Over this ongoing series of eight posts, we are identifying and addressing the seven primary barriers to changing instructional practices and the appropriate response by leadership. I present to you Part 3 in The Response to Barriers Series – Habit.


You have determined that your staff is not ignorant of better instructional practices and you have revamped both the topics of training and the methods of delivery.  Good for you, you have now positioned your staff to be more effective and efficient, improved scores are now a forgone conclusion. Or so you think.  As a leader, your job has only just begun, awareness and training are just prerequisites.


You will soon notice, especially if you have a lot of staff with years of experience, that nothing is actually changing.  Habit has raised its head.  Research points out that 30% of what we do everyday is a habit or routine. And the longer these habits have been entrenched the more powerful they become.


In practical terms this means that the inefficient practices veteran teachers keep implementing aren’t due to conscious choice or insubordination, it just happens.  So, what is the solution? Well it turns out, as with everything else we do, it’s not complicated but it is work.


There are three things required to change a habit:


  1. You must have a replacement behavior. This means as leadership we have to clearly state things in the following manner, “For the next two weeks we are concentrating on increasing the amount of Recognition and Reinforcement in our Classrooms.”


  1. You need a behavioral cue, lots of them. The cue for engaging to a classroom replacement behavior is the classroom observation. You tell your staff, “For the next two weeks, when someone visits your classroom, use that as your cue to Recognize and Reinforce a student.”


Consistent volume is the key.  Which is why the PowerWalks Hero List is so important.  The campuses that make the list are generating enough cues to give the staff a fighting chance to break a less effective habit and replace it with a more effective practice.  The campuses that don’t make the list are only paying lip service to supporting teachers and improving student performance.  And yes, for some of you, that fact should sting.


  1. You need a reinforcer, once you do the replacement behavior. Something that make the replacement behavior feel good. Again, this is where the PowerWalk Observer is critical. When the observer enters the classroom and sees the teacher doing the targeted practice, the observer should… SMILE AT THE TEACHER.If the teacher is not doing the practice when the observer walks in, but uses the cue to do the practice, the observer should… GIVE THE TEACHER A THUMBS UP. Nothing fancy, just a quick response that recognizes the effort and energy of the one person doing the most important work in the school…THE TEACHER.


Here is the good news, if staff are stuck due to out of date habits and routines, you are a critical part of the solution.

RTB – Part 1: Response to Ignorance

RTB – Part 2: Response to Inadequate Training

RTB – Part 3: Response to Habit

RTB – Part 4: Response to Choice

RTB – Part 5: Response to Fear

RTB – Part 6: Response to Helplessness

RTB – Part 7: Response to Obstinance

RTB – Recap

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

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