Speaking and Training
Hi! I’m Matthew Courtney and I help schools help kids! My passion is helping leaders unlock the power of educational research and data to drive continuous school improvement. I want to empower your audience by teaching them how to leverage these powerful tools in schools, districts, and classrooms.
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.
"Matthew Courtney brought energy and enthusiasm to the topics of data and evidence-based research for the purposes of school improvement. His expertise as a researcher and as a practitioner was evident and his passion for using data to drive improvement was contagious. He was very insightful and provided information and ideas educators could easily take back to their school and implement to support their improvement efforts."
~ Jennifer Horvath, Cognia
My Values as a Speaker and 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.
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!
How I Can Help
I am here to build a customized training experience for your team that will get them moving along their continuous improvement journey. I never do the same training twice. When you reach out, we will begin with an initial thirty minute consultation where you will help me to understand your unique context and what you hope to gain from the experience. Then, I will prepare a proposal for you to review. Your training may include a combination of:
Hands-on data analysis training;
Research methodologies in context;
Half or full day laboratory experiences; or
PLC facilitation or facilitator training.
Have something else in mind? Just ask! I will do my best to accommodate your needs.
Training and workshops are available in three formats: keynotes, interactive workshops, and virtual workshops. I bill by the day, so your team can experience any combination of presentation modalities or topics you want!
Frequently Asked Questions
How will your training help my team?
In my workshops, your team will learn hands-on, practical techniques to use educational research and data to drive continuous improvement. Depending on your needs, your team may learn how to create interactive dashboards in Excel, how to use research to develop a logic model or theory of action, or how to dig deeper into student data through statistical analysis. Whatever you need, I will make it happen.
How long are your workshops?
Each workshop is customized to meet the unique needs of my clients. I bill by the day, so I encourage my clients to think about how to best use that time. As a general rule of thumb, keynote presentations range from 30-45 minutes with time for a question and answer session following the presentation. Workshop presentations generally run from 3-6 hours.
What if we need more than one day?
My goal is to meet your needs. If you want to support one team over an extended period of time, my suggestion is that we build in multiple visits with homework and practice time built in between. This will give your audience members time to think, practice, and prepare for subsequent presentations.
How can we pay for your workshops?
Schools and districts have a variety of funds available to pay for professional learning. When we talk, I can help you think through your available options. My proposal will include a funding narrative tailored to meet the needs of your funding source.
When you’re ready, reach out to me by completing the Speaking Request Form. We will schedule a 30 minute introductory meeting where you can tell me more about your local context and specific needs. Following that call, I will prepare a detailed proposal for you to review. To ensure availability for your date, I encourage you to reach out 6-8 months in advance.
Not quite ready to book? No worries! Before you leave, head over to The Repository and check out some of the tools and training resources available there. Access to The Repository is 100% free forever and many of the resources housed there will be used to supplement your workshop experience with your audience after I leave.