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Research regarding the amount of informed decisions a teacher makes per class range are astonishing. Scholars Hilda Borko and Richard Shavelson summarized studies that reported .7 decisions per minute during interactive teaching. Researcher Philip Jackson noted that elementary teachers have 200 to 300 decision or judgement based exchanges with students every hour (between 1200-1500 a day). The education focused website TeachThought shares the estimation of 1500 decisions per day characterizing this activity as “a constant juggle of manager, content holder, master communicator, and support system.” Charlotte Danielson estimates that a teacher makes more than 3,000 nontrivial decisions every day. Wow!
Teacher decision making scenarios vary. They can be proactive and reactive, made individually on the spot or collaboratively, and address unplanned situations or be related to a context designed by the educator. Therefore, whether the teacher is new to the profession or a veteran educator, school leadership should establish a professional culture marked by informed decision making. The three items below (each with an identified decision to make) are opportunities to support schools as they think about and prioritize the importance of informed decision making
- Faculty Meetings: Getting the faculty together is a powerful opportunity to guide the decision making process. Instead of using this time to share information (that can be done via email) designing a meeting that is interactive and develops skillsets regarding decision making is a great use of time. Developing practical scenarios and hypothetical situations to role play empowers teachers and builds community; both important attributes of informed decision making.
- Decision – Who will facilitate these meetings?
- Community Engagement: Effective communication with parents and organizations beyond the school impacts the relationships those groups have with schools. This can trickle down to classrooms and teacher – student relationships. Websites design, email communication processes, school branding, translation programs, and social media are all ways to get ahead of issues, celebrate teaching and learning, and reduce unpredictable scenarios where decision making is more difficult.
- Decision – Will what guidance is provided to teachers regarding communication to parents?
- Professional Expertise:Tuning the skill of informed decision making can happen by sharing professional expertise. Informal occurrences certainly happen at lunch or in the hallway, but creating time, space, and processes to tap into and disperse collective wisdom. One way to do that is to establish “Communities of Practice.” Another is the development of a mentorship program.
- Decision – Will the program be virtual, face-face, or blended?
Building educator capacity around informed decision making is an essential investment in human capital. Moreover, supporting schools with these processes and practices ultimately benefit students. Developing educators’ decision making takes me to Maya Angelou who summarized the importance of enacting learning effectively, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
By Craig Perrier
Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Hansen, D. T., Driscoll, M. E., & Arcilla, R. (Eds.) (2007). A Life in Classrooms: Philip W. Jackson and the Practice of Education. New York: Teachers College Press.
Shavelson, R., & Borko, H. (1979). Research on teachers’ decisions in planning instruction. Educational Horizons, 57(4), 183-189