Fostering A Continuous Gap Between What We Know and What We Do

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 3.01.12 PMAs we already know, a gap exists between what

we know and what we do.  Successful educators work to narrow this gap between new ideas and implementation.  However, I believe the size of this gap does not necessarily indicate one’s success.  Some educators are terrific at executing what all they know how.   The problem is, their pedagogy is out-of-date, irrelevant, and this gap has been stagnant for many years.  On the other hand, there are educators who engage in twitter, who subscribe to RSS readers such as Google Reader and Bloglines, who create personalized online magazines through tools such as Zite and Flipborad, and who curate content

through platforms such as and  These educators have

an enormous amount of growing knowledge.

As leaders, which educator do you desire for your building?  The answer is easy but fostering such a gap takes intentional purpose on the part of the leader.

Fostering Knowledge

  • Recognize what your teacher wants to learn, as well as, what they need to learn.  Then, spark their curiosity.
  • Assist teachers in developing a strong PLN by introducing content specific educators who are both like-minded as well as those with differing viewpoints.
  • Assist teachers in curating content by creating an RSS reader and/or personalized magazine.
  • Assist teachers in subscribing to publications such as Education Week, Edutopia, Teaching Channel, E-School News, etc…

Fostering Doing 

  • Embed time for teachers to develop new knowledge and on the job learning opportunities.
  • Urge teachers to take the time to practice what they learn. Knowledge is power only when we use it.
  • Commend good mistakes when risks are taken and lessons are learned.
  • Invite regular reflection. Encouraging teachers to establish a personal learning blog that documents what they learn is one of the simplest but most rewarding and valuable approaches.

As leaders, it is important to be connected, to continue growing, and to maintain our own gap between what we know and what we do.  Otherwise, it will be difficult to assist teachers and to engage in relevant conversations.

This is a working document.  Please share other strategies to fostering this important gap to remaining relevant in the classroom.


  1. Hi Shawn,
    On a recent #educoach chat (twitter group devoted to ways of coaching professionals), we discussed bridging the gap from knowing to doing. We didn’t discuss fostering a gap. What an important perspective on professional learning! As I read your words, they ring with possibility. In fostering a gap we can be playful, experiment, and wonder. We can imagine alternatives. Eventually, we can delight in setting goals deliberately and making progress; bridging at least some of the knowing/doing gap. And yet, at the same time, we can continue to learn and know, delving into the possible. I thank you for the inspiration to not only accept but even to nurture the knowing/doing gap.

    January 21, 2013
  2. sblankenship said:

    Hi Shira, recently I attended ASCD in Atlanta in which my curriculum director, Dr.Mills, brought up the question, “How can we get teachers to move from knowledge to implementation?” I have been thinking much about this question so I started examining my teachers who seem to have a very small gap between new knowledge and implementation. These teachers can attend a “Tech Tuesday” about a topic and I can observe the teacher putting this new tool into action only days later. I can share an article about a best practice and observe them using this new practice, sometimes the very next day. These type of teachers have self-initiative and the willingness to take risks and try new things.

    On the other hand, I identified teachers who continuously do the best they know how. Their “gap” seemed to be very narrow simply because the last new knowledge they encountered was two to five years ago.

    My personal experience with this endeavor has been extremely difficult since I have become a “Connected Educator” joining twitter, engaging in #edchat, reading 15+ articles a day. It was so much easier when I read the occasional “Best Seller” every summer.

    Your comment, “We can delight in setting goals deliberately and making progress; bridging at least some of the knowing/doing gap,” is key. I think we must focus on putting knowledge into action rather than the size of the gap. Life-long learners will possess a growing gap between what they know and what they do and this is OK! As principals, let’s encourage such a healthy gap and foster conditions for teachers to grow, explore, take risks, and try new ideas.

    January 21, 2013

Comments are closed.