight of urban schools: A descriptive analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24 (1), 37 62.

Loeb, S., Darling-Hammond, L., & Luczak, J. (2005). How teaching conditions predict teacher turnover in California schools. Peabody Journal of Education80(3), 44-70.

National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. (2003, January). No dream denied: A pledge to America’s children.

Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458.

Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How teacher turnover harms student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 4-36.

Ross, J. A., & Gray, P. (2006). School leadership and student achievement: The mediating effects of teacher beliefs. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(3), 798-822,920.

Shen, J. (1997). Teacher Retention and Attrition in Public Schools: Evidence From SASS91. The Journal of Educational Research91(2), 81–88.

Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221-258.

Ware, H., & Kitsantas, A. (2007). Teacher and collective efficacy beliefs as predictors of professional commitment. The Journal of Educational Research, 100 (5), 303-310, 328.

Wynn, S., Patall, E., & Carboni, L. W. (2007). Beginning teachers’ perceptions of mentoring, climate, and leadership: Promoting retention through a learning communities perspective. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 6 (3), 209-229.

Know and Learn to Use Your Gift

Dear companion,

You are gifted with a key talent.

Amazingly, all of us are born with distinct qualities and proclivities that we develop into our signature talents. I feel very competent with striking up random conversations with strangers; don’t ask me to organize three boxes of old files.  I can do it, but it doesn’t excite me. My wife on the other hand will be in color-code heaven. Having said that, it’s important that you identify what is, and isn’t, your gift that will bring great success, fulfillment, and happiness.


A wise proverb says: “A person’s gift makes room for her, and brings her before great leaders.”

Your unique, signature talent is like a key patterned to unlock precious doors.  Your signature key belongs to 1% of all keys that can open thatspecificdoor called wild success.  Behind that door awaits an audience in the presence of great leaders. How do you make “room” for yourself when you are in a crowded room–how will you stand out? It’s not by using your nominal key representing basic, ubiquitous skill. Use the key that has your name on it.

Now, let me help you identify your gift–your signature talent. It is that “thing” about “you” that either:

  1. People often tell you that you are really, really good at
  2. Often gets you in “trouble” because the gift is driving you and not the other way around

The first point is self-explanatory, so let me expound on the second point.

  • Smart people can become arrogant real fast.
  • Talkers can hurt others’ feelings very quickly, with just one utterance.
  • Very organized people can struggle with flexibility.
  • Nice people can become doormats.
  • Analytical people can become paralyzed into inaction.
  • Entrepreneurs can become ADHD-fueled and never finish what they started.
  • Great listeners can fail to be heard.
  • Ambitious people often isolate their friends and family.
  • Visionaries may find that their airplane is empty.

You get my point?

Your most amazing gift– your key signature talent that makes you very valuable–can also become your downfall and derailer if you fail to learn to use it properly.

Like a knife, your gift can be used to hurt or heal.  How you hold it, use it, makes all the difference.

Thus, I encourage you to reflect, identify your signature talent, and use it wisely.

  • Smart people can become humble.
  • Talkers can season their speech to touch the heart and mind.
  • Very organized people can prepare systems that afford them flexibility.
  • Nice people can say “no” nicely.
  • Analytical people can learn to use feedback loops to encourage action.
  • Entrepreneurs can find accountability partners to keep them grounded.
  • Great listeners can listen to their own advice and speak up.
  • Ambitious people can learn to see wealth and success in non-material ways.
  • Visionaries can learn to shape direction by talking up with and not down to people.

So, remember that you are gifted.  There are some things, or maybe just one thing, that you do so well and only 1% of the population can do it. Identify it. Learn to properly and wisely use your gift. Failure to do so will turn your gift into a derailer.

Why not choose to use your signature gift and key to “make room for you” and bring you “before great leaders”?

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

5 Steps to Overcoming Adversity (Article)

How do you handle adversity?

Dear companion,

None of us are strangers to adversity. You may be experiencing a lay-off, divorce, serious illness, or a terrifying depression. Perhaps you lost a friend or loved one. Maybe you carry a deep hurt that no one knows about. Or, you could be feeling completely stuck in your professional practice. The truth is that humanity is plagued by difficulty, conflict, confusion, and adversity. Your situation is real, and I’m here to acknowledge it— not minimize your pain. How can we overcome this adversity and move forward with dignity?

There are 5 steps in the journey to learning to overcome adversity. As you read on, take your situation and imagine applying each step to your specific context.

