President of Education Lifeskills, Trevor Lloyd, discusses his partnership with ONEder Academy and the foundation of his organization’s self-directed learning courses.
By Hassan Javed
One of the philosophical goals of Education Lifeskills is that, “if we want to change what we have been getting, then we will have to change what we have been thinking.” Trevor Lloyd, an organizational psychologist and now president of Education Lifeskills for over 10 years, knows that this is as true for an organization’s method of teaching as it is for the development of the students those methods are targeting.
In a move to propel the ideas his father first developed decades ago into a technology-based system, Trevor is embarking on a new partnership with ONEder; in the coming months he will release Education Lifeskills’ curriculum through ONEder Academy’s blended suite. We spoke with Lloyd about the development of his curriculum, respecting the learning habits of students, and how ONEder Academy is helping Education Lifeskills reach and empower students in a new way.
How did you become involved with Education Lifeskills?
Our parent company, ACCI, has long known that there is a need for our type of curriculum and programming in many different sectors such as corrections, education, military, mental health, corporations, and in families. There’s obviously overlap, but our long-term strategy is to penetrate each of those sectors.
Education Lifeskills was our first step out of the corrections sector, which had been our focus for decades. Our specific objective was to reduce recidivism rates, and we have had a lot of success. Schools were a natural second step. In fact, part of what got us involved was the feedback we got over and over, year after year, from parents who had a child either going through a diversion program with a district attorney, under juvenile probation, or being formally supervised in our juvenile correctional courses. Some of our programs in Newark, for example, have been around for 15 years. The feedback was, “why aren’t we doing this in schools? Why are we waiting for kids to make mistakes and get into the criminal justice system and only then giving them programs like this?”
For many years we have had schools contact us with interest in our curriculum and programs. They found us online, through word of mouth, and through references from the juvenile probation officers. Our first comment [to the schools] would be that these courses had been developed with the understanding that an individual has been identified as having already committed a crime or has been adjudicated. That was the tone of our material. Their answer was that several of their students are either already on probation, or they would tell us, “we’re pretty sure there’s a lot of criminal activity going on, but they just haven’t gotten caught yet. So, there’s an issue there already and it’ll still be a really good fit.”
What are some of the personal successes that you’ve seen? Do you have any stories in terms of people going through your program, and the changes in people’s lives you’ve seen over the years?
All of our self-directed learning courses require the participation of a coach. In the case of a juvenile, most often based on our recommendations, it’s a parent or guardian. The most touching and heartwarming feedback that we’ve received through our internal channels, and we’ve seen it several times, is when we hear things on the evaluations from the juvenile that say something to the effect of, “it was a great course because it was the first time my mom listened to me,” or “it was a great experience because my dad and I got to spend time together.” That’s a huge sign of success.
It’s interesting because in the criminal justice world, the number one known factor that predicts an individual’s likelihood to commit a crime or repeat crime is something called a social network. That’s defined as the extent to which an individual has prosocial or pro-criminal associates. The biggest is associates. And for juveniles, who are their associates? It’s their dads.
One of the biggest factors we have in our country is this cyclical disease of crime, of victim to perpetrator, on down through the generations. So it’s a big breakthrough when the students say things like, “I learned some things that I never knew about myself, but more than anything I appreciated the chance to connect with my coach, my mom, my dad.” The conversations that they had, how it became personable, is so important for us because these kids need somebody in their lives who’s going to take an active interest. What we’re driving is a guided way for that adult caregiver, that adult role model, to connect with them and have those hard conversations through an organized curriculum. So that’s kind of our underlying philosophy. Caregivers and parents aren’t having the right kinds of conversations with their kids.
How has your life experience, and also your father’s life experience, informed the development of the program? How is it personal to you?
It’s intensely personal. My dad and I had some interesting challenges growing up, but it goes further back than that. My dad was raised by alcoholics. My grandparents both had severe addictions and they both died early from kidney and liver problems associated with alcoholism. Drinking was an everyday situation, together with a lot of domestic violence. For me, my dad is the epitome of a survivor. Starting in that situation and to see his life’s work — take that negativity and do something productive with it — is truly amazing. He always said he’s never been the expert, he never had a mind for research; that’s something I’ve brought to the table in our relationship. What he had was the heart and the creativity. So what he did was develop a lot of empathy through his own circumstance. He was able to infuse that into the courses and do a lot of empowerment. At the same time, he was able to challenge people to see things differently without provoking and without using shame or guilt. That’s where he really started with his cognitive restructuring model.
We’re not just teaching these concepts, we’re accessing the subconscious mind, which is where values, attitudes, and beliefs come from. It’s where sustainable change comes from. We believe education sometimes is skin deep and in order to really educate, you’ve got to access the subconscious mind.
In our model, we say there’s three ways to get information into the subconscious mind and that’s through repetition, trauma and emotion. We don’t use any trauma. We’re trying to do something different in our material and have a healthy sense of appealing to students emotionally in the stories that we use and then, of course, the repetition.
For us, the big thing is how do you get somebody to engage in the content? You can have a really good curriculum, but how does it stick? Well it’s like a movie: when you have a good story and it’s relevant, you can draw them in and allow some space for self-discovery. All of this has been developed literally over 43, 44 years of trial and error.
My dad’s real motivation came from first being a victim and understanding that you don’t have to be. We use this concept in our curriculum all over the place — that your beginnings don’t have to equal your endings, but in order for that to happen you have to take several steps. You have to have some self-awareness and really protect what information you’re allowing to occupy your subconscious mind. That’s really one of the main messages we’re offering through stories, self-assessments, and a variety of other learning techniques.
You’ve seen all of these successes in person. Why is now the time to take the program online?
We really acknowledged as an organization that it’s time to embrace technology to reach people where they want to be reached. It’s a matter of responsivity. If someone prefers to learn online, why make them do it offline? Why can’t we meet people where their preferences are? What’s this whole educational system that says, “I’m going to push my way on you”?
When you become an adult, you actually do get some choice on how you want to learn and organize yourself. So where do you start? We can philosophize on that until the cows come home, but the bottom line is we knew it was time to go online, to be responsive, to embrace the future.
My biggest attraction to the ONEder platform specifically, of course, has been the accessibility features. We always get that question as an organization: “what reading level is this on? Can my clients do this?” ONEder’s platform makes our material more accessible to a wider range of learners and takes into account the fact that not everybody is on the same learning level.
I think it’s beautiful validation and a very humanitarian approach that ONEder has that says, “we’re going to modify this so that you can benefit the best way possible.” Also, for our team to be able to report data at a whole bunch of different intervals and get this amazing picture of where a child is at is so important and beautiful to see.
To find out more about the Education Lifeskills courses that are available through ONEder Academy, click here.