Dan Pink Recommends a ‘FedEx day’ for Students and Teachers

As the school year draws to a close, many teachers begin preparing a major class project to help students demonstrate what they have learned during the current term or year. Administrators, on the other hand, review possible ideas that might be incorporated into professional development opportunities which they may schedule in the Fall. Rather than dust off former year-end assignments or consider the more traditional in-service components, I’d like to encourage all educators to consider creating a “FedEx Day”.

A “FedEx Day” is based on an unusual practice of the Atlassian company in Australia. Once each quarter, on a Thursday afternoon, all software developers are instructed to work on anything they want during the next 24 hour period, provided it is not part of their regular job. However, in true FedEx tradition, each participant is expected to “deliver” an overview of the results on Friday afternoon adhering to their slogan “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

I was first exposed to the FedEx learning opportunity when perusing a Nunavut teacher’s “Against the Wind” blog entry. Brian Barry has created a rather unique blog component entitled “A Short Conversation with… ” and I was particularly interested in the one featuring Daniel Pink. Having watched Daniel Pink’s TED talk video “Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation” and the corresponding RSA Animate video “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us”, I was eager to see what Daniel had to share with educators.

Brian Barry asked Daniel Pink the following question:

Can you recommend a couple of things teachers could be doing in order to better tap into their students’ motivation?

Dan suggested the following three ideas:

1. Try a FedEx day with students and even teachers;
2. Spend a little more time on why so that students understand the purpose of projects and how topics relate to the real world; and
3. Let students complete their own report cards as a supplementary resource to facilitate the life-long-learning process of goal setting and self assessment.

I was immediately intrigued by the learning opportunities that FedEx projects might provide in the educational sector. My son, who is currently in Silicon Valley, has indicated that many of the powerful technology-based companies like Google also utilize this “free-time” exploration concept. For example, Google allows employees to spend one day each week to focus on projects important to the individual employee. Interestingly enough, 50% of Google’s products, including Gmail, originated from the 20% time allocation for employees’ “personal passion projects”.

FedEx Day/Projects by Teachers for Students

Mark Barnes captured the essence of Daniel Pink’s messages regarding three principles of motivation when he stated the following in his “Virtual Language Arts Class” overview:

A Results Only Learning Environment is founded on the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose. The concept is that people will learn more and produce more willingly when they are given the freedom to choose the outcome (autonomy), feel like they are perfecting something (mastery) and believe that they are contributing to the greater good of their world (purpose).

I recommend teachers follow the steps below to engage students in an educational FedEx project:

1.  Teachers should investigate the following web resources in order to gain a clearer perspective on the elements of a FedEx project:

2.  Discuss the FedEx project with students encouraging them to search for additional FedEx resources and ideas to share with the class.

3.  Brainstorm possible projects and interests.

4.  Determine the FedEx project day(s) and “delivery” schedule.

5.  No marks will be assigned to this endeavour as the focus will be on learning, however some educators may wish to develop, with student input, a rubric for choosing FedEx “award winners”.

6.  Request “working titles” of projects by individuals and groups.

7.  Although students may work individually, teachers may wish to encourage collaboration through a group endeavour. Each group, which may not exceed four members, must organize themselves so that all members contribute equally to the project.

8.  Two possible strategies that teachers might use when reviewing group work are based on “score-card” submissions (which can be downloaded at the end of this article). Teachers might ask group members to complete a “score-card”, similar to the one shown at right. One technique  recommends that each team (of two to four individuals) must submit a single team “score-card”, which the members complete as a public, joint-venture, indicating the agreed-upon effort percentage of each team member. An alternative strategy is to have each team member complete, in private, an individual “score-card” indicating how s/he considers the effort demonstrated by each team member (which must total 100%). Once this private, individual score-card is completed (and signed at the bottom by the student who is assessing all team-mates), it is submitted “in confidence” to the teacher. Lastly, some teachers might prefer to ask all groups to complete both a team and individual private “score-cards”. If the sets of team and individual “score cards” could be duplicated on two different colours of paper, teachers might learn much from comparing the “score cards” results from the private, individual team members’ percentages with the public, team-completed single “score-card”.

9.  Provide help and direction in the weeks preceding the FedEx Day for students who are having difficulty deciding on a project topic. Help students get organized and on schedule as some will find the perceived “lack of direction” to be new and challenging. Facilitate goal setting so that all students are clear regarding what they hope to accomplish.

10.  Determine how long each person or team will have to share their creations during the “delivery” celebration.

11.  Begin the FedEx Day or Project and arrange to have all projects submitted at the agreed-upon deadline.

12.  Facilitate project sharing during the “delivery” phase.

13.  Establish a voting procedure so that all students complete rubrics on the projects of classmates.

14.  Based on the completed rubrics, announce FedEx award winners.

15.  Consider how students might be able to share their FedEx Projects on the web so that other students and teachers might benefit.

16.  Ask students for feedback after they have had time to reflect on the process. In particular ask students to identify improvements that can be made.

17.  Perhaps you might like to share ideas, resources or feedback with our readers about your FedEx Day by completing a “Comment” submission at the end of this blog post.

FedEx Day/Projects by Administrators for Teachers

... I realize that my most productive learning experiences, occurred when I was pushed outside my “comfort zone”.