1. Have your “momentary” pity party – get it out 

At first, it’s okay to sulk, shut down, or cry. Stay in bed for a day. Get away from the immediate situation by taking a long drive to a city a few hours away. Turn off your cell phone for a day and watch your favorite movies. Replay the situation and feel horrible about it. The key is this: have a great pity party, whatever that means to you, but promise yourself to make it intense and brief. Then, make a commitment to stand up tall once you are finished. Also, never do anything that will hurt yourself or others. And yes, it’s normal and healthy to feel emotional.

2. Assess and “own” the part of the situation that you do have control over

Now that you have given your heart and emotions proper attention, turn to your brain. Think very honestly about your role in the situation. It may be very small or very large, but almost always we contribute to both our successes and troubles in life. Maybe you were wronged by a person who you knew in your gut you shouldn’t have trusted. Perhaps you could be more punctual or receptive to feedback. Whatever your part, own it. Truly own it. Maybe it’s not something you did, but something you didn’t do that could have helped the situation? As much as we like to think about and replay the part of the situation that we have no control over, stop. Within your little circle of influence, assess and “own” any personal contribution to the adversity and learn from it. You will be better because of it.

3. Write down and commit to a realistic and measurable action plan for moving forward that includes the likelihood of the worst-case scenario happening 

Getting through adversity requires proper planning and implementation, not wishful thinking. Thus, find the time and space to sit down and write. List out all the possible outcomes in your situation. Rank them from best to worst. Then, plan very carefully and in detail as if the worst-case scenario will occur. This is not pessimism; it’s being a wise-realist. In the event that your nightmare comes true, you are ready and prepared to tackle it with strength and wisdom. If anything better than your worst-case scenario occurs, then you will be relieved, thankful, and ready to move towards resolution. And never, ever, even in planning for the worst-case scenario, do you stop engaging in hopeful activity like prayer, meditation, or connecting with your beliefs and values.

4. Take stock of all the blessings you have in life– adopt this new mindset– and give big thanks 

Now, to bring life to your heart, mind, and plan, it’s critical to dig deep and find gratefulness by counting all the blessings in your life. Start as far back as you can remember. What good has come your way? In what ways can you say, ‘I’m blessed’. Yes, there is always someone in a worse or better position than you. But, take a moment to look over the fence on the side that points to “I’m doing well in this area of my life”. Perhaps you have musical talent, or know how to be a good listener. Maybe you are a good writer or make a delicious soup that bring life to the sick. Perhaps you have endless energy and bring life to a party. God made you special. I’m telling you—you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are worthy.

5. Trust the process – You are not alone and the entire human race can relate to you

You are not alone. You may feel alone during times of adversity, but know that you are running a marathon in the lane of life. This is not a sprint. To the right and left of you, in front and behind you, people are moving along experiencing very similar adversities. Together, we acknowledge that life is hard, unfair, but also we acknowledge that living life well is a testament to the beauty and courage of people who pick themselves and others up and move forward. So, trust the process of life. Things come, things go, but your integrity and sense of purpose is something you hold dearly in your hands. Things happen to you in life—but you decide how you respond and who you become in the process. We all do. Take comfort in knowing that your experience is simply proof of your humanity. You belong and fit in with the rest of us.

In conclusion, circumstances must not dictate our joy and peace. Fulfillment comes from knowing who we are. Strength comes from being able to successfully endure life’s adversity with poise, integrity, a well-planned response, and hope. You’ve got this.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

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


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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.

4 Types of Knowledge

Dear companion,

Do you know the four knowledge types?

You should if you are interested in knowing how to close knowledge-based performance gaps in any area of life.   According to Krathwohl (2002), knowledge can be categorized into four types: (1) factual knowledge, (2) conceptual knowledge, (3) procedural knowledge, and (4) metacognitive knowledge.  It’s important to know the distinctions and to understand your own knowledge strengths and areas of need to better meet your personal and/or organization’s goals.

Factual Knowledge

You can define factual knowledge simply as the terminologies, specific details, and basic elements within any domain.  This is the information that can and must be learned through exposure, repetition, and commitment to memory.  Luckily, since our memories are not the best places to store facts, we can help ourselves by knowing where to access factual knowledge when we need it (i.e. where to find the information in our books, online, our notebooks or journals, or asking that person who you know knows it!).

It is common knowledge that to be successful in meeting a goal, you need to know the related  “facts”.  A salesman better know the facts about the product or service he is selling! The CEO better know “the facts” about his core business if he or she wants to have credibility.  A school principal better know “the facts” about good teaching methodology and pedagogy.  How else can he or she be an instructional leader?

