The Rider, The Elephant and the Path

During the month of December, the staff of four departments in OCM BOCES Instructional Support Services collectively read Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.   We divided into three groups and made “junk sculptures” to represent key ideas.   The materials available were all culled from recycling bins and kitchen- junk drawers.  This is a non-linguistic strategy that forces groups to summarize key ideas by creating metaphors for the key ideas.  McRel research on Classroom Instruction that Works indicates that this is a highly effective strategy for learners.  So research on strategies aside, what were the key ideas from our reading?

First, is the idea that we all can react to change in a rational manner, but may need some direction.  This can be accomplished by following bright spots (replicate what is working), script the critical moves (don’t go so big but rather identify small, specific behaviors) and point to the destination (know where you are going and why).   Here are:   Jenny Fanelli, Lisa Pye, Lisa Schlegel and Catie Reeve with their depiction of the first key idea which is to “Direct the Rider.”


The second  key idea is to “Motivate the Elephant.”   In order for change to successfully occur we need to include the emotional aspect, as well as the rational.  Within this key idea is the need to find the feeling (knowing isn’t enough, we need to feel), shrink the change (break down the change so we are not overwhelmed), and to grow your people (instill growth mindset and a sense of identity).    Here are: Anne Marie Voutsinas, Sally Doran, Phyllis Litzenberger, and Frances Malave with their non-linguistic sculpures highlighting the second section.


“Shaping the Path” is the third section and key idea.  Here we learned about tweaking the environment (a change in situation, often changes behavior), building habits (habits or triggers don’t consume or exhaust the rider), and rally the herd (spread change or behaviors to make contagious).   Basically this was about ways to make successful change easier or more likely to occur.  Jack McLoughlin, Joanne Keim, Lynn Radicello, and Tanya Rosado-Barringer display their artifact for shaping the path.


Within our discussion about how these ideas relate to our work we had three take aways:

  • We wondered about reform efforts in New York State Education and how application of the tenets presented in Switch might have been and could be harnessed to assist with changes being required.  The implication for us in support roles is to provide the bigger framework and tenets of Switch whenever we can.
  • We recognized that we are often very good at engaging the rational for change within our work with educators but we may miss the mark regarding engaging emotions. This is something to attend to.
  • We discussed how frequently our role is to ease or shape the path for the educators and how we need to continue our efforts.

For additional information and resources pertaining to Directing the Rider, Motivating the Elephant and Shaping the Path, check out the Heath Brothers website.

When you think about change which elements are present or absent in the work you are doing?

We are now exploring Mindset by Carol Dweck!

Radicello_Lynn_WEBUntil next time,

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