This post is from guest blogger – Misty Goosen, Ed.S.
When it comes to behavior, I get really excited. Perhaps this is a result of my training as a school psychologist, or maybe I am just a nerd.
But my background and continual search for information has provided me with a solid understanding of “why humans do what they do”…however, a lingering question has remained…
Why don’t professionals do what they should, even when they have the knowledge, skills, and motivation?
Having the answer to this question could be the “magic bullet” when it comes to designing effective professional development, or for that matter, attending to my personal improvement.
As I’ve pondered answers to this question, I’ve also reflected upon my own behavior, and see that I am as guilty as the rest. For example, I become excited about a new idea or skill and begin making plans to implement. Sometimes I get off to a good start, and I keep going for a couple of days; then life gets in the way…sooner or later, I am right back to where I was to begin with.
What’s the deal? I had the motivation, I had the tools…am I just lazy?
After extensive research on the subject of behavioral change, I learned that attributing my success (or lack of success) on motivation is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!!!!!
Motivation is like the key in a car. It starts the engine; but to keep the car going, you need to push the gas pedal and have gas in the engine to continue to your destination.
If it isn’t motivation, what is keeping most of us from moving forward in our practice?
BJ Fogg, Ph.D, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, just might have the answer. A self-professed behavior scientist, Dr. Fogg is the creator of the Fogg Method (see below or click here for a graphic of his model), which he promotes to the technology and self-help industry.
I can also see how his method applies to professional development/professional learning. Here’s how…
It’s really as simple as B = M + A + T with an emphasis on the “A,” (as you’ll see later in the post).
According to Fogg, three elements must be present in order for behavior to change…motivation (M), ability (A), and triggers (T).
If behavior doesn’t change, then one or more of the elements is missing.”
So, “What’s the big WHOOP,” you ask?
For me, the real “meat” of Fogg’s work rests on his identification of the 15 ways behavior can change. You can visit one of Fogg’s websites to learn more. In particular, check out “The Behavior Grid” (see below or click here for an image of Fogg’s grid).
According to the Behavior Grid, if you want to do a familiar behavior (Blue) or increase a behavior you already do (Purple), then motivation IS NOT a critical element. Chances are, you are already motivated to take action.
What is missing is “automaticity”.
To achieve automaticity, Fogg suggests breaking behaviors into “RIDICULOUSLY EASY” bits. He often provides examples, such as “floss ONE tooth, do ONE push up, set out gym clothes.”
These RIDICULOUSLY EASY behaviors increase our ABILITY to carry out the plan.
At this point, we have the M + A, but we are missing the T (trigger).
This is another piece of Fogg’s Method that I believe is unique and worth a try. He suggests that we identify an existing ritual/routine as the trigger to carry out a new, tiny habit. For example, “After I do an existing routine…I will also do my tiny habit.”
My take on Fogg’s work, is that changes in behavior must be systematically created. I’ve summarized his work into four steps:
- Step One: Identify what it is you want to do or do more often.
- Step Two: Brainstorm actions you can take, then pick a ridiculously easy one to start.
- Step Three: Find a routine (aka a trigger) and engage in the ridiculously easy action.
- Step Four: Celebrate that you have created a “Tiny Habit”!
You would then repeat these steps until the 1st ridiculously easy action becomes a habit (aka becomes automatic)…then you can add a 2nd ridiculously easy action to the routine.
Applying the Fogg’s Method to ECE
Let’s look at an example that is more directly tied to our work in early childhood. Let’s say, as a preschool teacher, you want to promote oral language in your classroom by improving the types of conversations you have with children.
Using Fogg’s Method you would…
- Identify what it is you want to do or do more often: Slow down your rate of talking to increase the amount of time children have to respond.
- Brainstorm actions you can take, then pick a ridiculously easy one to start: Count to 5 before saying something else.
- Find a routine (aka a trigger) and engage in the ridiculously easy action: EACH conversation with a child.
- Celebrate that you have created a “Tiny Habit”: At the end of the conversation, say, “Our conversation was awesome!” and do a little dance.
Click HERE to learn about another success story in applying Fogg’s Method with adult learners.
P.S. After you’ve read and reflected on what Misty has to share, consider what “Ridiculously Easy Step” you can take that would inch you closer to establishing a new habit. Then, come over to FB to share, and we’ll help celebrate your success!
Since 1994, Misty Goosen (@ or on LinkedIn) has worked as the Project Coordinator for the Kansas Inservice Training System (KITS), where she provides training, technical assistance and consultative services to adults working with children with disabilities (birth through age 8). Areas of focus include Primary Service Provider approach to service delivery, Routines Based Interview/Intervention, Results to Intervention, Challenging Behavior, Evaluation/Assessment, Curriculum/Standards, and Conflict Resolution. Misty has served on the Division of Early Childhood Executive Board, is a Past Kansas Division of Early Childhood President, and received the 2008 KDEC Award of Excellence for making significant contributions to the field. She has chaired and/or organized numerous conferences (e.g. KDEC, Transitioning into Developmentally Appropriate Practice, KITS Annual Summer Institute) and has participated in activities such as Head Start monitoring and NAEYC validation. As a past member of the Kansas Multi-System of Supports (MTSS) Core Team, Misty worked to integrate preschool into the overall state supported model. Before coming to KITS, Misty worked as a school psychologist, and early childhood coordinator for the Turner School District, in Kansas City, Kansas.