Knowing vs. Doing Gap

To begin I feel I must submit a disclaimer to this post. I have read a few blog posts on the Knowing – Doing Gap and I am aware of the book by this same title by Jeffry Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton yet, the thoughts in this post are my own and are based on my own experiences.

Many of my blog posts relate everyday experiences to education. This post is no different. I have spent the last five weeks emerged in bridging the gap between knowing and doing in my personal life. It is time for me to reflect on this journey, assess my progress and once again make links to my own professional life.

Five weeks ago I hired a personal trainer. The journey has opened my mind to transforming my lifestyle. I have known how to live a healthy life for a long time. I have read a lot on the subject, taught nutrition to 4th and 5th graders, and have talked about changing my lifestyle for a long time. I came to the realization I was talking the talk, but not really walking the walk.  I knew how to live a healthy life, I just wasn’t doing it. I was stuck in the middle of the “Knowing/Doing Gap.”

I’m not saying I lived a totally unhealthy life. Healthy foods were part of my everyday diet and I would exercise, but inconsistently. When life, mainly my professional life, got busy I’d tend to gravitate toward unhealthy, quick choices and would be known for getting in less daily exercise.

I am on the uphill climb between knowing how to live a healthy life and actually doing it on a consistent basis. The bi-weekly check in with my trainer have been the key to my success thus far. I have not reached the arch’s keystone, or the central stone at the top of an arch. Once I do, I know that I will be well on my way to full-fledged “doing” even without the support of my guide on the side.

But there is more to it than reaching that point. At the keystone, I see this current journey becoming a lifestyle change. I will be moving into the “doing” part, yet I must remember there is still more to come on this journey. Look closely at the picture above. Do you see the reflection of the bridge? I see this as the second leg to my journey. Once at the “doing” stage I will be able to implement this process without much thought or external support, yet another uphill path will be in the road ahead. I can’t get too comfortable in the journey, as a new one will be about to begin. What is in store for the “newer, healthier me?” Right now, I’m unsure but I do know the spirit of change is an ongoing cycle. You are never “there.”

So what lessons have I learned along the way? How are these connected to the field of education?

    • Understanding that I needed a coach to guide my efforts was the first big step. I have been on this journey many times, but always thought I could do it myself. I knew that eating healthy and getting exercise were keys to living healthy. Yet, with each attempt, frustration and back sliding seemed to take hold. I would do well to a point, but lose steam. It was difficult to “go it alone.” Committing to the coaching process in my personal life took understanding that I would make greater strides with the assistance of someone who had a better understanding of this process than I did. Letting go of the fear that I was going to be judged took courage. Realizing that my trainer is my guide on the side, offering valuable information to help me become successful in my endeavors was key. I draw from her expertise and experiences. I am no longer alone in the process.
        • The same holds true for the instructional coaching process. It takes courage to commit to a coaching relationship. Teaching has been a private act for many. Many of us spent most of our time in this profession behind our closed doors and in isolation. Opening classroom doors and your mind to a guide on the side is the first step in a successful journey. An instructional coach can play a key role in classroom. You do not have to “go it alone.”
        • I strongly believe everyone deserves a coach – even instructional coaches and school leaders. Too often, many get stuck in the mindset that they know all the skills to be successful – yet are not implementing the skills on a consistent basis.
    • Once I signed up for the journey (right now a total of 16 weeks) – perhaps longer, I knew I needed to be coach-able. I had to listen and learn from my trainer. I had to ask questions and be willing to listen to answers, even if they weren’t what I wanted to hear. I had to implement the guidelines, no matter how difficult they were or how much I wanted to resort to past habits. The more I implement, the closer I get to the “doing” or lifestyle stage. I continually remind myself – I can have “excuses” or “results” but I can’t have both.
        • Being coach-able allows for the real learning to take place in the instructional coaching process as well. A coaching relationship can form in many ways. Do you have an instructional coach in your building or perhaps a mentor teacher you look up to? Could your administrator play the role of a coach? Have you sought them out? Coaches, no matter who the person may be, can offer support in your learning journey. When the learning of both the teacher and coach is focused on results, students WIN.
        • Are you, as an instructional coach and/or administrator modeling the way? Are you showing others that you are coach-able? Do you share how having a coach of your own has affected your own journey?
    • Data is becoming my friend. Data is ever-present in my professional life and I assist teachers and principals with the use of data. Now throughout my personal journey I am gathering data on a daily basis. Some of the data is more summative in nature such as the pounds and inches lost. Other data takes on a more formative nature. Each day I record my food intake and exercise. This data is used by my trainer and I to set goals. When set backs occur, the data helps guide next steps and changes in the process. One hurdle I am overcoming is adding more and more exercise to my daily routine. My daily record serves as a reminder of my goals and helps me monitor my progress.
        • Data is ever-present in schools. At times it has been said we suffer from the DRIP Syndrome. (Data Rich Information Poor). Merely collecting data is not enough. The data must be used to inform next steps. What data do you collect from your students? How does it guide meeting each student’s individual needs? How do you involve your students in the goal setting process? How do they use their own data to monitor their progress?
        • What data are you collecting about your own coaching? Are you looking at frequency of coaching cycles? Use of your time? Your reflective questioning and listening techniques? Coaching goals accomplished? There are so many date points a coach and/or administrator could collect. Yet, the power comes in reflecting on the data to monitor progress towards a goal. Having a coach of your own can allow you to go much deeper and make lasting change!
  • Coaching is a two-way street. Not only have I learned from my personal trainer, but I know she has learned from me as well. We both bring knowledge to the table. We share healthy life style techniques, good food option and continue to build a friendship along the way. She is someone I trust. I know I can look to her for non-judgmental advice. She constantly builds on my successes – even if that means adding more weight to my lifting routine. Together we set goals that are measurable and obtainable.
      • The instructional coaching process is built on a what Jim Knight describes as a partnership. The principles of this partnership are: Equity, Choice, Voice, Reflection, Dialogue and Praxis. These principles allow for trusting relationships to form. Both parties (teacher and coach) are viewed learners and share their learning along the way.
      • I gain so much from the instructional coaches and school leaders I coach. Every situation in coaching is unique. I’m blessed to see coaching from so may angles. I grow with every connection.

I’m well on my way to bridging the “Knowing vs. Doing Gap” in my personal life. I am eating healthier on a consistent basis and exercise is becoming more of routine. This past weekend I ENJOYED two 4 mile walks in area parks. The changing of the seasons in Iowa is beautiful. A reminder that change happens all around and within us.


  • Amy Illingworth 9 Oct

    Thank you for sharing your reflection! I, too, have been working with a personal trainer for the last three months and have been an Instructional Coach for years- I love the connections you made here! Good luck!

    • Kathy Perret 9 Oct

      Hi Amy,
      Thanks so much for your comments. Maybe we need to be accountability partners! Best wishes in your journey as well!


  • Nina 23 Oct

    Thank you for these excellent reflections on life and learning! I liked the way you started with the cooperation, because it truly is the prerequisite for all teaching/learning interactions. Following up with cognitive part and showing how you can decide to be coach-able is important, but often forgotten, and we should empower students to find their own way to become teachable or coach-able. Data and information are different things, indeed, and both need to be constructed to knowledge/understanding to be of use. And we teachers should always remember how reciprocal education is!

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