Upon reflection, I realize that my most productive learning experiences, occurred when I was pushed outside my “comfort zone”. Early in my career, it was while I was creating, researching and testing classroom-based learning activities to include in my thesis. More recently, I was asked by my superior to team up with a very talented Language Arts Consultant to conduct workshops for students and teachers to support learning through digital storytelling. I learned and benefited in amazing ways when I was forced to examine past teaching practices and collaborated with colleagues to become engaged in new educational strategies to help students. Moving from my previous individualistic, comfortable way of doing things to a somewhat anxious, collaborative endeavour provided me with a powerful, personal learning opportunity which, in my mind, made me a better educator.

With this in mind, school administrators might consider incorporating this FedEx model into future professional development in-services.

I’ve identified the following steps after reading the powerful professional development ideas and strategies shared by Lyn Hilt in “The Principal’s Posts” blog. In her post entitled “Inspiration delivers”, Lyn describes an innovative FedEx professional development day for her staff. After reading Dan Pink’s “Drive”, which focuses on human motivation, she stated:

I finally finished reading ‘Drive’ a few weeks ago and I knew I wanted to explore the idea of helping my teachers be more autonomous in their learning. I wanted to ensure our organization was striving to reach mastery (but never attaining, of course, since mastery is an asymptote) and develop a strong sense of purpose for our actions.

1.  Make certain you understand the basic premise of a FedEx day for staff training by perusing the following web resources:

2.  In particular, review the following two blog posts, together with the corresponding comments found at the end of each entry:

to focus on how innovative administrators have incorporated and adapted FedEx Days to help their own teachers to:

  • learn in an autonomous manner;
  • seek mastery through on-going improvement; and
  • develop a strong sense of purpose for their actions.

3.  Time permitting read “Drive” by Daniel Pink in order to get a more extensive background on ways of motivating educators and students.

4.  In preparation for the FedEx PD Day, ask all teachers to spend 15 minutes of their own time to view the following three inspirational Vimeo videos:

5.  To help teachers become actively engaged in the planned FedEx P.D. learning opportunity, request that all staff members arrive at school with their personal “sentence” that exemplifies their life or role as an educator. For example, Dan Pink suggests that his sentence would be “He wrote books that helped people see their world a little more clearly and live their lives a little more fully”. These individual defining sentences will be shared. The risk-takers on staff may choose to attach their own name to their “sentence” while those who guard their privacy may wish to contribute their sentences anonymously.

6.  As an administrator, share your personal sentence with your staff. Collect “sentences” from all staff members explaining that these will be shared on-line.

7.  At the start of the FedEx inservice, consider “T-sing” your staff with considerations similar to the ones that Lyn shared:

  • Task – Choose tasks that benefit and impact student learning. Think differently!!
  • Technique – Design your activities and project work in your own way, so long as the end result is a benefit to students.
  • Team – Work with anyone you want to work with today – you do not need to work with your grade level teams. Consult with the many knowledgeable people in our school! Individuals that choose not to collaborate will still be responsible for “delivering”. Consider the importance of the collaborative efforts!
  • Time – Use your time as you see fit.

8.  Rather than schedule this innovative FedEx P.D. day to fit into the traditional 9:00 am – 4:00 pm full day inservice, consider alternative time formats. Some administrators might choose to organize the equivalent full day workshop from noon on one day to noon the following day. Those with the luxury of a longer period of 1.5 days may choose to start at noon on Thursday and run the FedEx project until dismissal time on Friday. May I suggest that if you are running this FedEx activity over two adjacwent days, you might consider ordering in pizza, submarine sandwiches or suggesting “potluck” for those who choose to work at school over the supper hour on the first day. Teachers, who are engaged and collaborating, may not want to stop. Providing a supper, on site, will reap benefits as the collaborative energy and synergy are maintained well into the evening.

9.  While educators are working on their projects, administrators should “touch base” to gain feedback regarding the progress of each staff member.

10.  Throughout the day, administrators are encouraged to enter, or designate a secretary, to enter staff “sentences” on Wallwisher or on a school web page or blog. I encourage all readers to view the “the sentences” shared by the risk-taking educators at Brecknock Elementary School where Lyn Hilt is principal.

11.  Just prior to having educators share their respective FedEx “deliverables”, display your staff’s sentences so that all can be motivated by the shared commitment and passion.

12.  Provide a forum to share “deliverables” and determine a time frame for each presentation allowing important time for questions and clarification.

13.  Gain feedback form staff with suggestions for improvement.

14.  Share your ideas and perceptions through the comments at the end of this blog post so that other administrators, teachers and students might benefit.

Take care & keep smiling 🙂

– Flickr Creative Commons image: “FedEx Logo” by MoneyBlogNewz

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6 Responses to Dan Pink Recommends a ‘FedEx day’ for Students and Teachers

  1. Pingback: Teach 24/7 » Blog Archive » Personal Passion Project a.k.a. FedEx Day

  2. admin says:

    Ms Buell … Thanks for the link back to my post on how to organize a “FedEx day” for students. I encourage readers to visit your blog post (by clicking on the above “Teach 24/7 … aka FedEx Day” link) to view the highlights of your experience conducting a FedEx Day with high school students. I like your summation that stated that the “FedEx Day was more about the process than the product.” In education, we need to remind ourselves that it is the learning journey that is so important.

    Thanks for caring & sharing.

    Take care & keep smiling 🙂 Brian

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