Decision making is a critical requirement of being a teacher. In any single day, teachers are making dozens of decisions that affect students and others’ lives. In this post, we will look at decision-making methods and the role of emotions in this complex process.
Two Systems of Decision Making
There are two ways in which the brain makes decisions. These two ways are the reactive system and the reflective system. The reactive system is a way of making a decision that does not involve deep contemplative thought. Instead, the teacher is making a decision based on experience and or expertise. Sometimes there is not enough time to go through a thorough thought process, such as during an emergency.
The reactive system is related to the idea of programmed decisions. Programmed decisions are decisions that are made frequently and are often based on some criteria. For example, following a general schedule of teaching is programmed decision-making. Generally, the requirements will be time, but there are instances when the schedule will go off course for learning.
The reflective system is the opposite of the reactive system and is a way of thinking logically, analytically, and deliberately before taking action. This style of decision making is instrumental when facing novel situations or highly complex situations. For a teacher, planning teaching is often a reflective process as it involves deciding the future in advance. When time allows, the reflective system is usually a better choice. However, when time is short, there is no time to think, and the reactive system may be a better option.
Non-programmed decisions are associated with reflective thinking. These types of decisions are for unusual situations in which reflective thinking is needed. When the involvement in the decision is high, the problem probably calls for non-programmed decision making. However, when the involvement is low, then programmed decisions may be a better alternative.
Emotions also play a role in decision making. If feelings are strong, it can often prompt teachers to make poor reactive choices. For example, if a student is disrespectful, the teacher may lose their temper, leading to all kinds of problems. Therefore, when emotions run high, it may be better to wait to decide so that a poor reactive choice is not made.
Emotional intelligence is the skill of recognizing/understanding one’s feelings and the feelings of those around us. When a teacher understands their emotions and their students’ feelings, they can use the information to make better decisions rather than the worst ones. The challenge is feeling the feelings without them overwhelming you. Being in a leadership role in the classroom calls on a higher degree of self-control than what is required of the students. We all know this but it does not prevent people from making mistakes.
Insights into the processes that decisions involve can be beneficial knowledge for teachers. Understanding the harmful yet helpful role of emotions can help teachers avoid pitfalls when it is necessary to make decisions during highly charged situations.