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I’ve read two brilliant books recently, the messages in both are clearly intertwined;  The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg and Leadership for Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve So That All Students Succeed Dylan Wiliam. (Available in the staff library)

Both have made me reflect on how we develop teachers and leaders at all stages of their career. 

Duhigg suggests the habit process consists of a 3 step loop;

I read a great book over the break called the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. We all know our habits are very difficult to change, we can all relate to trying to change diet, exercise, drinking her smoking habits. Duhigg argues that rather than trying to break old habits we should focus on creating new habits. New habits can only be formed if we can recreate the 3 step loop and insert a new cue and reward. If only the reward of doing exercise and eating salad was as powerful as the one I get from my chilled glass of Pinot!

Many of the less effective practises teachers engage in are as a result of habits. Most teachers work hard with a genuine conviction to do the best for the learners in their care. But many are also stuck with some habits and hence responses to situations that are a response to a ‘cue’ and unconscious rather than conscious decisions. 

I’ve spoken a lot recently about ‘deliberate intention’, particularly with reference to Sequences of Learning. We all have habits as teachers, those of us who have successfully taught for many years find those habits quite difficult to change – why change something that works? Well I believe we change things because we can always be better. The impact of changing effective practice is frequently exemplified by the story of Tiger Woods. Having successfully won the US Masters in 1997, with an unsurpassed victory Woods decided to change his swing! Initially is performance worsened but by 2000 he was playing the best golf of his life and achieved six consecutive PGA tour wins.  Sometimes changing our habits, particularly when we have been effective can be a challenge as our performance can temporarily decline. The long term benefits on performance can, however, be great.

So rather than do what you’ve always done this week or immediately reject something that’s different – take a risk, change a habit, it could lead to greatness.

Kate Davies