Intrinsic Motivation = Insourcing Expertise
Our R&D Teams are voluntary teams of faculty and parents. We strive to provide our teams with the
conditions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to others, (identified as essential conditions for
intrinsic motivation from a mature theory of human motivation called Self-Determination Theory) in
order to foster intrinsic motivation, high quality work, and commitment of our teams over time. We
encourage team members to choose to engage out of their own interests. We support them with
resources, and by meeting together to work in teams. This has resulted in more than just research-based
practices, it has resulted in new expertise and leadership in our school. Where other schools may turn to
outside consultants to assess, plan, and lead change efforts, we’re more often able to engage in these
processes by “insourcing” the expertise and leadership capacity developed by R&D volunteers. In the
case of prototyping a new Project Based Learning Model across the school, twenty-five staff volunteered
to prototype a PBL unit using our new PBL Model. At the end of the prototyping process we had a
rigorously researched and developed PBL model and several colleagues who had insourced expertise
and capacity for teaching using a Project-Based Learning approach.
R&D Your School
If you are thinking of creating an R&D department to impact your school, here are a few suggestions for
Identify an R&D leader in your school. This should be a leader who is obsessed with changing schools,
and who others tend to follow. This will be the person who will read, think, network, and collaborate in
order to learn the processes for innovative change and the trends that are and will shape our students’
Assemble an R&D Staff Team - Look for educators who constantly push the boundaries of their own
teaching, read widely, exhibit curiosity, invent new classroom practices, and develop new professional
Develop an R&D Model that fits your school and also communicates the purpose and practices of R&D
work. Be ready to adjust that model over time.
Keys for Successful R&D in Schools
Change always requires a change of status quo thinking. In order to bring something new and impactful
to schools, thinking has to be different. R&D departments or teams must be intentional about reading,
learning, thinking, and opening up to new ideas that challenge their own status quo before they can
impact the status quo thinking of their colleagues, professional cultures, and the school communities.
School leaders must communicate a strong value for innovation and supporting R&D work in school.
Changing the status quo operation of your school will cause discomfort and misunderstandings. It will
challenge assumptions, existing programs, and even the roles of educators. R&D in schools is always
about students. It doesn’t matter if you have an R&D department, an R&D team, or a studio. It doesn’t
matter what books you’ve read, or what you say. What matters is that you and your team are
committed to creating real innovations that make a difference for students.