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Professional Learning

Hi! I’m Matthew Courtney and I help schools help kids! My mission? Equip schools to drive student success through evidence-informed decision-making. I don't just give lectures; I ignite change by empowering your educational community to leverage the power of research and data. Together, we can make continuous school improvement not just an objective, but a reality. 

Dr. Matthew B. Courtney presenting a professional learning session. Disucssing evidence-based decision-making with two participants.

Transformative Professional Learning:
How I'm Different

Looking for another one-off faculty meeting or mandatory staff development session? You won't find it here. Why? Because the research says they don't work, and I practice what I preach.

At the heart of my offering is a commitment to impactful, evidence-informed professional learning experiences. I don't believe in the "fly in, fly out" approach. Instead, I craft bespoke, synchronized courses that align with the rhythm of your educational environment.

Your Learning Journey: Designed with Retention in Mind

"Use it or lose it" – it's a familiar mantra in the world of learning. Traditional professional development often forgets this critical principle. That's why my workshops are different.

Whether delivered live over a series of spaced-out days throughout the year, or virtually over an 8-10 week period, my programs are designed to ensure maximum retention and application. I not only provide the knowledge but also the time and space to absorb, reflect, and integrate new learnings into your daily practice. Throw in one-on-one coaching calls along the way and your team is sure to see rapid growth.

Customization: Your Goals, Your Timeline

No two learning communities are the same, so why should their professional learning be? I create custom courses that are finely tuned to your team's needs, goals, and schedule. My model allows us to dive deep, provide support, and ensure meaningful, lasting change.

Join Me: Because Professional Learning Can be Revolutionary

It's time to break free from ineffective professional development sessions. Experience the difference with my evidence-informed, custom, and synchronized professional learning programs. Prepare for a transformative journey that doesn't just enhance your educational practice but revolutionizes it. Your next step in professional growth starts here. Are you ready?

The Importance of Research and Data Driven Continuous Improvement Training

When faced with a continuous improvement challenge, education leaders don’t have to go-it alone. Their work and thinking can be supported by the vast amount of research and data available right at their fingertips. The challenge that we face is that research and data use are only a very small portion of the training that we give education professionals. That’s where I come in.


Research that examines the way that educators use research to inform their decision making has shown us that educators generally use research to solve timely problems (Penuel, et. al., 2016), generate buy-in for decisions (Honig & Coburn, 2008), or convince granting organizations to fund their ideas (Malin, 2019). That’s a great start! Unfortunately, we also know that leaders tend to have a very broad definition of what “good research” is (Goertz, et. al, 2016), that personal opinions and experience often outweigh the weight of research in their decision making processes (Hemsley-Brown & Sharp, 2003), and that our profession lacks a sufficient infostructure to support meaningful research use (Hemsley-Brown & Sharp, 2003).


One really cool study from 2016 surveyed education leaders across the nation and asked them to report on how they used research to inform their decision making processes. Findings from a National Study on Research Use Among School and District Leaders found that leaders largely get their research second hand from professional organizations, struggle to balance the time required for effective research use, and were challenged when asked to differentiate between important research design elements and indicators of research quality.


The world of data and research is simply too big to expect educators to fully understand all of the nuances on their own. Many educators feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data and research available to them, and they simply give up (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2015). We can, and must, do better for our kids.


My purpose in life is to empower educators to leverage the power of education research and data to drive continuous improvement. Through my keynotes and workshops, I strive to nurture an environment where educators can feel safe to explore this world in a fun and low-stakes way. As a practitioner myself, I endeavor to present information in a way that is meaningful and immediately applicable to other practitioners. We know that quality training can change attitudes and boost the adoption of research and data use (Lange, Range, & Welsh, 2012). My workshops are designed to do just that.


My commitment to this work is deep and my connection to the audience doesn’t end when the lights go down. Through my online community, I continue to engage with my former training participants. I am here when they need a brainstorming partner, get stuck on a data analysis technique, or just simply don’t know how to begin to tackle a problem. The resources available in The Repository are also available to help stretch their learning and drive long-term adoption of my practitioner oriented techniques and strategies.


I want to help you engage your audience on this topic. When you’re ready, send me a message through the contact form at the bottom of this page and I will reach out to begin a conversation.

"When I first attended a workshop event in which Matthew was the trainer only then did I realize his full potential as a “teacher” of adult learners. He was alive, he was exciting and the room was electric with engagement. Educators are a tough bunch; after all they spend the majority of their days doing just that…engaging. But Matthew had them from go. He has the unique ability to reach every learner and offer each a comfortable entry in to the learning. He is my “go to guy” simply because in every instance when the evaluations come back from presenters, he is ranked number one. At more than one instance I have overheard participants talk about how they based their whole conference attendance on seeing Matthew’s name on the agenda. Your only problem when Matthew is a speaker is having enough space available - a good problem to have."

~ Lisa Petrey-Kirk, Kentucky Education Association

Dr. Matthew B. Courtney speaking at a professional learning seminar.

My Values as a Trainer


Keep Kids at the Center

I believe that students must always be at the center of the conversation. While quality continuous improvement always involves a team of passionate stakeholders, as soon as we stop talking about kids we might as well stop talking. Reasonable people can disagree about what is best for our learners. If we focus our research and data conversations on the kids, we will always come out ahead.

