Teachers’ Beliefs and Behaviors

Often when working with coaches and principals, I ask them to examine the elements that Joellen Killon shares when describing Heavy Coaching (earlier blogs). She suggests:” Coaches can’t afford not to impose on what teachers believe and how that impacts their actions. Their work is too important and without conversations about beliefs, deep change is unlikely.”

Therefore a coach might explore cognitive dissonance to generate teacher growth.

Why is Cognitive Dissonance Important?

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations. Becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact the decision-making process is a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices.

Here is an activity I recently designed to have teachers explore their beliefs regarding teacher expectations and their matching or mismatching behaviors.

Place a long continuum on the wall with the numbers from 0-100%. Read the statements and ask teachers, “Where do you stand?”. Participants rise and physically take a stand.

Studies (674) confirmed that teacher expectations do have a powerful effect on student achievement. (John Hattie 2009)

0%          25%              50%           75%          100%

 
100% — full agreement with the statement
0% — complete disagreement
50%- I can argue either side equally. Not sure how this impacts my teaching.

Other numbers illustrate varying degrees of agreement or disagreement.

Great teachers have a growth mind-set…They view achievement not as innate , but rather as changeable-the result of hard work. Great teachers believe in growth of intellect and talent and are fascinated with the process of learning.   (Dweck 2006)

Quality of Effective Teachers : Setting high expectations while nurturing student growth. (One of the strongest correlates of teacher effectiveness is student-teacher relationships.)

As teachers take a stand on each belief statement, facilitated discussion explores, “What teacher actions and behaviors are congruent with where you stand?”.  As coaches work with individual teachers, PLC’s, teams, or departments they can continually return to this common experience and emerging cognitive dissonance.

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2 Responses to “ Teachers’ Beliefs and Behaviors ”

  1. Boo Rayburn Says:

    Steve – This is a great idea. I might modify it with a staff who is a little shy or not ready to take such a public “stand” and provide them with the continum at their table and they put a finger on the line, or maybe a dot as a collective team. Either way it starts the conversation and that is what initiates growth. I’m curious about the statements you have collected. Will you share those with us?

  2. Stephen G. Barkley Says:

    Boo , thanks for comment.Some of the power of the activity is pushing the public stand.

    Activity really works with any beliefs/opinions you want to examine; What percent of a day should studnets be learning from peers or working in teams?

    What percent of your focus is on teaching life skills not listed as a componet of your curriculum?

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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