Matchmaking in Education
By Don O'Callaghan published on Sep 15, 2022
min read
Summary: The work of many education administrators can be thought of as matchmaking: people to people, people to schools, and people to opportunities. This lens can help those doing this important work to refine their strategies by breaking down the process into four components.
Wooden blocks with people icons on them being connected with string

Educators are Matchmakers

Most administrators don’t think of themselves as in the matchmaking business, but that is precisely what they are! For many central office administrators, making strong matches is one of the most important ways they can help build talent pipelines, engage and develop people, and support schools. When it comes to supporting people and schools, we can think about matches in three ways:

  1. People to people

  2. People to schools

  3. People to opportunities

Three Ways to Think About Matching

People to People

Matching people to people is probably the type of matchmaking that most educators are familiar with. Examples of people-to-people matching can include student teacher placements, where a student pursuing a licensure program gets matched to a mentor teacher or a program like new teacher mentoring where a new teacher is paired with a more veteran teacher. With the recent focus on principal preparation and school leader pipelines, programs where aspiring teacher leaders or new assistant principals are paired with more veteran school leaders are also on the rise. The importance of strong matches when it comes to retention, development, and effectiveness is increasingly well documented.

People to Schools

The second way we think can think about matchmaking is perhaps less obvious but equally important: people to schools. We know that schools only a mile apart can have different strengths and characteristics. We also know people – particularly school leaders and teachers – have different strengths and preferences. Some educators might find more success, faster, in certain environments and school cultures. When we think about building strong pipelines, it’s important that central office administrators think about the fit between a candidate and a particular role. Stronger matches are those that go beyond matching qualifications to job requirements and take into account matching people to schools based on their strengths and preferences.

People to Opportunities

The final way to think about matchmaking is people to opportunities. This is particularly important when we think about designing a professional development program that meets the current and emerging needs of staff. When you’re planning professional development, an administrator isn’t just slotting people into sessions, but rather matching professional learning opportunities with people based on what they need or want. Staff who have opportunities that are tailored to what they’re looking for or need in order to be more engaged and effective, meaning strong matches, can help with retention and success in the classroom and school.

Matching in Practice

Thinking about the work through the lens of matching allows us to ask ourselves some key questions about how we are approaching the work and potentially gain additional perspective.

To make matches we need to know some information about each side of the match, have a desired outcome in mind, and some basic theory of action or guiding principle behind the pairings. This basic framework allows us to confirm three things:

  1. Is my desired outcome clear and achievable?

  2. Is my theory of action for the pairing aligned with this outcome?

  3. Do I have enough of the right information about both sides of the match to reasonably execute this theory of action?

  4. Do I have enough of the right items on each side of the pairings to achieve this outcome?

If the honest answer to any of these questions is “no” or “I’m not really sure” then you can move through each item iteratively. But often item 3 is a good place to start. It’s concrete, and accessible. What do you currently know about each side of your matches? Is the information uniform or do you know a lot more about some individuals or items than others? What would be the most important information to use? Who knows this information and how might you access it?

So, for instance, if you want to set up your future novice teachers for success by giving them a great experience as student teachers, beyond their licensure area you may want to know what their strengths and interests are and what they are looking for. You may also want to know about the particular strengths and interests of your mentor teachers beyond just that they have 5 years of experience and their principal OK’d them to host. Typically, the best way to find this out is to ask them. Your theory of action may be that you want to place the student teachers in your hardest-to-staff school first, and to do that you will want to increase the number of potential host teachers at those sites beyond the two or three who are always called on for this work.

These adjustments can be made to any existing process, or a process can be put in place to achieve this. If you are looking for a simple way to collect better information, cultivate and grow your pools, and make better-informed matches, contact us for a demo. Torace makes the logistics of learning about and cultivating your pools easy, collecting information on your potential matches, and then staging and notifying pairings effortless.

for school leaders
for human resources
for administrators

Read Also

Curious to see Torace in action?

Contact us to learn more about how Torace can support your work.