Thank you for visiting the ISU Ed. Leadershop. Our intent over the past few years has been to field-test community-engaged writings for PK-20 practitioner conversation -- quick, 5-minute "read's" that help put into perspective the challenges and opportunities in our profession. Some of the writings have remained here solely; others have been developed further for other outlets. Our space has been a delightful "sketch board" for some very creative minds in leadership, indeed.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"From the Wabash," PCM Revisited

“From the Wabash,” PCM Revisited

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

In September of 2012, I shared one of our first ISU Ed. Leadershop articles highlighting Taibi Kahler’s Process Communication Model® (PCM) entitled, “From the Wabash, Now Worldwide.”  As I think ahead to an upcoming report I’ll deliver in Hot Springs, Arkansas, this October regarding the model’s research worldwide (and not knowing who had the chance to log-in prior), I thought a Leadershop update would be timely.
What follows is the original article, updated with additional information for consideration.
In 1969, a Purdue University Ph.D. student in psychology, Taibi Kahler, was interning at a mental health facility in Northern Indiana.  While there, he became interested in the psychological theories of Transactional Analysis (Kahler, 2008).
Shortly thereafter, Kahler created an inventory to collect data for his dissertation on predicting academic underachievement.  While performing an analysis to study his instrument’s validity, he noticed data falling into six mutually exclusive clusters that later served as the basis for a theory on personality structure (Kahler Communications, Inc., n.d.; Kahler, 2008).   
The uniqueness of Dr. Kahler’s discovery was that human behavior could be identified, second-by-second, as being productive (communication) or non-productive (miscommunication) with both patterns sequential, measurable, and predictable.  
For this discovery, Dr. Kahler was later awarded the 1977 Eric Berne Memorial Scientific Award and honored by more than 10,000 of his clinical peers from 52 countries as having provided the MOST SIGNIFICANT SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY IN THE FIELD OF PSYCHOLOGY (Kahler, 2008).             
Dr. Kahler’s discoveries in the field of communication assisted NASA for decades in the selection of astronauts and have enhanced the business of global corporations. His discoveries have assisted practitioners in the fields of therapy, health care, and education.  Because of the power and relevance of his theories, Dr. Kahler served as communication advisor to President William Jefferson Clinton and provided psycho-demographic polling analysis for his campaigns.     
In 2012, two colleagues and I conducted a formal validity study on Kahler’s Personality Pattern Inventory (PPI), an instrument that analyzes one’s personality structure.  We performed a statistical factor analysis on data from over 53,000 persons.  This research affirmed PPI’s validity and reliability (Ampaw, Gilbert, & Donlan, 2012), as we first reported in Vienna, Austria, with experts from Europe and Oceania, as well as Dr. Kahler, in attendance.             
This week, I’ll present some information on Dr. Kahler’s model at a transnational conference for an international group.  It is all quite sophisticated theoretically, yet can be unpacked nicely in its leadership applications.  It seems as though PCM is garnering even more relevance worldwide, as we now live, play, and work, both locally and globally.         
What is ironic is that Kahler current enjoys a relatively low-profile status in education: Known throughout the world for his contributions in bringing people together … having changed the lives of millions through his books and seminars … a member of four international high-IQ societies … and delightfully humble in spite of all this – Dr. Kahler, is currently “not” on most American educators’ “Who’s Whom” lists.        
Yet, he should be.      
The Process Communication Model’s impact on professional and personal experiences of persons from around the world is most certainly one that bears a closer look, as for one thing, it is “a catalyst” for better student achievement in our schools (Donlan, 2013).        
Items possibly of interest:     
PCM is a subtle, yet sophisticated method of differentiated communication that can minimize drama and maximize togetherness;            
PCM is a model that allows for deeper understanding of other people, within seconds of meeting them, from diverse backgrounds or cultures; 
PCM allows us to communicate more effectively, so that others can understand our good intentions.         
If you decide to study the model further, a number of open-source articles exist, and I can direct you to them.  I’d love to get your thoughts, feelings, and opinions, as we share reactions, reflections, and even some actions that we can take toward better understanding of local, and global, relationships.

