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Use Personality Types to Structure Staff Development

Can you recognize the Bricks, the Rebels, or Knowledge Royals in your school? Chances are you have some of those personality types on your faculty. Any or all of them can sabotage staff development efforts. But only if you give them the chance. Included: Tips for engaging reluctant staff members.

If you look around the room at your next staff meeting or professional development day, you probably can spot the Bricks. And the Rebels. And the Knowledge Royals.

Those are just a few of the personality types that can and do sabotage as many professional development and school reform efforts as they can. But you don't have to give in to those groups that can contaminate their colleagues with negativity and stall progress.

By identifying the personality types in your school and what motivates them, you can develop strategies to counter their influences and get everyone on board with professional development initiatives, several educators told a crowd during a presentation, "Are You Questioning My Competency? Professional Development for Reluctant Staff," at the 2008 Association for School Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference.


Lynda Byrd-Poller, former principal of Toano (Virginia) Middle School and now the human resources coordinator for the district, Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, said her philosophy as a principal was to involve as many people as possible in staff development. She would invite paraprofessionals, custodians and school bus drivers. "We brought in support staff so they could understand some of the issues and help with them," Byrd-Poller noted. In one case, she wanted to get bus drivers' input about bullying taking place at bus stops.

Dr. Denelle L. Wallace, who operates Denelle Wallace Consultant Services, said she learned first-hand about different types of reluctant staff members while working with faculty at Toano. Wallace initially found some resistance to her efforts at the school because at one time she had been a teacher there.

The personality types Wallace identified are:

  • Bricks are those who are stuck in a rut, passive, negative, and likely burned out.
  • Whiners are the negative verbal types who often are insecure and don't manage time well.
  • Absentees are, as the name suggests, usually missing in action on meeting days, lacking "buy-in" to the school, often burned out, and uncertain of their abilities.
  • Rebels are jaded, vocal about their views, often fear fads, and believe their way is the only way to do things.
  • Knowledge Royals are above everything and everyone and know more than everyone about anything.
  • Undercover Sabotage Specialists often are insecure and lack confidence. In person, they will agree wholeheartedly to any initiatives and then work behind the scenes to undermine efforts.


In many cases, those personality types have valid reasons for their behavior, Wallace noted. "Bricks are unmotivated because they have seen too many ideas come and go. Whiners have yet to see any professional development that they feel is relevant to their jobs. Knowledge Royals think their background and experience are not appreciated or being used, probably because in most cases no one has tapped into it," Wallace said.

"To get reluctant people on board, know what they need on individual levels."


Absentees often don't feel connected to the school, so their presence is not important. Rebels may think no one ever asks their opinion -- and maybe no one has. Saboteurs may have been criticized in the past when they expressed their views in public, and now only feel safe sharing their opinions secretly, Wallace noted.

A common characteristic of all these personality types is that they find professional development irrelevant.

Once you identify the people you have, try to develop meeting strategies that address their personality types. "To get reluctant people on board, know what they need on individual levels," she said.


One of the strategies Byrd-Poller used to counter the Absentees was to not cancel a meeting if only one person was absent, but to keep the meeting agenda or staff development going. She still held the missing staff members accountable for the information that they missed. Another strategy was to schedule a meeting in the classroom of someone who was chronically absent from meetings. Principals also can assign frequently absent teachers a task for the meeting or schedule meetings during the school day.

Refusing to pay people who miss meetings is yet another approach, but one that needs district support.

"You need to develop ways for teachers to get engaged at many different levels."


To get the Rebels involved, assign them to a governing committee so they can express their views, Byrd-Poller said. When dealing with Saboteurs, seek out their advice and then apply it so they know their views are valid.

"Put the Knowledge Royals on stage," Wallace advised. "Let them give presentations on areas in which they have expertise."

Talk to Whiners individually and try to develop arguments that head-off their complaints. To accommodate Bricks, make sure a presentation is well-structured, simple, and has a clear timeline, she suggested.

"You need to develop ways for teachers to get engaged at many different levels," Byrd-Poller said.