(Visible)Thinkers and (Reflective)Doers

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Klearchos Kapoutsis

Reflecting on the ISTE Leadership Forum opener on Monday morning with Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn, they ended their workshop on system transformation with a curious slide and quote (paraphrased beft from memory):

“There are two types of people in the world; thinkers and doers.  Which one are you?”

Now I get what they were saying, that we should be taking action to make a difference in our system, but this little tag line threw me off.  If we are really moving ahead with system reform, we need to be both “think” and “do”; there is and should be no separation.  Think too much with no action is as useless as doing without contemplating before and after.

I don’t want to break it down into the simplicity of thinking and doing but to actually push the thoughts that we need to be “visible thinkers” and “reflective doers”.  Many leaders are extremely thoughtful, yet they tend to keep these ideas in their head.  Yet in the context of any organization, with schools specifically in my mind, it is beneficial to open up learning to others to improve practice in our schools and classrooms:

“When we make the thinking that happens in classrooms visible, it becomes more concrete and real. It becomes something we can talk about and explore, push around, challenge, and learn from.”  Ron Ritchart, Make Thinking Visible

As a leader, if my thought process is left to my own mind, how does that push our learning ahead as an organization?  With the technology that is predominant in our society, the opportunities to open your learning to others is easier now than ever.

Once we start moving on our thinking and become active “doers”, we need to step back and look at the work that we have done and grow from the experience.  In this powerful article by Col. Eric Kail, he states, “…experience is only as valuable as what we do with it.”  To move forward, we definitely need to learn from looking back.  Kail goes onto push how reflection is imperative for leadership:

Gaining wisdom from an experience requires reflection. In thinking back on the significant events of my life, experiences good and bad, it was the act of assigning meaning that has made all the difference for me. Reflection requires a type of introspection that goes beyond merely thinking, talking or complaining about our experiences. It is an effort to understand how the events of our life shape the way in which we see the world, ourselves and others. And it is essential for any leader.

Reflection is what links our performance to our potential.

The fantastic thing now is that making our thinking visible and actively reflective are elements of our practice that are easily meshed with one another and can often be done in the same space.

Dean Shareski talks about how the art of reflection through blogging will improve the quality of education, as well as the growth of each individual teacher:

I’ve yet to hear anyone who has stuck with blogging suggest it’s been anything less than essential to their growth and improvement…There’s a natural transparency that emerges. The teachers who blog as professionals in this reflective manner in my district invite anyone to look into their classrooms and you can get a picture of what happens on a daily basis. This goes a long way in addressing accountability concerns.

School administrators that ask this of their teachers need to model it first.

Stating that there are “two types” of people often is going to receive some pushback, so I think about what I am trying to embody to others I work with.  But if there is a “type” of person that I want to learn with, it will be that “visible thinker” and “reflective doer”.  Imagine if we embodied that as educators and it trickled down to our students?   Our future would definitely be in good hands.


One Comment

  1. Totally agree with your insights that by being "visible thinkers" and "reflective doers" we have the ability to shift our current systems. By even stating the terms "visible" and "reflective" the true power of those two actions is brought to the fore-front, making them purposeful and productive.

    Appreciate the fact that you are also advocating for leaders to be the role-models- not only for the 'walk the talk' factor but because I believe that it takes away the complaint often heard that administrators 'stop growing' when they step into the office. How many administrators currently blog I wonder? Are there any stats to show how many teachers are blogging? Wonder if any studies are in the pipelines about the impact of blogging on teacher/administrator practices?

    You mention this but I think it is important to keep in mind that blogging is a journey and it takes time to get to the "natural transparency" and deep reflection that you talk about. I am just starting on this journey. Personally I want to be mindful that I am not just "another voice" out there in an attempt to make my thinking 'visible' but someone who is adding "value" to the conversations that are taking place. Is this always the case though?

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