Find out what people are saying about Dr. Ellie Drago-Severson


Leaders’ comments on Leadership Institutes for School Change

Professional learning coach, Atlanta      Vice principal for special education, California     Process improvement facilitator and educator, Massachusetts    Principal, Newyork


Superintendent, Newyork      Administrator, Connecticut     Teacher & Curriculum coordinator, Utah    Assistant head for academics, Utah


Transformational adult learning and growth: a conversation with Ellie Drago-Severson

Deborah Netolicky, a school leader and Professional Learning Project Coordinator  at Wesley College in Australia met with Dr. Ellie Drago-Severson, and wrote about the experience on her blog.

“Ellie’s examples of working with educators were based in some fundamental principles:

  • Teachers are adult learners who own their own learning and should be provided with choices. They should be able to choose if they are ready for growth. Even in mandated programs they should be able to choose their own paths.
  • Developmentally, learners may initially want ‘the answers’ or to be told how to improve, but the aim of adult learning should be to develop self-authoring individuals. Coaching should aim to grow individual capacity (e.g. Developmental Coaching, Cognitive Coaching).
  • Talk defines and drives behaviour (similarly to the beliefs of Adaptive Schools I explored here). Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation (2002) looks at how language determines feelings, governs action and impacts learning. As well as talk, the quality of listening has been confirmed by research to be a developmental support for learning.
  • Change should start at a slow pace, with volunteers, building momentum and reach over time.
  • ‘Push back’ (resistance or questioning) should be welcomed and explored.
  • The key to learning is a trusting nurturing environment in which people feel ‘held’; they need to be simultaneously supported and challenged. It is vital to spend the time building culture and developing group norms and ground rules for confidentiality”


“You have an extraordinary capacity to inspire and engage adult learners, and to help professionals recognize their own capacities as teachers and learners.”

Diantha Dow Schull, 2014

DDSchull Associates


The surprising effect of a kind outbox message

“Yesterday, I sent an e-mail to Ellie Drago-Severson and received the following “out of office” message:

“Warmest greetings!
Thank you so very much for your email.
 I promise to care for your note as soon possible. It is dissertation defense season here at Teachers College and so it may take longer for me to offer a response to your email-note. Should you not hear from me within a week, can you please help by resending? Thank you so very much for your patience and understanding. If you need immediate assistance, please call …”

This message actually made me feel good.   I checked in with some other folks who were in touch with this wonderful TC professor and expert on adult learning  and they had the same reaction when they received this message.   Moreover, one of them,Scott Bruss,  a former student of  Prof. D-S, wrote back to me:

“for her outbox response, she updates it constantly.  Earlier when I was trying to set up the meeting, she had written that she was going to be travelling by plane and may not be able respond if the plane doesn’t have wifi.  It’s a like an email version of a facebook status update.  Crystal clear communication. I wonder what would happen if we adopted that practice?”

Read more of Janet Price’s blog here

Janet Price is the Director of Instruction for New Visions Public Schools in New York, NY




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