What Is Decision-Fatigue and How Can Teachers Avoid It?

February 1, 2017

As teachers we make more decisions all day long than just about any other profession. By the end of the day when we sit down to decide what to teach tomorrow we are often beyond burnt out. This led us to the research on decision-fatigue-- yes, that is a real thing. While we have plenty of firsthand experience with this situation, and we are sure you do too, it is helpful to read a bit about what exactly it entails.  

 

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing” (Tierny, 2011). To read more about decision-fatigue click here.


Luckily we also reread Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink which explains a concept called thin-slicing. “Thin-slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on a very narrow slice of experience” (Gladwell, 2005, p. 23). This basically means we only need a small amount of information about our student readers to decide what to teach them next. We don't need to fatigue ourselves with extra data and info. A little can go a long way.

 

We use the concept of thin-slicing throughout our book series What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? as a way to quickly study what students write and say about their thinking about books to decide what to teach next. It works and saves us from the burn out.

 

Hear us explain the concepts in this short video below.

 

 

 

 

 

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