Ampaw, F. D., Gilbert, M. B., & Donlan, R. A. (2012, August). Verifying the validity and reliability of the Personality Pattern Inventory. Paper presented at the 4th International Congress on Process Communication, Vienna, Austria.

Donlan, R. (2013). The Process Education Model (PEM): A catalyst for school improvement.  Journal of Process Communication, 1(1), 45-67.

Kahler Communications, Inc. (n. d.). Personality Pattern Inventory validation procedures. Little Rock, AR: Author.

Kahler, T. (2008). The process therapy model. Little Rock, AR: Taibi Kahler Associates.
Dr. Ryan Donlan is involved in research and training in the Process Communication Model (PCM) and the Process Education Model (PEM) and wishes to partner with corporate groups or with K-12, college, and university educators who are interested in research on professional development and learning outcomes in their organizations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Speth-Factor

The Speth-Factor

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

I have been searching over two decades for the secret ingredient to enhance student achievement in our nation’s schools, and I was excited recently to have come across a viable candidate.
The Speth-Factor.
Let me explain.
As parents, my wife Wendy and I have experienced slight trepidation at times when milestones in our children’s K-12 experiences would arrive, such as enrollment in Kindergarten, our family’s move to Indiana, and even our son’s recent ascension from elementary school to middle school. 
Sean’s a smart kid yet not particularly fond of academics (the book-work type).  He does well, in part, because he aims to please, and it will allow for less intrusion from his parents upon his personal and social time.  He’s the kid who would rather be playing a game outside, over that of sitting in a classroom. 
Thus, the thought of middle school academics worried us, as this is where I have seen too many students derail in struggle and begin making shortsighted decisions.  My final 11 years in K-12 leadership revolved around helping at-risk high-school students.

When I started seeing first-hand, the Speth-Factor and its influence on Sean, I began to understand the power of what needs to be part of every student’s K-12 life.

The Speth-Factor is my own “new” term, borne of an actual person – Mr. Dustin Speth, teacher and advisor at Honey Creek Middle School in the Vigo County Schools of Terre Haute, Indiana.  In a recent conversation with Mr. Speth’s Superintendent, Mr. Daniel “Danny” Tanoos, we concurred that one teacher can have an overall, positive effect upon a student.
Here’s how it works.
On any given day, when any school’s Speth-Factor is in play, students put forth much of their efforts in academics because they are inspired by a certain teacher.  It’s not so much for the content or for thoughts of future earnings potential.  It’s for a person, an adult, who serves as a role model.
In Sean’s case, it’s Mr. Speth. 
The Speth-Factor is not something bureaucrats can manufacture or parents can guarantee for their children through harping and helicoptering.  It’s something more authentic, probably encouraged by a great principal’s vision for instructional excellence and leadership support, much like Mr. Speth is provided at Honey Creek. 
My son’s Speth-Factor includes among many other things, warm welcomes each day, daily advice during advisory, vignettes about a teacher’s past pets, the occasional ad-hoc commentary on a local festival making headlines, and from what I hear, even a weekly teacher’s joke.  
Did I mention high standards as well? 
That’s an important part.
Those high standards include, from what I have heard recently from Sean, Mr. Speth’s sharing his own incredible record of attendance at work, much-the-model for his students.  A nice touch.
This inspiration is evidenced even more so by the fact that after Cross Country practice most evenings, Sean’s love-of-coach-and-sport has another contender for rounds in the dinner-table conversation – “Something that happened earlier that day in Mr. Speth’s class.”  When anything can be on par with Sean’s running through the woods, that something is really making an impact.
It all boils down to a teacher’s ability to connect with kids, making a difference while doing it.
It’s totally authentic.
It’s appreciated.
It’s the Speth-Factor.
And it works.
Thankfully, the Speth-Factor is bridging a gap and providing parents like us something that’s really cool in terms of school conversations with our son, at an age that is critical. 
I’m pretty sure that Mr. Speth has only a modest understanding of how much he makes an impact on Sean, and his other students, as the best teachers seem the most humble and unassuming.  They are their toughest critics.  I find that “The BEST” do what they do because of something intrinsic that drives them, and the fact that they care.
In my current role, most of my students are principals and superintendents, working on their Ph.D.’s.  In class and while providing schools professional development, I’m often asked about what schools can do to close achievement gaps.  I’m now offering the additional conclusion that if every student had the Speth-Factor, we might be in a lot better shape. 
With it, students feel connected, and student achievement is the natural byproduct.

