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Teacher & Training Tips

You’re Creeping Me Out

Dr. Vern Minor
Director of Educational Leadership

To cite this article: Minor, V. You’re Creeping Me Out. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #62. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. www.KaganOnline.com

I suspect what comes to mind for most of us when we hear the statement, “You’re creeping me out,” is Urban Dictionary’s definition: “To make someone feel really uncomfortable or nervous.” We’ve all been creeped out by someone. Recently, however, I ran across a concept which caused me to think of this statement in a different way. Are leaders creeping out those they lead? Let me explain.

The notion that I stumbled across is called scope creep, an idea that is commonplace in the world of project management. Scope creep is “when a project stretches beyond its original vision” (Moses). Consider the following description.

It happens slowly. So slowly that it takes you by surprise.... It usually starts with a small change request. Just a minor readjustment of the project scope. Nothing you’d even want to bill for. This is followed by one more request. Then another. And another. Before you know it, the “small change” has turned the project into a different beast altogether. Instead of five deliverables, you now have 15. But the budget and the deadline are the same. The result? Failed projects and frustrated project managers. (Moses)

Scope creep is “...insidious and sneaky... It can happen both intentionally and unintentionally” (Haworth). Left unattended, scope creep can anger clients, result in underestimations on time and resources, and doom a project to failure. Scope creep is a pitfall that must constantly be monitored and avoided by those who manage projects.

Left unattended, scope creep can anger clients, result in underestimations on time and resources, and doom a project to failure.

Those of us who have been involved in a building project understand this concept. However, I got to thinking. Could this idea be applied to other areas besides construction, like education? Let’s consider that possibility. I contend scope creep is one of the reasons why we have failed in a key area of school improvement—student engagement. How are schools attempting to ensure all students are engaged in learning? Does scope creep ever creep in?

I did a quick Google search on this topic: Ways to engage students in learning. I was shocked by what I discovered. Let me give you just a glimpse of what surfaced in my search.

How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class (Frondeville)

  • Start class with a mind warm-up
  • Use movement to get kids focused
  • Teach students how to collaborate before expecting success
  • Use Quickwrites when you want quiet time and student reflection
  • Run a tight ship when giving instructions
  • Use a fairness cup to keep students thinking
  • Use signaling to allow everyone to answer your question
  • Use minimal supervision tasks to squeeze dead time out of regular routines
  • Mix up your teaching styles
  • Create teamwork tactics that emphasize accountability

Ways to Engage and Retain the Attention of Your Students (Education Degree)

  • Provide visual aids when possible
  • Emphasize important concepts
  • Use logical thinking
  • Be respectful
  • Use hands-on learning
  • Ask questions
  • Incorporate technology
  • Encourage failure
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Open door policy

14 Creative Ways to Engage Students (Iowa State University)

  1. Assumption busting
  2. Brain-sketching
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Concept mapping
  5. Exaggeration
  6. Fishbone
  7. Kipling questions
  1. Laddering
  2. Negative brainstorming
  3. Role playing
  5. Post-up
  6. Storyboarding
  7. Reversal
We cannot introduce initiative after initiative after initiative in hopes of impacting student engagement. Such an approach overwhelms teachers and produces little, if any, impact.

Put yourself in the place of a 22-year-old student teacher who is preparing for her first full-time teaching job. She knows that student engagement is important, so she looks for ways to engage all students in the classroom. In her Google search, she stumbles across the lists I have highlighted above. Over 30 ideas—in only three posts—on ways to engage students! Can you imagine her state of mind? I’ve been in education for nearly four decades, and I’m overwhelmed when I look at these lists. A 22-year-old would be totally flabbergasted.

Student engagement is a critical component when it comes to narrowing achievement gaps. As such, leaders need to be cautious. What can start out as a simple, critical concept—engage all students—can suddenly “stretch beyond its original vision.” We cannot introduce initiative after initiative after initiative in hopes of impacting student engagement. Such an approach overwhelms teachers and produces little, if any, impact.

So what is the answer to student engagement? Leaders need to embrace a simple, robust way to engage all students—structured interaction. We don’t need new programs. We don’t need the next new thing that comes down the pike. We don’t need to jump on every bandwagon that passes by. What we need are leaders who will embrace uncomplicated, research-based strategies to structure interaction… and then stay the course!

Don’t “creep out” your staff by allowing scope creep to enter into your solutions for student engagement. If you do, your teachers will experience what Moses described earlier in project management—failed efforts and frustration. Instead, trust structured interaction—a simple, multi-faceted, high-leverage way to positively impact student learning and narrow achievement gaps.


Education Degree. 10 Methods of Engaging Students. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://bit.ly/2ZStBQE.

Frondeville, T. (2009). How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://edut.to/37sHbg0.

Iowa State University. 14 Creative Ways to Engage Students. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://bit.ly/2QKtNwW.

Haworth, S. (January 10, 2018). Identify and Avoid Project Scope Creep. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://bit.ly/39CXtoG.

Moses, S. (May 24, 2018). Scope Creep in Project Management.  Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://bit.ly/35jCS52.

Urban Dictionary. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from https://bit.ly/2QJR9CS.