Student Wellbeing - Decision making based on a gut feeling and intuition

Student Wellbeing – Decision making based on a gut feeling and intuition

Decision making based on a gut feeling and intuition

As teachers, we are regularly wading our way through data and analytics, constantly looking for scientific theory on everything to try and improve student academic and social emotional learning. While this is an important and targeted approach towards planning, implementing new ideas and improving teaching and learning, I worry that we are not trusting or backing ourselves enough or implementing our professional judgement and common sense.

Unfortunately, teachers making decisions based on their experience and intuition seems to get a bad rap. It implies that little to no thought or consideration has been given to a topic and that we are deciding things for our students without reason. This generates stress and anxiety about the way we make decisions, and the strategies we teach our students to use for decision making. Recently, I have been reading an article where Ph. D. Professor of Psychology, Art Markman says ‘intuition isn’t pure fiction. It comes from experience; and, it turns out your gut can be a reliable instrument for making a good decisions’. (S.Calechman, 2019).

The gut is an effective decision-maker when you have experience with a subject and there isn’t a definitive, correct answer. Intuition works this way: Rather than breaking down a situation into small pieces, it takes in the big picture and sees patterns. In a way, Pratt says, intuition works like muscle memory. The knowledge kicks in before the conscious mind does. Think of how you work a combination lock. When you just spin the numbers on auto-pilot, it’s easy; when you start thinking, you’re pulled out of your flow state and the process bogs you down.(

Teaching our students to rely on their gut feeling more can also be a freeing and liberating experience says psychologist, Robyn Landlow. She suggests that when faced with everyday decisions, such as what subjects/ courses to study, what sports to play and how to spend our time or money, can turn into fearful experiences, causing stress and anxiety. We falsely believe that only one option or choice is correct, therefore making us fret that any of the other options must be wrong. When we rely heavily on our gut feeling and intuition, we are more likely to have gone through a step by step process in our minds, and visualised how things will be during the process, rather than just fixating on an end result. (

Using our intuition is also a time saving strategy, and in school contexts, sometimes we do need to get into the doing and implementing, rather than the constant thinking and contemplating phase.

Landlow suggests that the most significant and important thing we can do when making a gut decision is to back ourselves, get excited about the decision and own it. This generates enthusiasm and promotes increased focus and commitment to seeing the choice through and making it work. We are much more likely to get positive outcomes for us and our students when together we make a decision that we ‘feel good’ about, rather than reading  data and statistics on the topic we need to improve in.

So, the next time someone questions your decisions because you can’t explain the analytics or data behind it in depth, trust more in your intuition and know there is a science behind gut feeling decision making.

Leanne Gair (Assistant Principal – Pastoral Care)

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