Who is delivering the Speth-Factor in your school?
Who is achieving because of it? 

More importantly, who is slipping through the cracks in its absence, and is anyone holding up the mirror to ask, “Why?”


Dr. Ryan Donlan would like to thank those who helped him review and edit his article regarding The Speth-Factor, as it pertains to the student experience in K-12 education, including Vigo County School Corporation Superintendent Danny Tanoos, Honey Creek Middle School Principal Michael Cox, and of course, Sean Donlan.  If you would like to offer your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to contact him at (812) 237-8624 or at

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Invisible Time

Invisible Time

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

            I’m thankful my old colleagues in K-12 would put up with me when scheduled to make presentations at conferences, as I wanted to arrive long-before our sessions would start.  Sometimes, arriving the day before, I would ask conference-center or hotel staff to open our assigned breakout rooms, so that I could see the functionality of the rooms, the placement of the equipment (laptops, LCD’s, plug-in’s etc.), and even the arrangement of furniture.
            In doing so, I would try to “fix” pretty much, everything that wasn’t conducive to our presentation.
            I called this my “Invisible Time.”
            Invisible Time allowed me to do whatever I needed to do in preparation for any given event, so that when folks arrived, I would be ready to focus on THEM, not necessarily on the tasks needed to get things going. 
Nearing show time, I’d even go so far as to ensure that background music was playing, lapel mics were affixed, and beverages were refilled, before the doors would open.  Conference logistics would often make this more difficult, with back-to-back concurrent sessions, so I was known to request that my sessions were held after lunch or after the morning keynote, so that nothing occurred directly in my room prior.
            As much as this spoke to my affliction of “overthink,” it gave me peace of mind as I would watch fellow presenters arrive on-time (which is “late”), with the oft-predicted technology’s needing triage, resulting in a clunky start and a general disconnect with participants.
            Now that I’m presenting more often, I don’t always have the luxury of an early arrival, so I have adapted my shtick to one requiring shorter amounts of Invisible Time. 
            Still, I use it.
            My presentation experiences have informed my perspectives on school leadership, as well. 
I strongly believe that K-12 leaders are “on-stage,” most every moment of the day.  Inescapably, school leaders are the breakout presenters, if not the keynotes of their schools, as they have a ready-made audience watching their every move, hanging on every word, and never going away.
            I often teach K-12 school leaders that they can never be seen focusing entirely on “setting up” for any given exchange, as they are “delivering” from the moment their vehicles hit the parking lots, or in some cases, leave the house.   This is where it becomes imperative that school leaders intentionally schedule Invisible Time,”so that they can be all about “Showtime.”
            As a K-12 leader, where is your Invisible Time?
            Is it in the office before others arrive?
            In the school library, in a quiet corner?
            In your favorite teacher’s classroom?
            After school, once everyone leaves the building?
            If during the day, it demands a #2 who can handle any given situation as good as you (or hopefully better), which will keep people satisfied when they don’t have your ear.
            Wherever and however this Invisible Time takes place, two components regarding its use are critical:  (1) That you take time to DO something (handling tasks so that you can be all about relationships when again visible), and (2) That you take time to THINK and unleash your mind. 
The latter is where principals often shortchange themselves.
            A principal with who uses Invisible Time is more creative, more at peace in relationships, and thus, more effective.
            Consider how many actors are successful when they neglect to THINK about their lines, as well as how they’ll come across to an audience once “Action!” is called.
            K-12 leaders are such actors.


Dr. Ryan Donlan is keenly interested in not only the WHAT of K-12 leadership, but also the HOW. Toward this end, he encourages school leaders to use Invisible Time to hone and craft their academy-award performances.  If you would like to share a script that you have studied in a starring role, please don’t hesitate to call him at (812) 237-8624 or write him at