Better Decision Success Stories

On the occasion of DEF's 20th Anniversary, we held a symposium to hear from DEF students and thought leaders in the field.

Last spring, Lexie Howell acted as a DEF ambassador and convinced her high school to implement DEF's StrongStart program during the summer. Now in her senior year, she describes how she's using what she learned in the program, along with DEF's Conversations for Clarity tool, to help her decide on a college major and which university to attend.

Carrie Brumbach is a longtime DEF trainer for the StrongStart Bridge Program, which she piloted at Elmira High School in Oregon. 

Currently a middle school teacher in Redmond, Oregon, Carrie shares her experience successfully implementing DEF materials with 6th graders in a summer camp.

In 2020 Carrie's husband Aaron was diagnosed with Leukemia. Carrie and Aaron share how learning Decision Skills helped their family in responding to the difficult decision situations they had to face.

Zach Reed is a former DEF student. In high school, Zach wanted to go to medical school after graduation. Listen to how decision skills not only helped shape his ultimate decision to be a physician's assistant but also got him through some rough times and tough choices.

Liz Thompson is the lead teacher for the 9th Grade Success course at Junction City High School. Now in its third year, the course is built around Decision Skills curriculum developed in partnership with DEF.

Junction City is a longtime StrongStart Summer Bridge program site, with roughly 50% of incoming students participating in StrongStart, followed by the 9th Grade Success.

Since Junction City's Advisory Program matches teachers with student cohorts in 9th Grade, Decision Skills have become a part of the 4 year advisory progression. In 2022-23 school year all JCHS teachers will have been trained on DEF material and delivered a 9th Grade Success class.

During a high school summer, Ben Kitoko took DEF's leadership course at Stanford through the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies program. Ben shares how the Decision Skills he learned there helped him decide to put college aside, so he could start his own company. As an entrepreneur, Decision Skills continue to be among the most important ;leadership capabilities he is able to rely on.

Carl Spetzler, co-founder of DEF, shared his view of lessons learned about decision education over the last 20 years:

  • True Decision Skills are a superpower

  • The value of decision education is huge

  • Decision Skills are not being taught but they are teachable

  • Decision Skills are non-intuitive and require repeated and broad exposure

  • Decision education can enhance existing curriculum

  • Adoption of decision education is challenging

  • DEF's integrated curriculum is unique and scalable

Jeff DeFranco, CEO of Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) and DEF board member, spoke about how he recently used the DEF decision framework to help his staff address the challenges of the summer's forest fires and COVID. He also shared how decision education has been written into LTCC's recent grant. LTCC and DEF will partner to create college course offerings that high school students can take for credit.

Brett Pierce speaks to the question: What are the obstacles and solutions to integrating critical decision-making skills into the formal educational curriculum for middle and high schoolers?

Brett Pierce is a program developer, producer, educator, and writer who has spent over 30 years working in media production that engages and entertains around a defined curriculum. Brett is the Founder and Executive Director of Meridian Stories, a digital storytelling nonprofit for middle and high schoolers, now in its eleventh year. Brett has spent much of his professional life at Sesame Workshop in New York City, serving as a Co-Executive Producer on media projects about literacy, math, science and conflict-resolution, and life skills for youth around the world.

Florian Methling, author, researcher, and consultant at Strategic Decisions Group, presented the Entscheidungsnavi (decision navigator) and its uses in education to encourage the adoption of decision quality tools and processes.

Jeff Belkora, PhD, is the Director of the Patient Support Corps. Jeff is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Surgery in the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF. He designs, implements, and evaluates strategies to promote patient participation in medical decision making. In his capacity as Director of the Patient Support Corps, Jeff designs the program, marshals and deploys its resources, and trains and supervises its personnel.

Ralph Keeney shares the highlights of his book, Give Yourself a Nudge.

Ralph L. Keeney is Professor Emeritus at the Fuqua School of Business of Duke University, North Carolina. Throughout his career, he has been a professor and consultant on making important decisions for policymakers, businesses, and individuals. He received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, and has authored or co-authored several books, including Give Yourself a Nudge, Smart Choices, Value-Focused Thinking, and Decisions with Multiple Objectives.

The symposium panel discussed how to integrate Decision Skills into public education.

Trina Weller, professional decision educator with the Strategic Decisions Group

Brett Pierce, Founder and Executive Director of Meridian Stories

Liz Thompson, Teacher at Junction City High School and DEF Trainer

Chris Spetzler, Executive Director of the Decision Education Foundation