School Board Training

By Douglas B. Reeves

In his 2008 book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell contends that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are necessary to build expertise. Is it possible for school board members, who have full-time jobs and family responsibilities, to find 10 to 15 hours a week to devote to their civic duties?

Gladwell’s comment is based on extensive research by Anders Ericcson and his colleagues, who explored a wide variety of professional fields in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. If true, at the rate of 12.5 hours a week, it would take 800 weeks --  more than 15 years --  for board members to become experts in their field.

However, board members can take deliberate steps to accelerate their expertise and, as a result, serve their communities and the nation’s schools more effectively. The answer is not to ask board members to spend more time in meetings or public comment hearings. Instead, boards must reallocate how they invest their time now.

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