The Knowing – Doing Gap

“Well, I taught them it – it’s not my fault if they don’t know it” is a phrase that many teachers have caught themselves expressing at some time or another, if they’re ready to admit it!

However, how often do the same teachers question themselves about the failure of so much of the learning they are exposed to as professional development to lead to actual behavioural changes and consistent new approaches to their teaching methodology. The reality is that, especially in a teacher centric, content heavy learning environment, it takes more than just exposure for a learner to make new knowledge their own and use it to manifest new bahaviours/ actions.

I’m not sure what the source was, but well remember a quote on the subject of professional training – “Training without coaching is just entertainment”. Here in India, the fact is that that top quality professional training is really quite costly. So, to see it lead to little or no real change is probably the best explanation we can find for why so many schools really train their professional educators so little. However, I think on both the teacher and management side there are some other reasons too;

  1. This person’s been a teacher for over 3 years – there’s little he/ she needs to know, so training would be a luxurious waste apart from a refresher from time to time,
  2. We’re really very busy right now, so don’t have time for training,
  3. This teacher’s got a masters degree in his/ her subject and his/ her students got good board results over the last 3 years, so training would be a waste of time.

Most of these reasons stem from a deep-seated paradigm that sees the body of content to be conveyed from teacher to student as the most important aspect of teaching. Therefore, many teachers and their leaders see training focused upon pedagogy, classroom methodology etc as peripheral.

If, as educational leaders, we are to get ‘more bang for our bucks’ when it comes to training and see the overall reform we want to see in education (coupled with consistent standards of excellence in every classroom), then we have to be willing to address the issues of how we facilitate the transfer of teachers’ learning in to the classroom.

I was therefore interested to see this article, the first of a series for ASCD by Dr Glenda Horner. It gives a nice idea for aiding learning transference in to the classroom:

ASCD Blog Post

I believe there are many other things we can and need to do. Here are just a few of my ideas, based on experience;

  1. Avoid recognition systems that reward teachers on the basis of qualifications obtained and/ or length of service alone,
  2. Don’t rush to give new teachers full tenure that implies their learning is ‘complete’ and that they are ‘the finished article’. Instead, there can be varying levels of mastery to be recognized, based upon actual performance and skill levels in the classroom, leading eventually to full tenure,
  3. When possible, training programmes built with projects etc. built in, held on dates spread over time with an expectation that participants will take learning back to their classrooms, do something with it, reflect and come back to share their reflections, learning and further plans,
  4. Embedded ‘trainers’ alongside teachers. These should ideally be very high caliber teachers, trustworthy, non-political and professional with high levels of teaching mastery who for a couple of years stop teaching or reduce teaching load significantly to work alongside teachers in their own classrooms to embed the learning from training programmes they have undergone. I see this being particularly useful where all staff have been or are going through a structured programme together to bring ‘whole school’ change.

If we are to have teachers who effectively address children’s knowing – doing gaps, then we have to create the right climate and environment to address these issues with teachers.


One Response

  1. In all fields and professions, most of us find it difficult to accept coaching “imposed” on us. However done voluntarily it is often a very effective method. Recognition or acceptance of the fact that there is still a lot to learn despite being in a profession for long, is probably the first and most imp barrier that needs to be overcome.

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