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Eighty-six percent of teaching is routine?

July 29, 2011

MI GENTE: friends, colleagues, comrades, wise-folk all.

I desire your thoughts, questions, and answers.

Please listen to my four-minute audioboo recording, “Dissertation Woes.” I describe teacher problem finding, teacher decision making, and raise questions about the role of routines in teaching.

Right now, I’m here:

The literature on teacher decision making focuses on describing the routinization of practice as a way teachers might avoid the complexities inherent in on the fly decision making. Assuming educators possess the desire and tendency to establish routines in lieu of treating each teaching and learning encounter as an opportunity to be creative in determining, meeting, and fulfilling students’ affective and cognitive needs is to subjugate interactive teacher decision-making, as well as teacher problem finding, as activities that happen only when all routines have been attempted and failed.

Please tell me what you think.

  • What percentage of your average daily classroom time is routine? [Assuming there are average days.]
  • Do you strive for routinization? If so, what are the benefits? Drawbacks?
  • What informs and/or influences the way you make decisions while teaching?

Thank you in advance for any time you dedicate to responding.

Sincerely and most humbly,


4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 2:55 am

    GNA, thank you for re-tweeting this post earlier today. You have asked some great questions for is to reflect on.

    Here are a few of my thoughts… For myself, the decisions I make in my office about how I will engage my learners, and what are the key principles necessary to enable their future success are different than the decisions I make in the learning space. I would say that I a more strategic in my planning, and more open in the learning space. When I plan my classess, I employ a strategy, or routine, to help guide my preparations. Over the past few years, I have found that this method facilitates a more efficient use of time. The strategic preparations have morphed over time, as I reflect on what has helped my learners and what my failures have been.

    By using a strategic routine in my planning phase, I find that I am much more comfortable to be open to flexible decision making in the classroom. As a community of learners, my class can embrace a broader range of decisions – this is where I find excitement and energy in the classroom as students encourage me to be a learner with them.

    One last thought regarding decision models. Yes, the majority are serial process stage models, but they do not have to be. Such models often tend to minimize or underestimate the value of human decision making errors. Models that assume a highly interconnected set of parallel processing nodes can provide the illusion of stages, while allowing for human ‘error’ and creative decision making.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions…

    • January 13, 2012 1:46 am


      I too employ a tremendous amount of pre-planning in designing curriculum and lessons. And, like you, I see this as an investment that pays off when I am working with students as it allows us greater flexibility in approaching the content.

      Regarding decision models, those that make the most sense to me are iterative. In the problem solving literature, the most commonly cited (and arguably most elegant) model was put presented by Bransford and Stein (1984) “The IDEAL Problem Solver.” Although I find their treatment of the problem identification (the “I”) simplified, they do attend to the cyclical nature of problem solving (decision making).

      Between experienced teachers (say 5+ years) and novice, who would you imagine to be the more adept teaching-learning problem finders and why?


  2. January 12, 2012 1:45 pm

    I might agree with the 86% argument (thought wonder where that exact number came from!) if I call ‘routine’ caring about students’ learning, wanting to the best job I can as a teacher, keeping things fresh, even if teaching a course for the 15th time, and striving at all times to be respectful of students and to help them grow and learn.

    What informs how I make decisions about teaching? My students, and what is best for them simply (well that is actually not simple, but it is a straightforward goal!)

    • January 13, 2012 1:30 am


      I was just reading today about the relationship between dispositions and problem formulation. By your response, it appears you have a disposition and core values that guide all of your decisions in your work, and probably beyond.

      My sense is that once a teacher adopts a disposition toward problem finding (decision making), it becomes a compass guiding all of their decisions–on the fly and pre-planning. What do you think?


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