Don’t fall into the knowing-doing gap!


Most of us know more than we do on a regular basis.

In our personal lives, we know more about a healthy diet than may be evident in what we choose to eat each day. We often know more about the value and techniques (and perhaps clothing) of exercise than we actually do exercise.

In our professional lives we are also likely to know more about leadership or about teaching than we regularly practice.

In addition, even when our intention is to learn and use new strategies, there is often a wide gap between our learning about that method and our implementation of it.

Some have called this phenomena the knowing-doing gap.

Here are several ways we can bridge that gap:

Access prior knowledge. Before beginning a lesson good teachers usually determine what students already know about an area of study for both diagnostic and instructional purposes. Likewise, the knowing-doing gap can often be bridged by simply asking ourselves: “What do I know about this subject?” and then setting goals to do one or more of those things more consistently.

Examine our assumptions. Sometimes we resist doing new things because they are based on assumptions that consciously or unconsciously contradict our current assumptions. For instance, we may resist new instructional practices that promise greater success for more students because of a previously unexamined belief that poverty and family background are more powerful forces than teaching methods.

Embed learning in doing. Whenever possible, integrate the learning of new practices in situations that allow us to experience the practice firsthand, to identify implementation issues, and to consult with and receive feedback from leadership or instructional coaches.

Like most things that are important, closing the knowing-doing gap requires intention and persistence. It also requires that we recognize and celebrate the “genius” within us, a rich and readily-available resource that we can tap in a wide variety of circumstances.

The result of closing this gap will be the continuous improvement of leadership, teaching, learning, and relationships for the benefit of everyone in the school community.


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4 Responses to “Don’t fall into the knowing-doing gap!”

  1. 1 Kent Peterson March 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

    What struck me most about the “knowing-doing” gap is the importance of both self-reflection and intention. If we don’t take the time to reflect on ourselves (hard when we are always seem so busy), we are less likely to move to actions that can serve others and ourselves. But then we must also reinforce our “intention” to act rather than just think. This blog is a great reminder of both reflection and intention.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks March 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

      I think you put your finger on it, Kent – the importance of a continuous cycle of reflection – action – reflection – action. Forever.

  2. 3 barbarawmadden March 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Often the bridge between knowing and doing is courage and confidence.

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