Keep it Simple

Continuous improvement efforts can be complicated. That is why I believe in making them simple. In education, we are bad at chasing fads down endless rabbit holes. We buy the newest technology before considering whether there is any evidence of its effectiveness and we change curriculum before we give the last one a chance to work. We track multiple plans and follow the advice of multiple gurus. My philosophy is that less is more. In my workshops, your audience will learn how to select two or three big problems, focus on them with intentionality, apply appropriate research and data techniques, and watch them go away.

Embrace the Productive Disequilibrium

People who work with me closely are familiar with my personal motto in life – Embrace the Productive Disequilibrium. Whenever you learn something new, you are filled with emotions. I guarantee that your audience will spend time in the productive disequilibrium while working with me.  While discussing data analysis techniques, your participants will inevitably click “enter” in Excel and see the same warning will flash for the fourth time in a row. They will be filled with agony and rage. In those moments, your audience is sitting in the productive disequilibrium. I will help them embrace it, push through it, and conquer it. When they do, they will be rewarded with joy and adulation that comes from knowing that their efforts have led to meaningful student success.

Look #BeyondTheMean

A core principle of my work is to teach educators to always look #BeyondTheMean. The statistical average is a fickle friend. It doesn’t always tell you what you think it’s telling you about your students. In my workshops, I will help your team build intentional habits that include looking deeply into the data, running multiple statistical analysis, and creating engaging visualizations that help them better understand what’s going on in your schools and classrooms. Sound intimidating? Don’t worry – that’s why I’m here! In addition to the training, your participants will have access to The Repository where they will find five auto-analysis tools that will allow them to simply upload a spreadsheet and copy and paste statistical figures and beautiful charts right into their school improvement reports. These tools will jump start their analysis process by eliminating the initial learning curve!

Don’t Hide from the Truth

Pulling back the curtains and looking #BeyondTheMean isn’t always pretty. I guarantee that you will find evidence of systemic bias, consistently under performing groups of students, costly interventions that don’t work, and school policies that made problems bigger. It’s a fact of life. In my trainings, I encourage your audience not to hide from the truth and to control their emotional responses to the data.

Seek Mentors and Invite Feedback

Research and data driven school improvement is a big task – this aint horseshoes friends. Your team cannot do it alone, and they shouldn’t expect themselves to. After our training is complete, your audience will be invited to join my online network. I am always here to provide a listening ear and a curious mind, and the tools and resources housed in The Repository will help them extend their learning beyond the workshop. They can also connect with me in one of my free monthly virtual-community events!

"I've had the great pleasure of working with Dr. Matthew Courtney in the SESC Continuing Education Option (CEO) Rank Change Program where he instructs the Action Research Methods for Teacher Leaders course.  


The CEO Program participants consistently share how much they enjoy the course and how pleasantly surprised they are with their professional growth as a result of their action research project.  They are able to work collaboratively with other educators to embark on action research projects that address pressing issues within their own classroom or organizations, and make informed decisions based on a comprehensive analysis of the available evidence.


Importantly, the course emphasizes the practical application of research findings in real-world settings. This hands-on approach allows participants to witness firsthand the transformative power of evidence-based practices and the potential positive impact on their stakeholders.


Dr. Courtney exemplifies professionalism and authenticity. We are thrilled with the positive outcomes he is able to achieve with our CEO participants and look forward to continuing our partnership for many years to come!"

Leah Marcum, Southeast South Central Educational Cooperative

Presentation Topics


The Evidence Empowered Educator Method

In an age of information overload, the ability to discern and utilize quality research is crucial for impactful education leadership. My course on evidence-informed decision-making empowers your team to identify and evaluate the quality of research. The course goes beyond theoretical understanding; it enables participants to lead effective research discussions and make data-driven decisions confidently. Your team will also learn to communicate these decisions clearly, fostering a transparent, research-informed culture in your organization.


Exploratory Data Analysis

Data is often described as the new oil, but it's only valuable when refined into usable insights. My Exploratory Data Analysis course delves into the art and science of data conversation. Instead of simply answering specific questions, we learn to listen to what the data has to say. Participants will gain confidence in handling large datasets and extracting valuable information. We'll also explore effective data-informed decision-making and communication strategies, empowering your team to bring data narratives to life.


Action Research for School Improvement

Continuous school improvement is not a destination, but an ongoing journey. In my action research workshop, your team will learn how to identify a pressing problem, create innovative solutions, and study their impact. We'll focus on setting up a continuous refinement cycle to ensure your innovations evolve and improve over time. Equip your team with the tools to become self-sufficient problem-solvers who can make lasting, evidence-based changes in your school or district.

Take the Next Step

Don't let your team be left in the dark. Harness the power of data and research to bring about meaningful, lasting improvements in your school or district. My custom workshops will equip your team with the skills and knowledge needed to drive evidence-informed decision making, continuous school improvement, and masterful data analysis.

Are you ready to unlock the full potential of your educational institution? Click the button below to tell me more about your event. Together, we can pave the way for a brighter, data-informed future in education.

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