Recalibrating the Thinking-Doing Balance for Educators

Why up to half of all Australian teachers are quitting within five years

I read this article with concern. It asserts that the work load for young teachers leaves no time for ‘a life’ and there needs to be a greater allocation for planning and collaboration with colleagues within the school day. Now, my own generational peers may tut-tut and say ‘this is the working life, get used to it’, but 2017 is a very different world, with different expectations and accountabilities than when I started out in the 1980s. shutterstock_151700231.jpgOf course, as a primary school teacher in the 80s and 90s, I worked in the evenings preparing, marking and writing reports,. However, back then parents of my students didn’t have a 24/7 email hotline directly to me and there weren’t the pressures of high stakes testing throughout the years of school (Grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 in Australia). According to this article, the average class contact hours across OECD countries for primary teachers is around 25% less than those of Australian primary teachers.

Imagine if it was possible to free-up that 25% and give teachers time to think?

Recently, I heard John Hattie say (or words to this effect), “I’m not so concerned with how teachers teach, I’m more concerned with how teachers think”. Making time for planning and collaboration is making time for thinking. This time is so valuable, and if effective it can translate into the pedagogical practice – recalibrating the thinking-doing balance. This thinking however is not only in your head, but with the team, planning and collaborating.

The more we reinforce the idea of teacher isolation and the privatisation of professional practice, individual teachers will embody the egg crate classroom in their thinking – potentially responsible for the same content as the teacher next door and the walls keeping practice separate. Creating the conditions for shared practice, professional learning communities and collective teacher efficacy can enable greater efficiency in the use of precious time, and may even help to address the issues of why young teachers leave. Sharing practice could lessen the individual workload and perhaps make time for deeper professional thinking.

In his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, Hattie (2012) outline eight ‘mind frames’ or ways of thinking that shape teachers’ theories of practice. The ultimate aim of these mind frames is for teachers to appreciate, understand and know their impact on student learning. Do teachers understand the role that they play as critical to every student’s learning, regardless of each student’s ability, background and personal circumstances?

Here are some questions to spark your professional thinking about student learning inspired by Hattie’s Mind Frames:

What do you see as your impact on student achievement?

What do you understand about the nature of learning (as opposed to teaching)?

How can you adapt your practice ‘on-the-fly’ in class if you’re not hitting the mark for all students?

When were you inspired by collegial dialogue that encouraged you to adjust or tweak to your practice?

What is your listening-radar like with your students or is it mostly one-way communication?

When were you last ‘in the pit’ in your professional practice (as opposed to this-is-what-I-always-do)?

How can you contribute to growing the relational climate in your school? Amongst the class? With your colleagues?

Do you speak the language of learning or the language of teaching?

Are you the change agent for your students?

Take the next step and address the Thinking-Doing Balance.

This resource can be used as a reflection tool yourself, or with you team to work through. Here is a printable/PDF version to download: The Thinking Doing Balance

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 8.43.38 amI’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and refinements. Get in touch here:



One thought on “Recalibrating the Thinking-Doing Balance for Educators

  1. Reblogged this on Authentic Learning at St Clare's and commented:
    An excellent reflection on an article in the SMH that looked at the pressures placed on teachers and schools in 2017. Schools need to think creatively about how they can use the available time to help our teachers continue to develop their skills. At St Clare’s this is one of the most important aspects of our Professional Development program for staff. Ours is not a ‘one size fits all’ model. Our Leadership Team are conscious of getting the balance right so our staff are getting PD that targets their individual needs.


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