Conceptual Knowledge

Related to factual knowledge, conceptual knowledge can be understood as knowing the interrelationships and/or functions among the details and elements that make up a larger structure. This definition includes (1) knowing information classification and categorization, (2)  knowing principles and generalizations, and (3) knowing theories, models, and structures.  Basically, conceptual knowledge is knowing that facts can be organized in meaningful ways.  Taking the example of a business marketer, it is not enough to know the details of his or her products or services and that of the competition. There must be conceptual knowledge of the differences and the meaningful competitive advantage of one over another.

Procedural Knowledge

This knowledge type is critical for success in goal attainment because it puts the “what” into action through the “how” process.  Procedural knowledge can be understood as knowledge of (1) subject-specific skills and algorithms, (2) subject-specific techniques and methods, and (3) criteria for deciding when to use the right procedures.  Many times, we see others performing wonderfully, and we ask ourselves: How do they do it?  We can read their books or watch their videos to learn the needed factual and conceptual knowledge, however, knowing “how to” put that declarative knowledge into practice requires…practice!  When you cognitively know “how to” do something, then you need to physically try it and pay close attention to both the process and outcome. If you are listening to your body, your mind, and your gut (using all your senses), you will gain information through multiple feedback loops, and those loops of information will guide your analysis and future actions in becoming better at “how to” do it.

Metacognitive Knowledge

This is probably the least paid-attention-to knowledge type because sometimes it feels uncomfortable to reflect on what is happening inside your world. We fear what we might find.  Metacognitive knowledge can be understood as (1) strategic knowledge, (2) knowledge about cognitive tasks (i.e. contextual, conditional), and (3) self-knowledge.  Because people are complex, and groups of people only add to the dynamic of complexity within a system, having a good measure of metacognitive knowledge (that is, engaging in this type of thinking) is critical to your performance, well-being, and success. For example, if you are meeting a client who shares vastly different cultural values and ways of knowing than you, then it behooves you to be paying attention to contextual clues.  Like a dance, you move together, in sync, and there is no way of knowing beforehand what the next step is going to be! You must be aware of yourself, the person as he or she moves and speaks, and the situation as it unfolds. You bet that you better be listening and making the most of your information inputs.

If you have any goals in your personal or work life, pay attention to your knowledge needs– it will help you to increase success and goal attainment.  Answer the question: Am I lacking factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive knowledge?  By addressing gaps in knowledge, you will be on your way to greater learning and success with your goals.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia


Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into practice41(4), 212-218.

Learning gratefulness

Dear companion,

Do you practice gratefulness?

We live and work in a world of making the most, of maximizing. We obsess on the bottom line. It applies to life as much as business. How much can I get out of this? How can I increase my portion?

The danger of pushing our desire to maximize is that we might be inadvertently squelching the spirit of gratitude. When we are grateful, we are content with having less and others having more. We are happy to share more of our share with others.

I am reminded of a Jewish law that promotes the redistribution of resources to others. Leviticus 23:22 says, “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.” If you own the land, this directive might not sit well. What do you mean don’t maximize my reaping?

However, a blessed land owner, like a blessed person today, has learned to be grateful. He or she doesn’t judge the less fortunate because of the differences in their resources. He or she gives thanks, and in the spirit of gratefulness, does not reap the “edges of the field”.

How about us? Do we shut others out by squeezing out or hoarding everything? Give your co-worker that extra project so that he or she can shine. Teach your colleague that “new” skill so that he or she can get closer to a promotion. Share a client with a friend who is just starting. Take 10 minutes to debrief a situation with a friend, even if you are super busy.

Let’s learn to practice gratefulness, be it at work, at home, or with your loved one. It is better to give than to receive.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

Learning to trust

Dear companion,

Do you know how hard it is to learn to trust others, ourselves, and our life’s path?

Learning to trust is one of the hardest goals to accomplish. By nature, we worry. We fret. We doubt. We double- and triple-guess ourselves. Why?

Our experiences tend to be a source of worry. We remember the times similar to now that played out wrong in our eyes. Unconsciously or perhaps even consciously we tell ourselves that we will never allow ourselves to be played the fool.

However, there is liberation in learning to trust. When you make your best effort to live, love, and work with understanding, you can accept the outcome of trusting. There is liberty in taking the risk of trusting because the alternative is to live or work in fear– a fear that limits our potential for growth and development.

So, as you contemplate if you should trust what is in front of you, remember: put your heart and mind together, add some hope to the mix, reach out to your trusted advisors, and know that desired outcomes flow from honest attempts to build, achieve, and dream. Forgive yourself if you get it wrong. Your silver lining will be your life lessons learned. At least you tried. And that is more than many can say to have accomplished.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia