All posts by Ms. K Henderson

EDTC 6106 Module 5: Extending Tech PD Beyond Educators to Support Wider School Community

As I reflect on this quarter of my Masters in Digital Education Leadership, I feel I’ve truly come to question more behind the scenes operations of Professional Development in my district and become more inquisitive to answer questions not only for myself, but also for colleagues and our school community.  For my final blogpost this quarter, I again look at ISTE Coaching Standard 4b:

“Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment”

This quarter has led me to consider not only how I can contribute to creating more meaningful PD for educators, but has led me to question how to improve collaboration with our community as well.

How do we move beyond school-based PD to engage local stakeholders and increase on-going opportunities to explore tech tools as a school-wide community?

What can we do?

As mentioned in my previous post, admin can create a tech team within the school.  This team may begin with the educators who actively use tech, but then should also include other interested stakeholders such as volunteers, parents, and community members (could be from tutoring or after school programs).  This also involves assessing what software is being paid for by the district and which licenses are being funded through the school budget. By having the tech team assess which software is being used, by whom, and the frequency, they can help administration make budgeting decisions for the upcoming school year and reassess future tech needs, PD for teachers, and support for families.

Collaborating with Parents and Community

Once schools have a clear picture of which teachers are using specific educational programs, the time comes to invite parents and community members to learn about how they can further support their children.  Creating a collaborative partnership with other stakeholders who work with our children not only reinforces the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it also provides multiple opportunities for discussion.

Recognising the importance of collaboration in my own building, after recently hosting an event for ELL parents on technology, our initial focus was sharing how to log in to free district resources as well as academic programs teachers are wanting students to use at home.  With 17 parents attending our first session, they all had questions. With three staff members available for translation, we provided each family with a laptop, pulled their children in to show their parents what they know, and provided handouts on how to access resources again from home.  None of these parents had accessed the free district resources before, nor did they know some could be translated into their primary language. Having parents practice logging in with staff support was critical. In addition, a member from an after school tutoring program (outside of district) also attended.  She was ecstatic to learn which reading programs were available online for our students to use after school and wanted to also learn which resources she could recommend to families in our district.

Understanding that teachers may only meet with parents once or twice a year, but many of our families receive outside services, there’s work to be done to increase our partnerships to support student learning.  Recently I attended a conference with parents where we questioned if the student’s lack of oral expression is due to comprehension or language acquisition, we had a team of six people all wanting to see this young girl succeed.  In attendance were her parents (non-English speaking, but literate in Spanish), her tutor from an after school program who works as a liaison with many of our Spanish speaking families, a bilingual assistant from our building, her classroom teacher and myself. I came prepared with resources in Spanish that the parents could use at home to reinforce the reading questions we ask at school as well as made sure they know how to have their children log in to a reading program when away from school.  I quickly became aware that I need to work on collaboration when both the tutor and our bilingual assistant asked for copies of the resources and log in information to share with our other Spanish speaking families.  After our meeting, they both expressed how much it helped watching me model how to log in and how to use questioning at home.  It was a great reminder that simply sending resources home is not enough.

One strategy that is gaining momentum with Tech PD is micro-credentialing.   As districts use badging to encourage educators to take on more personalized learning, this provides another opportunity to review what tech is being used, it’s relevance, and how to share it’s value with stakeholders. Micro-credentialing also works as evidence for evaluations, which many educators are striving to identify each year. This is where administrators can also remind staff about family engagement and support.

How to Engage Stakeholders

In Saomya Saxena’s post, How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement, she refers to a 2008 policy brief released by National Education Association (NEA).  These recommendations really rang true for me as reminders of what we need to do beyond staff collaboration and PD.

 What’s Next…

Looking ahead to next year, I see several ways that the partnerships in my school can be enhanced in order to better align how we are serving our students.  I feel fortunate to work in a community that truly values diversity and that we have so many bilingual support staff available to translate.  After looking at a software analysis this Spring and what tech support our ELL families expressed wanting to learn, I feel my building is moving forward to meet more of the recommendations listed above.

Resources

Saxena, S. (2014, January 29). How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement? Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/894-how-to-involve-various-educational-stakeholders-in-education-improvement

Snyder, J. (2018, March 09). Software Asset Management Helps IT Pros Get the Most from Their Software Licenses. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2018/03/software-asset-management-helps-it-pros-get-most-their-software-licenses

“3 Steps to Revamping K–12 Professional Development” (2017, December 01). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/12/3-steps-revamping-k-12-professional-development

Van Roekel, D. (2008). Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf

Administrators Role In Tech Integration

This quarter in my Masters in Digital Education program, I’ve truly begun to question decision making behind the scenes and how those decisions are both shared and acted upon by district staff.  Continuing to look to ISTE Standards around Professional Development and Program Evaluation, I further wanted to explore how administrators advocated for technology needs in their building and create opportunities for all staff to actively participate in Tech PD.

A recent study conducted by SAM Labs surveyed 250 teachers in the United States and concluded that 78% felt they lacked adequate training needed to meet the demands of technology in their classrooms effectively (Bolkan, 2017). Of those surveyed, 82% felt classroom technology helps prepare students for future careers.  However, only 37% surveyed claimed to learn how to use technology during their free time.  This means that 63% of the teachers surveyed rely on Professional Development opportunities and coaching to explore how to effectively implement new technology in their classroom.

Administration Retention

A study shared by The School Leaders Network, found that principal retention is a national concern.  Their 2014 survey found that 1 out of 4 administrators leave their schools each year (Cohen & Pearson, 2018).  In addition, 50% of new principals quit during their third year.  With these trends, it’s easy to see how teachers are left waiting for strong leadership, or someone to advocate for what their building needs.

Not wanting to get too much into why this is an issue, I would like to add that our nation’s largest district, in New York City, has taken action to better support administrators.  Starting in 2014, they created a program that makes leaders out of veteran principals who take a year leave from their building to serve as a coach for other new administrators in their district. Each coach provides 8 hours of support per new administrator each month. This strategy not only offers support to the new administrators but allows the veterans to experience what is happening in other buildings as well.  In their first year of the program, they were able to raise retention of third year administrators to 75% returning for the fourth year ((Cohen & Pearson, 2018).

Again, this scenario of coaching administrators, is not necessarily happening nationwide.  Therefore it is important to understand that many districts still have high turnover, or frequent shifting of administrators from one building to the next.  This creates barriers for teachers feeling supported with new curriculum, tech integration, and the sense that someone is advocating on their behalf.

What can administrators do to better support their staff’s needs?

Given the data from NYC, administrators who feel supported are more likely to remain on the job.  Districts need to provide professional development opportunities for administrators in order for them to become or remain effective leaders. Administrators need to understand how to empower their staff to take risks and explore new ways of thinking and teaching.  Eric Patnoudes, a former teacher and instructional technologist, states that districts must have a unified vision for technology use that is explicitly shared with administrators and educators.  In his post Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers, he raises three questions for administrators:

  1. Are teachers required to integrate technology during classroom observations/evaluations?
  2. When we say “paperless classroom”, what is the actual goal?
  3. How should a district define student engagement, and can it be observed?

(Patnoudes, 2016)

Now assuming districts are offering Tech PD to administrators, how can they further support their staff? Edtech Magazine shared 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Although this article was published more than a decade ago, the data above indicates we need administrators to offer more Tech support to staff.

Six great tips towards a shared vision of tech integration:

  1. Establish the Team – principal identifies teachers who are pro-tech and creates a tech leadership team to serve the school
  2. Assess Facility’s Needs –  Create a needs assessment for the school to guide the direction of the tech leadership team for Professional Development (working on this through a needs assessment right now with Instructional Assistants in my building.)
  3. Model Tech Use and Practices Principals can use PD sessions to model technology use (the article recommends admin model effective tech use on a daily basis)
  4. Recognise Effective I.T. Use Reminder that technology use should enhance student learning and is simply a tool.  Tech integration needs to connect to the student learning outcomes and be seen as a way for students to express their understanding in a way that would not be possible without the tool.
  5. Encouraging Excellence Admin should encourage tech use and promote best practices through having teachers share lesson ideas or create a video of what they’re doing. Some schools offer other incentives for best practices as well.
  6. Provide Support and Training Admin need to ensure staff feel fully supported with tech changes being placed on them.  Training needs to be on-going and provide multiple opportunities for staff to feel technology is effectively working for them, not just adding to their work day.

Looking Ahead

Administrators have such an important role in the climate of the school. For staff to take chances and be motivated to try new technology, they need to feel supported by admin.  In turn, admin need to feel supported by their district.  The stakeholders, whose tax dollars often fund technology, need to be part of the vision of the future.  Most importantly decisions need to be made in the best interest of the the student learners, how will technology enhance/support their learning in a new way.

When districts support administrators with opportunities to learn from each other, they can in turn model technology use for their staff and share the district’s vision for tech integration.  If needs are not being met, it requires administrators to speak up and advocate for change, to seek out alternatives that may better suit their student population. Too often technology is introduced through an email or one day PD session.  As PD becomes more personalized, staff need to feel their administrators are approachable and available for further training and support.  We know technology is not leaving the classroom any time soon.  It’s time for districts to be transparent with their vision of technology and encourage more collaboration around effective integration and support.

Resources

Bolkan, J. (2017, October 26). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/26/most-teachers-say-classroom-tech-helps-students-but-teachers-need-more-training.aspx

Camera, L. (2017, December 20). Educators: We Need More From Education Technology … Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2017-12-20/educators-we-need-more-from-education-technology

Cohen, E. D., & Pearson, M. (2018, February 19). Heeding the voice of school experience. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/heeding-voice-school-experience

Morrison B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders

Patnoudes, E. (2016, July 07). Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/07/professional-development-isn-t-just-teachers

Starr, L. (2009, September 23). The Administrator’s Role in Technology Integration. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech087.shtml

Social Media PD for a 21st Century Classroom

EDTC 6106 Module 3

Promoting Responsible Social Media Use

I remember 11 years ago getting a panicked phone call from a friend, asking for legal advice regarding something that happened while substitute teaching.  We both subbed in the same small district, and I was familiar with the schools, staff, etc.  She had been falsely accused of using the computer inappropriately in class and middle school students chose to fabricate a story as revenge for her sending two of their friends to the office the day before.  Due to my friend using the internet to check Facebook, which was against district policy, she was found guilty and sent home while a full investigation was underway (the accusations were a lot more severe, but she was cleared of those allegations).  Her experience led me to be a lot more cautious and aware of my actions and ended up taking her to law school.

The reason this memory comes to mind, connects with my quest to find out how districts can promote responsible social media use and support teachers with ongoing professional development. Recently I’ve been searching for guidelines and policies for staff regarding digital citizenship and social media use.  While continuing to look at  ISTE Coaching Standard 4b and best practices, I feel many PDs still fall short of supporting teacher growth and development as they focus on curriculum and student data rather than tools that support student growth and personalized learning for teachers.

Social Media Guidelines

Acceptable/responsible use policies for students using the district’s internet seems to be common place and easily found on school district websites.  However, the same policies do not seem to be publicly displayed for district employees.  For example, I can’t find anything for my district and only vaguely recall learning through word of mouth last year that Facebook was no longer blocked on school computers.  The lack of transparency in my own district may be linked to our lack of devices district-wide.  While searching other large districts where I’ve worked previously, there staff guidelines were easy to locate and help take away any question about what acceptable use looks like for teachers.

One resource I found helpful comes from New Zealand, Guideline on Ethical Use of Social Media. Looking at this resource from a PD option, I see the one page as a tool that’s user-friendly, allows collaborative discussion to occur, and serves as a starting point when discussing social media use with staff. The four categories they ask teachers to consider are their commitment to students, society, families, and the teaching profession.

How to Make Social Media Work For You

Once guidelines have been established around Social Media Use, it’s important to offer personalized learning for teachers around the app/program they are using to support students and families. This is where time to collaborate and ongoing PD are critical to successful implementation.

If school districts want to use social media and technology to promote collaboration and sharing of ideas, then time needs to be built in throughout the year for teachers to continue exploring, sharing, creating, and becoming independent users of these programs.

Referring back to my previous posts this winter on Motivational Factors and Barriers as well as The Role of Technology in PD, I continue to discover evidence of successful integration from schools/districts that offer ongoing PD at a central location that is led by educators who for in the district. In addition, teacher’s time is recognized somehow whether it be extra pay, badges, credits, clock hours, certification.  Similar to districts in previous posts, Carson City School District in Nevada, identified a need to support tech integration when they began to transition to a 1:1 district for grades 3-12.

How does this support personalised PD? Carson City School District allocate 4 hours on Wednesdays to optional PD at their Professional Development Center, referring to this time as Technology Café. I like their acronym CAFÉ, because it aligns with the best practices in Dr. Lisa Kolb’s Triple E Framework.

What does this look like? Teachers can choose how long they visit the Café, who they collaborate with, what lessons or resources they need, and seek advice from colleagues as well as tech specialists. Having a weekly common meeting place that provides snacks and caffeine as well as teacher driven PD, allows teachers to explore ideas or programs they may have considered yet not yet approached due to lack of how they align with district goals and policies.  Personally, when I read this, I was immediately filled with envy thinking about how awesome that would be! The district found this PD strategy effective with an average of 24 teachers attending each week when this article was published in 2015.

In Monica Fuglei’s post Social Media in Education: Benefits, Drawbacks and Things to Avoid, she breaks down why teachers should consider using social media professionally, not just personally.  We know that social media is not a fad likely to fade any time soon.  Students enter our rooms familiar with apps either they use personally, or they have seen in action. If teachers are not ready to use apps/networks such as Twitter or Edmodo yet with students, there is still so much to be gained by joining groups of professionals online to share resources, ideas, and network. 

Social Media Profiles and Communication

With so many educational apps being introduced all the time, it can be daunting for teachers to know where to begin and what is allowed in their district.  Each district has their own rules, but each district should also have tech specialist who are available to answer questions for educators.  When it comes to using social media to connect with others, there has been a heavy emphasis on professionalism, privacy settings, and district policies.  If a teacher is looking for another way to connect, online blogs offer a great way to share information with families and many now have private messaging options for parents and teachers.  I bring this up as an alternative to teachers friending parents/students on apps such as Facebook.  

Putting My Own Words Into Action

Presently, I’m using Seesaw with my students and love the way parents can see and comment on their child’s work, bonus is that they can do it in any language.  This helps show students that what they post is viewed by others and helps raise the bar for how they choose to submit posts.  In addition, I have moderation power, and choose to read each post/comment before approving to our class page. This year I’ve been learning with my students how Seesaw works, and I’ve been overall impressed with the thoughtful comments they leave on their peers work. As educators, we need to continuously look at how we can modernize our teaching to help prepare our students for future learning goals.  Using social media or apps for communication allows teachable moments in digital citizenship that can help our students as 21st century learners.

Without joining Seesaw Facebook groups, webinars, and following on Twitter or Instagram, I wouldn’t feel nearly as confident using the app, let alone modeling how it works for other teachers. Within my own building, my hope is that several of the teachers who’ve shown interest in Seesaw will actively use the program next year. I realise however, for this to work, we need time to collaborate, for them to see it in action with students, and more than a one time PD session. So how can I take this to the next level? Networking!  Using my social media contacts, I am confident I can ask for support on how other schools have introduced Seesaw in schools with similar demographics and limited devices. Through social media contacts outside of my district, I can learn from others and hopefully implement a PD session in August for a new PLC group next year that are interested in using digital portfolios to monitor student growth.

References

Morris, L. (2015, February 27). Turn tech PD into a casual trip to the CAFE with this new model. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/02/27/cafe-pd-model-531/

Davis, M. (2013, February 26). Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-media-resources-educators-matt-davis

Fuglei, M. (2017, November 13). Dos and Don’ts for Using Social Media as a Teacher. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/leaders-link/educational-social-media-use/

Higgin, T. (2017, November 30). How to Craft Useful, Student-Centered Social Media Policies. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/blog/how-to-craft-useful-student-centered-social-media-policies?utm_source=Edu_Newsletter_2018_02_13&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly

Motivational Factors and Barriers Shape Teachers Perceptions of Professional Development

This week we are continuing to look at ISTE Coaching Standard 4b: Designing, developing, and implementing technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment. What does that mean exactly?  

Reflecting on years of various forms of PD I’ve attended, I began to question what factors were involved that created either a positive, negative or even forgettable experience. What motivational factors and barriers shape teachers perceptions of professional development?

First, we must understand what Malcolm Knowles’ describes as “Andragogy”, or characteristics of adult learners. According to Knowles, there are 5 assumptions that set adult learners apart from children.

In conjunction with Knowles’ assumptions, facilitators must also consider what Abraham Maslow described as a hierarchy of needs. If our basic needs aren’t met, we are unable to to learn.  

Image from Simply Psychology

How do Knowles and Maslow’s findings shape planning professional development? Gregson and Sturko’s research has highlighted six guiding principles for developing adult learning opportunities:

  1. Create a climate of respect
  2. Encourage active participation
  3. Understand and build on participant’s learned experiences
  4. Create collaborative inquiry opportunities
  5. Connect learning to immediate application
  6. Empower participants with time for reflection and action steps

What do these principles look like in action? Respect of participant’s time, respect towards each other, and environment where participants feel valued, wanted, and able to speak freely. By encouraging active participation and holding people accountable, teacher’s are more likely to retain information and implement what they are learning in the classroom. Allowing teachers to share what they know with their peers and connect PD to their previous knowledge can foster a stronger sense of community amongst participants rather than assuming the facilitator’s are the only experts in the room.

This leads into collaborative inquiry opportunities, which are critical for teachers, who spend so much of their time in isolation with students.  Allowing participants to brainstorm and discuss topics with colleagues they might not normally socialise with, creates opportunities to share knowledge, skills, and ideas that can benefit a larger group. As previously stated, Knowles noted that adults are more engaged as learners when presented with immediate opportunities to connect learning to what is presently happening in their classroom. Regardless of backwards planning, this means facilitators need to guide teachers to understanding how this new information not only will be beneficial down the road, but how it applies right now. This is where accountability comes back to the participants to reflect on their understanding and course of action for future. If perhaps, a teacher feels they did not learn anything new, then this would be the opportunity for the facilitator to pair them up as a mentor for another staff member who may be feeling overwhelmed.

Motivation

After considering characteristics of adult learners, what then motivates them to engage in PD?Like children who are motivated by various contributing factors, adults can be motivated through a number or ways.  Some teachers may choose to participate in a PD based on other attendees and look forward to the social aspect. Others may be simply complying with a district mandated PD to maintain their position. Similarly, people might choose to attend for monetary stipends or professional advancement. Additionally, you’ll have those who choose to participate out or curiosity, or looking for something to stimulate their brain.  The ideal participant though is there out of genuine interest.  They’re aware of the objective and are eager to learn.

Barriers

With such a large array of participants and motivating factors, what barriers prevent teachers from finding PD effective?  The number one issue is usually time. Whether it’s time to learn, to plan, to implement, or continued learning.  Time deters a lot of teachers from taking what they learn in PD back to the classroom.  In conjunction with time comes lack of professional development (one off sessions without follow-up). If we know teachers want something they can implement now, then we need to provide a clear vision of where the building/district is headed and what their role is.  In addition, we need to give them adequate access to resources, whether it’s time, mentors, technology, planning.  Referring back to Maslow, if teachers basic needs aren’t met, then they’re unlikely to successfully implement new skills in the classroom. They need to believe in what they are being asked to do and feel supported from administration. They also need time to collaborate.  If PDs are being led by people from outside the building or district, then additional time needs to be built in for teachers to collaborate locally to ensure understanding, accountability, and implementation.  

Conclusion

What needs to happen in a PD to support learning? Teachers need to feel respected, understood, and involved with creating the vision and direction of the PD.  We’re reminded that teachers need be involved and actively engaged in their PD experiences for meaningful learning to occur.  “Adults resent learning situations in which they feel that they are being told what to learn” (Gregson & Sturko 2007, p.3). Bringing it back to PD for tech integration, if we want teachers to participate, engage, implement tech, then teamwork is required in the planning stages.  Facilitators need to understand their audience, which could be information shared from administration, obtained through a survey, or observation.  Facilitators need participants to be involved in the integration process which also means finding those willing or with more background knowledge who can offer additional support to their peers. Without planning, a clear vision, collaboration, and buy-in, the PD will become another session teachers put behind them as not a priority.  PD for tech integration needs multiple opportunities for teachers to apply what they are learning, reflect on how it impacts the learning in their classroom, and allow teachers to help drive the direction of classroom application based on their own needs.

References

Chao, R. Y., Jr. (2009). Understanding the Adult Learners’ Motivation and Barriers to Learning. European Society for Research on the Education of Adults,905-915. https://pll.asu.edu/p/sites/default/files/lrm/attachments/Understanding%20the%20Adult%20Learners%20Motivation%20and%20Barriers%20to%20Learning.pdf

Gregson, J. A., & Sturko, P. A. (2007). Teachers as Adult Learners: Re-conceptualizing Professional Development. MPAEA Journal of Adult Education,XXXVI(1), 1-18. doi:https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ891061.pdf

Kopcha, T. J. (2012). Teachers perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education,59 (4), 1109-1121. http://marianrosenberg.wiki.westga.edu/file/view/KopchaTTeachersPerceptions.pdf

Smith, M. K. (2002) ‘Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy’, the encyclopedia of informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/et-knowl.htm.

EDTC 6106: What Role Should Technology Play in Professional Development?

Starting a new course for my Masters in Digital Education Leadership program has me looking at Professional Development through the lense of ISTE Coaching Standard 4b. Having previously looked into how to increase participation in Tech PD, I’m now considering factors that promote best practices for designing and implementing PD based on clear evidence. This leads to my inquiry, how can districts design effective personalized professional development that incorporates educational technology?

For the past decade, my only teaching experience has been in my current district, which is large and spread out. Understanding that PD varies from district to district, I’ve really begun questioning what teachers find effective in other districts.  With that, how much technology and differentiation is offered to meet teachers where they are at in their careers?

Does my district offer PD? Yes!  Does my district offer a variety of PD online?  Not that I’m aware of. Most PD I find out about is presented onsite in person.  This poses a challenge when working in a large city famous for bad traffic and limited parking.  Reality is, most teachers only choose optional trainings that are either directly related to their curriculum, at their own school or neighbouring school, or conveniently located near their existing commute route. I will say, my district did offer online PD this past summer for the first time.

Understanding Professional Learning Environments in Washington State

This week I discovered that Washington state participated in a research project (TPL – in WA state) in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In collaboration with 91 schools from 31 districts, the Gates Foundation funded “a three-year project to support professional learning that would engage leaders in the work of developing effective processes and support structure to create a culture of collaboration that would positively impact teacher knowledge and skills to improve student learning”.

Digging deeper, I was able to find my district listed as one of the participants. Concluding remarks were:

“Schools have traditionally been very site-based, leading to many gaps and inconsistencies across schools; this makes the work of developing a learning system very challenging. Analyses showed that many structural elements are currently exist (albeit to various degrees) from which to build a strong learning system—however, the content and focus of work inside those structures needs strengthening and alignment. Furthermore, access to and participation in professional development has been inconsistent and inequitable. To develop gap-closing learning designs, we need to define baseline expectations for all schools and staff along with differentiated professional learning supports and guaranteed access.”

Do these remarks surprise me? No. Seeing evidence that my district is striving to change professional development and has created a tiered support system, similar to the way teachers have been asked to differentiate to meet student needs, instills hope that we are moving forward. Our union had bargained for more collaboration time, which did begin this school year.  Most of that is still site-based, but perhaps technology will come into play more in the future.

So what did the TPL three year study conclude?

  • Engaged leadership is critical and must extend beyond administration, shifting distribution to shared leadership
  • Using standards for teaching and learning in conjunction with researched best practices can effectively support planning and implementation of new structures
  • Districts who received more external funding and coaching showed greater gains in their perceived level of collaboration and content
  • School culture focusing on inclusiveness, and collaboration between all professionals  allow shifts in the district that better support student learning (eg. paraeducators, teachers, administrators and coaches all valued as equal collaborators)
  • Time is needed to build positive relationships, establish trust, and collective community with social norms in order to maintain effective PD experiences
  • Strong correlation between positive PD experiences over time and student achievement scores
  • Districts should understand the pressures teachers face associated with standardized assessment and support teachers with understanding how to examine student data to further drive student growth specific to their school population

Tech Integration Success

Curious how other large districts successfully implement PD that their teachers find useful, I came across the article Technology Starts with Professional Development and Training from EdTech Magazine that specifically talks about how large districts have found success with integrating technology within district-wide PD. For example, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana have been using technology in the classrooms for over 30 years. With 64 schools and a relatively large district, they have learned the value of teacher training before rolling out new technology.  

So how has their district supported the needs in so many schools?  

  • The district built a training center where teachers can receive coaching or learn how to use new tech tools
  • They offer online summer courses that teachers can take at their convenience
  • They offer a variety of webinars, giving teachers freedom to pursue professional development relevant to their current position based on teacher input
  • They incentivize PD by offering “tech points” that teachers can apply to gain extra classroom technology
  • Technology integration is designed around student learning goals and a larger framework rather than just another tool

Similar to Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, the Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina, has also found success with effectively offering professional development with tech integration.  Another large school district with limited funds, found they had to get creative in how they get on board with PD. They chose to assign a technology specialist to each school, dedicated to supporting staff through co-teaching, modeling, and offering teacher support with tech integration in the classroom.  They also emphasize the need to respect teachers time, level of expertise, and willingness to try.  With that being said, support must be available for teachers who may struggle and time available for reflection and coaching of new skills.  They value offering scheduled PD during the day and not expecting teachers to only learn during their own time. Presently they also use Twitter chats, accessible to all teachers in the district with scheduled times where teachers can collaborate online.

Another large district near Georgia had similar responses about supporting staff through adequate training.  They recognize that without dedicated staff available to train teachers with tech integration, teachers would not have the skills necessary to access their LMS and online trainings. They also have funded a tech specialist for each school to support staff needs. They expect teachers to be proficient with using their LMS in order to support student learning, an example of this is offering lessons online when weather prohibits students from attending school.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if districts truly value teacher retention and active participation in professional development, then personalized PD needs to be offered. Districts also need to design opportunities for teachers to be valued stakeholders and have input on the direction of PD.  Understanding the needs of each school, in addition to district trends can allow more personalized options to be offered online rather than always on-site. Although tech specialists on-site are beneficial, districts must provide adequate support and follow-up sessions to avoid overwhelming staff with one more thing to learn. Districts need to ensure tech integration supports student learning goals and offers multiple opportunities for successful implementation and training. Just like teachers are always being asked how they scaffold their instruction to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom, districts must do the same for educators.

References

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction – Teaching and Learning. (2017, March 27). Partner Sharing. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/PartnerSharing.aspx

Peterson T. (2016, June 22). Technology Starts with Professional Development and Training. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/06/technology-starts-professional-development-and-training 

EDTC 6105 : Maintaining Balance While Teaching and Supporting Others

Anyone who’s ever worked in a school, knows that the school day for teachers does not end when the bell rings.  The question many then ask is, what are teachers still doing at school 2 hours after the bell, or why was there car parked there all day Saturday?  Looking at this week’s coaching standards for my Masters program (see below), led me to question how teacher’s find balance in their lives to avoid wearing too many hats or living the life of the spinster teacher of a hundred years ago who dedicated her entire life to the children and the community?

This school year has taken my career in a new direction, owed to pursuing my Masters in Digital Education Leadership. Teaching full-time and trying to find time to support others with tech integration has proven to be a challenge.  Staying at school late is not an option for me or my family. Working on weekends in the classroom would only be possible if my 5 year old came with me.  

So then, how can I effectively model tech integration for others with the responsibilities of a classroom teacher?

Through reflection, I kept getting drawn back to three main factors: common traits of teachers, resources, and understanding personal boundaries.  Our mentor text this quarter, Peer Coaching, frequently refers to relationships and resources. In hindsight, I wish I had thought about all of this in August, but as I prepare for Winter Break, it gives me time to rejuvenate and set new goals for the second half of the school year. I also need to remind myself, this time I am the student, learning how to better support colleagues.

Common Traits of Teachers

Having established that relationships are vital to a coaching partnership, has led me to think about teachers in general. What common traits can be found amongst teachers?  According to Teach.com, there are five common personality traits found amongst great teachers:

  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Discipline

Focusing on understanding the common traits lends itself to generating enthusiasm for collaboration and recognising colleagues strengths.  Part of coaching is helping others recognise their strengths and how to use them to intentionally support student growth goals. In addition to recognising teacher strengths, it’s important to survey teachers to know how they might be interested in supporting colleagues.  For example, those teachers that are extremely creative, let them share some lessons that they’ve had great success with.  For the teacher’s who struggle with getting specific students engaged, seek out those who’ve had a positive connection with that student. Coaching is not just about supporting all staff, but also about how to manage a supportive collaborative environment.

Understanding Limitations with Resources

Resources is a broad term, yet extremely impactful with tech integration.  Resources can bring the best intentions to a halt.  As a classroom teacher, I am not fully aware of resources available or the politics about how they are distributed in the district. What I do know however, is that without support from administration, access to technology, and time to collaborate, my mentoring/coaching efforts are doomed to fail.  

Integrating any new curriculum or tool requires thoughtful planning in order to be sustainable.  As a classroom teacher, and not a coach, I struggle with time to ask and find answers to questions before trying to jump in and support my colleagues. This means that planning in isolation, even with the best intentions, is likely to end in frustration. In regards to technology, coaches and mentors must first consult administrators, tech specialists from the district, and possibly content coaches before simply supporting a teacher’s vision with digital tools. This again, requires time, which may turn some teachers away from implementation.

Juggling Multiple Roles

As mentioned before, teachers work well beyond the bell.  Emails abound offering or requesting teachers to be part of a PLC, lead after school tutoring, coach an after school activity for students, or participate in Professional Development. How can teacher mentors and coaches then find time to collaborate with others?

Teacher mentors and coaches can easily fall into a trap of taking on too much. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, teachers can take on more than they can handle.  Pedro Diaz, the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute, offers some great advice in his post How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. First, he identifies the common traps when asked to take on another task at work. Three common problems, which I know I’m guilty of: we want to please others, our lack of self-awareness, and we don’t think we have a choice.

Moreover, Diaz offers strategies on how to approach multiple responsibilities.  He emphasizes learning how to wait.  It’s okay to think about something without committing right away. While contemplating, ask yourself what specific role you’re being asked to support, will you need further training to complete the task, and does it fit into your schedule?

Next Steps

As I prepare for Winter Break, I want to be realistic, proactive, and fully engaged in what I’m doing.  In order to to achieve these personal goals, I’m looking at the school calendar for next term.  Along with teaching, I am responsible for state testing for 4 grade levels.  I want to continue mentoring colleagues with tech integration and encourage others who are showing interest.

Knowing that I will be asked to participate in other areas as well, or fill in, I’ve realised I need to give myself time to reflect before committing. Wanting to adhere to Diaz’s advice, I’ve created The Juggling Act criteria (see above). Before taking on anything else this year, it’s important to ask: what is the specific task, time commitment, skills required, and if anyone else is similarly qualified to complete the task.  Then before saying, yes, consider workload so that I don’t jeopardize my current commitments.

Resources

Diaz, P. (2017, June 8). How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.wmhi.com.au/mental-health/how-to-avoid-taking-on-too-much-work/

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Hertz, M. B. (2011, November 14). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz

Mormando, S. (2017, May 04). 5 Tips for Preparing Teachers for New Classroom Tech Tools. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/05/5-tips-preparing-teachers-new-classroom-tech-tools

EDTC 6105: Peer Coaching Without Overwhelming

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How can peer coaches support colleagues without overwhelming them?

This quarter, at SPU, we’re being asked to practice peer coaching, and of course, I’m beginning to realise how daunting of a task that can truly be. Approaching colleagues with good intentions is not enough to ensure a productive outcome.  We are all busy, new hurdles arise almost daily, and without an intentional plan and willingness from both parties, the energy begins to fizzle and gets lost like so many other inspiring ideas we’ve had along the way.

Working with a new colleague, I’ve recently pondered “How can I offer support without overwhelming them”? Below are 9 tips that I feel apply to novice coaches, like myself, who want to help others integrate technology to boost the learning of students.

Establish Trust

As I mentioned in a previous post, Establishing Trust Before Technology in the Classroom, establishing trust is critical, especially when both participants are new in their roles. This takes time!  So before jumping in and sharing your expertise… Make time to hear their story, respect their experiences, and understand their needs. Reaffirm your role is to help, not evaluate.

A colleague recently shared he doesn’t understand the role or value of coaches based on two experiences he’s had. Both broke the level of trust early on in the coaching relationship which has led him to see coaches as being inadequately trained or qualified to support his needs. His concerns led to questions he presented to me, such as who evaluates coaches, what standards are they held accountable for, and why would I want a stranger coming in and telling me what to do?

Make Time To Collaborate

My colleague’s last concern, segues into collaboration time.  I asked him if coaches met with him prior to observing and he answered, no.  They would observe then meet after.  This continued to create a barrier of trust.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found this quarter, has to do with time to collaborate.  Granted I am not an actual coach with a flexible schedule, so trying to find time where two educators who work on different grade level teams is challenging.  Add to that the reality that most teachers have after school programs, conferences, planning, or professional development, and you are left with maybe 5 minutes in passing in the hallway. Both teachers need to be willing to collaborate and commit to scheduling time (or rescheduling if needed), but setting aside time to meet in person, or if needed via phone or technology.

Ask Supportive Questions

When colleagues collaborate, the time is valuable, and should be designed to support the needs of the coachee.  This is where intentional planning comes into play for the coach, through the means of asking supporting questions that help guide the coachee in a positive and productive direction. In Jessica Hagy’s article, 6 Leading Questions You Must Ask, she offers leaders tips on how to avoid just telling others what to do, but using questioning to guide their work and offer support when needed. Although these were designed for the business world, I feel they can be applied to meet the needs of educators also.

  1. How can I help?
  2. What problem are we solving? (What standards are we addressing, how are you differentiating, how do you see technology helping?)
  3. Who’s going to be there? (Who are your students?)
  4. Does this make sense?
  5. Can we break this down?
  6. Do you have what you need?

Create a Shared Vision

The questioning, lends itself to a shared vision between coach and coachee. This should also include administrative support. The purpose of tech integration needs to be centered around student production and accessibility, not just about using a new tool. This shared vision should also align to grade level standards and shared grade level of school goals.  By focusing on shared goals, some of the hard work is already being implemented, and helps to reduce stress of adding to the coachee’s workload.

Set a SMART Goal

Once this shared vision is established, it’s time to develop a SMART Goal.  This is an important step in again, supporting the coachee without overwhelming them.  The purpose of the SMART Goal remains specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.  Keeping the focus on a specific standard helps drive collaboration and feedback.

Face Hurdles Together

Reality is, every plan will face hurdles.   Coaches need to be accessible and responsive when coachee’s ask for feedback. It is imperative for coachee’s to feel supported and there is someone on their side who can guide them through challenges.  The most important role of the coach during this phase is to simply listen and ask supportive questions.

Adjust Plan When Needed

When facing challenges, coachee’s also need to know they are still the one driving instruction and meeting their students needs.  Although coaches are there to offer support, when issues arise, it is the coachee that needs to be in control of modifying lessons. Although coaches may offer support, the decision making needs to come from the coachee and remain aligned to student outcomes. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, this is the time to revisit the SMART Goal.  Coaches should again use questioning to help the coachee talk through how things are going and how they can still successfully assess students.

Share Tech Integration with Others

Once coachees have successfully navigated tech integration, it’s time to encourage them to share with their colleagues.  To help facilitate a school culture around collaboration and tech integration, encourage staff collaborate and share with each other. This can be achieved through Professional Development or better yet, through Learning Walks where teachers have the opportunity to see technology in action.  Utilizing students can help reach out to more staff by allowing students to visit other classrooms and share what they are learning.  Sharing with others can help teachers feel less isolated and create opportunities for teachers to co-teach or model for their peers. I’ve seen this done particularly well when there are new units introduced at my school.  One teacher who might have more training becomes the expert and models the lesson for the entire grade level. The teachers take turns becoming experts for various lessons, so it evens out the workload in the end.

Expand PLN

Once coachee’s agree to continue with tech integration, the next step is to connect them with more like-minded people.  Encouraging coachee’s to expand their Personal Learning Network, fosters a collaborative team they can collaborate with rather than relying on just their coach.  This can be achieved through communicating with colleagues in the building, elsewhere in the district, state, or through social media. Social media is a great tool today for discussing and troubleshooting technology.  It creates opportunities to share successes, challenges, and ask for help and receive quick feedback from their PLN.

Concluding Thoughts…

These 9 tips are simply a guide on how to help colleagues avoid feeling overwhelmed.  However, one other critical element, is that coachee’s must be willing participants.  Without their buy-in, everything will be a struggle.

References

Conley, Laurie. “Overcoming Obstacles – The Digital Librarian.” The Digital Librarian, 2010, https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/

Hagy, Jessica. “6 Leading Questions You Must Ask.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Sept. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/jessicahagy/2017/09/28/6-leading-questions-you-must-ask/#7d676d8b25e9.

Marcinek, Andrew. “Tech Integration and School Culture.” Edutopia, 20 May 2014, www.edutopia.org/blog/tech-integration-and-school-culture-andrew-marcinek

EDTC 6105: What Defines a 21st-Century Classroom?

Continuing in my Digital Education Leadership program, I’ve been asked to consider the role of three ISTE Coaching Standards and how they can be utilized to support others.

These standards led me to question what traits define a 21st-century classroom. How could I share these traits with others? If I walk into a classroom to observe a lesson, what evidence would I look for? Two images of classrooms came to mind, the past and the present.

Classroom Design

Thinking of a traditional classroom, the desks were in rows, the students worked independently at their seats, and the teacher typically remained in the front of the room. Mary Wade’s infographic (click to enlarge) shares what many classrooms resemble today. Immediately, her infographic reminded me of several classrooms in my building.  Students sit in table groups, have a common meeting place on the carpet/rug, comfortable seating options for independent reading, a semi-circle table for small groups, and utilizes wall space.

What stood out to me though was the fact many of the teachers would not describe themselves as tech savvy, innovative, or 21st-century teachers. If we want to support more tech integration in our schools that foster 21st-century learning, then we must first give teachers credit for the amazing things they already do. For example, a peer coach could photograph a teacher’s classroom then ask the teacher to use the above graphic to identify their own 21st-century practices.

Student Learning Opportunities

Once teachers understand conducive classroom configurations, the next step is to set goals for student learning. Defining 21st-century learning varies depending on the source.  In 2010, Elizabeth Rich asked eleven educational experts from around the country, “How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning?” and she received eleven different answers.  Reading various perspectives, a few important facts kept reappearing.  In particular, the need to teach history and literature from the past that can help shape students views on the current world they live in. A big shift from previous generations entails preparing students for multiple careers in their lifetime, not just becoming an expert in one field.  Therefore, both content and skills come into play and that is where technology can be a tool to help meet the needs of diverse learners. Perhaps one of the biggest shifts in learning has been to make student learning more personalized, global, and collaborative. 

A 21st-Century Teacher

What traits then define a 21st-century teacher? How do we guide teachers to see themselves as providing 21st-century learning? Tsisana Palmer’s post 15 Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher  suggests a list of characteristics that can both elevate the teacher’s expertise as well as student learning.

Palmer gives great evidence to support these characteristics.  However, if there is one thing I’ve learned this quarter so far, it is to start small with goal setting. As a “coach-in-training”, my advice to teachers wanting to create a 21st-century classroom, is to first recognize what is already happening, then set SMART goals to gradually strive for the environment you desire. For example, this year my district adopted a new literacy curriculum.  Looking at the list above, collaboration is built-in to the curriculum.  Therefore, teachers can check that off their list and choose something else they’d like to focus on.  Perhaps they are studying erosion in Science and visit a local watershed.  What if they are able to then connect with another classroom in another region.  Teachers can collaborate online to provide students opportunities to share and compare their findings.

Coaching Support

So how can peer coaches support teachers in this process? First, identify what is already happening in the classroom and what the teacher feels is working well. Then question what shifts the teacher is hoping to make. Providing options that may exist in other classrooms in the building or nearby schools can provide observational opportunities and collaboration with someone not traditionally connected to the teacher. Coaches can provide suggestions based on the teachers questions, but should not simply hand over resources. In addition, remember to start small. The goal is not for teachers to demonstrate everything on the list, but to begin looking at how to implement 21st-century learning opportunities to enhance student learning.  Once teachers determine the characteristics they’d like to implement and feel supported, it’s time to collaborate on how to make it a reality.

References

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Palmer, T. (2015, June 20). 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher

Rich, E. (2010, October 11). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html

Wade, M. (2016, March 29). Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/visualizing-21st-century-classroom-design-mary-wade

EDTC 6105: Establishing Trust Before Technology in the Classroom

In my previous blogpost, I began looking at how peer coaches can inspire and assist teachers with technology implementation.  Continuing to use ISTE Coaching Standards (2f) to drive inquiry, I am now looking specifically at the importance of establishing trust.

A recent study surveyed 250 teachers regarding technology in the classroom. They found that 78% surveyed, do not feel adequately trained to effectively use technology in their classrooms (Bolkan, 2017). In addition, 82% find value in technology and believe that it can help prepare students for future careers. So how can peer coaching help the majority of teachers who feel lost with how to implement technology?

We work in an environment where many teachers feel like they are constantly being evaluated, judged, and pressured to change something in the classroom. With changes to curriculum, standards, and assessments, it’s no wonder that many teachers are overwhelmed by the thought of adding technology into the mix. So what can a peer coach do to start the dialogue?

Understanding that everyone has a unique background story on how they ended up in the classroom, it is important for coaches to take time getting to the know their colleagues on a personal level before attempting to offer coaching advice. Trust must be established before advice can be given.

“Coaching can’t succeed without a trusting, respectful relationship between the coach and the collaborating teacher.” – Les Foltos

TRUST

Trust begins with understanding the needs of the teacher and for them to understand the coach is an ally, not an evaluator.  In his book, Peer Coaching, Les Foltos makes several strong claims to the importance of trust. In particular, that trust and respect lay the foundation for collaboration.

So how can a novice coach, begin the process? Starr Sackstein, highlights 5 steps for building trust in her post, 5 Steps for Building Trust in a Hybrid Teacher/Coach Role.

  1. Send out a needs assessment and a letter that clarifies the role of the coach and confidentiality
  2. Meet with teachers individually to review needs
  3. Listen carefully to what teachers are asking for and what their students need without pushing an agenda.  Use this time to get to know the teacher’s situation and work on establishing a positive relationship.
  4. Open up coaches classroom for visits and share a schedule with staff so they are aware of what you are doing and what they can come observe
  5. Based on needs assessment and conversations, begin to support the teacher as they set goals and work together to create strategies to implement.  Continue to follow up with the teacher to ensure their needs are being met.

To summarize ways to establish trust, I created the following acronym, highlighting 5 attributes.

This is a starting point for me, and a tool that can serve as a reminder during collaboration. In theory, peer coaches want to avoid taking on the role of “expert” and instead use guided questioning to allow the collaborating teacher to determine which tools or strategies may work best to fit their needs.  By setting goals together and continuing to show teachers you care about how things are going, coaches can continue to foster that sense of trust.  

Supporting Veteran Teachers

Beyond trust, and again avoiding the role of expert, I question how to support veteran teachers who may be reluctant to integrating technology. Our schools are comprised of staff with varying skills, languages, previous careers, degrees, and background knowledge.  This is why the needs assessment is so critical in establishing how coaches can establish rapport. With the statistics above finding 3 out of 4 teachers feeling they lack adequate technology training, these are the teachers peer coaches need to reach out to.

Veteran teachers already know the education system better than anyone else. So how can a coach who might have considerably less experience in the classroom, create a successful collaborative relationship with veteran teachers? Peg Grafwallner, recently shared some tips in her post, Coaching the Veteran Teacher.  

  • “Be cognizant of your tone and demeanor.”
  • Ask to observe with the intention of documenting their strengths that could benefit novice teachers
  • Follow up the observation with questions about the lesson. What did the lesson tell them about how students learn or how they’ve modified teaching to meet the needs of their specific students each year.
  • Actively listen to their responses and ask clarifying questions
  • Ask if you can support a future lesson by teaching a specific strategy or skill either whole class or with a small group of students

As a former middle school teacher, some of these points really had me thinking. We had amazing veteran teachers at my school that knew the content inside and out, could predict where their students would need scaffolding or higher level questions to challenge their thinking. However, many of these teachers typically attended PD focused on curriculum or school-wide training and did not have the opportunity to infuse technology into their classroom. As a coach, I see so much potential in even training students to use technology, who can then model for their teachers and peers, helping alleviate the stress on teachers.

Veteran teachers deserve respect for what they do know and should feel encouraged to integrate technology, not forced. This might mean there is a need for additional training and support for these teachers and time should be allocated during their work day, not in addition to what they are already doing.  Perhaps an administrator could cover their class while they observe technology being used in another classroom. Pairing them with a novice teacher who may need support in classroom management or curriculum, but is strong with technology could also be beneficial.  

Conclusion

Reality is, that in many schools across the United States, teachers feel overwhelmed by technology integration.  As more schools and districts add tech support in the buildings, these teacher or coaches need to establish positive relationships with the staff before suggesting digital tools. Whether coaches are working with one teacher or supporting an entire school, they need to begin by assessing the needs of each individual, respect where they are at, and create collaborative plans to support classroom needs.  Finally, teachers need to be able to trust that their coach is looking out for them, is supportive, nonjudgmental, and reliable.

References

Bolkan, J. (2017, October 27). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/26/most-teachers-say-classroom-tech-helps-students-but-teachers-need-more-training.aspx

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Grafwallner, P. (2017, October 16). Coaching the Veteran Teacher. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/coaching-veteran-teacher

Sackstein, S. (2015, August 18). 5 Steps for Building Trust in a Hybrid Teacher/Coach Role. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/work_in_progress/2015/08/5_steps_for_building_trust_in_.html

EDTC 6105: Visionary Leadership and Peer Coaching

Beginning my second year of Grad School has me shifting from learning about digital education as a teacher and into the role of coaching supporting other educators. This year I’ll be exploring more of the ISTE coaching standards, beginning with Standard 1: Visionary Leadership. B. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels. For my first post I’ll be exploring how coaches can successfully inspire and assist peers with planning, implementing, and evaluating technology integration.

What is a coach?

When I hear the word “coach”, I immediately envision my dad.  My dad has played and coached sports since before I was born. Having limited coaching experience myself, my memories are as a spectator and what I’ve observed over the years.  As I thought more deeply about the label “coach”, I realised there are a lot of parallels between what I saw in my dad and what I’ve seen in education.

Take basketball for example.  My dad would spend hours watching teams play at various levels, always with a notebook in hand.  He’d write down plays, ideas, and enjoyed talking to our family about what he looked forward to sharing with his team. He started each season hoping to help his players develop new skills and be better athletes both on and off the court by the end of the season. During practice he’d explain, model, select players to carry them out, and modify based on the outcome.  Nothing was ever set in stone.  He guided them, but never did things for them. A coach can’t run on the court to help a player when they get nervous and players learn to work together, communicate, and actively be in the moment if they want to win. No matter the outcome of each game, there was always discussion about what went well, what they can try to improve before the next game, and praise about what the players achieved, not praise of the coach.

I feel these strategies also apply to peer coaching in education. Gaining insight into coaching through Les Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching, I’m beginning to see coaching as an extension of working with students. We want to inspire others to challenge what they know and continuously explore new skills.  We also want teachers to have a toolkit of resources that they can recommend to students so that students can explore which tools help them succeed. So what qualities are needed to establish a positive coaching relationship? After looking at sources from multiple countries, a few key principles keep re-surfacing.

  • Willingness
  • Personal Relationship
  • Trust and Support vs Judgement
  • Understanding of the Education System
  • Time
  • Reciprocal Communication

Willingness

In peer coaching, both educators need to be willing participants. In addition, they need to feel supported by others (colleagues, administrators, district). Both educators also need to see the value in collaboration and establish a realistic goal that they are trying to achieve to increase student achievement. The teacher needs to be willing to take risks, explore, and understand that the partnership is fluid .

Personal Relationship

If the participants do not already know each other on a personal or professional level, then the next step is to take time and understand the needs of the teacher and the students.  Les Foltos recommends that coaches spend the first meeting getting to know the teacher and allowing the teacher’s needs to guide the direction of their time together. What is also implied with establishing a relationship is that the coach’s role begins as a listener, not someone offering advice. As a listener, coach’s can paraphrase their understanding of the teacher’s needs and begin to understand the teacher’s perceptions and experiences with technology before discussing integration.

Trust and Support vs Judgement

Teachers need to feel they can trust their coach as a friend, not someone who’s coming into their classroom to judge them.  Establishing trust takes time. For the partnership to be effective, the coach needs to enter without power, judgement, or evaluative mindset.  The coach should appear knowledgeable but not assume the role as expert, creating a hierarchy in the relationship. Trust is also important for when challenges arise in order for the partnership to remain intact.

Understanding of the Education System

I’m sure most teachers can relate, but when I think of Professional Development trainings that were a waste of time, a few reasons immediately come to mind: 1. mandatory attendance, 2. the presenter has no idea what my student population is, 3. the presenter knows nothing about the resources available in our district, 4. this has nothing to do with my content area.  The worst trainings combine all four!  

For example, I teach ELL offering language support during reading and writing.  A few years ago, our district adopted a new Math curriculum with mandatory trainings for all certificated staff.  So I sat there for three days, frustrated at my use of time. I quickly learned all the teachers who teach Math were also frustrated and do not see how this curriculum would work in their classroom, it added fuel to the fire and a mob mentality.  Our speaker promoted using the curriculum on computers and tablets during the lessons on a regular basis and talked about great tech features.  The problem was we did not have a computer lab and averaged 1 device to 5 students.  His lack of knowledge about our district led to a group of educators leaving the training frustrated rather than excited to try what he’d presented.

Point being, coaches need to do some research, and ask questions to better understand the building they’re serving and the teacher needs. Even within the same building, peer coaches need to look at the specific grade level and content area they wish to support. Coaches need to see the teacher’s classroom environment before offering any recommendations. In regards to technology, what already exists in the building or district, who else might be available to observe in action, and what options are available to help the teacher successfully integrate technology in the classroom? What concerns does the teacher have about technology integration?

Time

Time is a big factor for teachers.  It feels like there is never enough!  In a peer coaching partnership, both participants need to establish a timeline for the long-term as well as protocols to follow with each meeting in order to respect each other’s time.  In addition, realistic goals and timelines need to be discussed and adjusted as needed.  This ties back to willing participants.  If teachers feel pressured or that something will be lost versus something will be enhanced they will begin to resist, and coaches have to work much harder to bring them back on board. Meetings should typically have an agenda, protocol, allow time for the teacher to feel their time is validated and end with an action plan.  This ties into communication.

Reciprocal Communication

With time being valuable, to respect all involved, communication preferences should also be discussed in the early stages of collaboration. Today there are so many ways for teachers to collaborate beyond the classroom.  Once communication methods are in place, these can be used as reminders for upcoming collaboration.  For example, if email is the chosen form of communication outside of scheduled in-person meetings, then the emails should serve as reminders for both participants responsibilities for how to come prepared. This may also require communication with other staff in the building, administration, or outside. Teachers need to feel they can reach their coach and receive feedback in a timely manner.  

Connection to Technology Integration

Technology can be daunting for teachers.  There are so many unknowns, and for teachers who are used to be in control, adding digital devices into the classroom can create anxiety.  So how can peer coaches then use the above guiding principles to support their colleagues? Coaches need to do research after each meeting so explore what tools are available that could meet the teacher’s needs to enhance student achievement.  With that, coaches need to share technology as an approach to help students meet grade level standards and develop 21st century skills.  This needs to be done carefully to avoid teachers feeling pressured to add more to their day.

Conclusion

In conclusion, like sports, peer coaches need to recognise that teachers come in with a wide range of abilities and strengths.  The coach needs to support teachers in recognising their long term goal and create opportunities for them to work towards successfully meeting that goal.  The coach’s role should guide the teacher to independence and self-discovery for what works best for them and their students, while providing access, not direct instruction.  Although this is simply the tip of the iceberg, I feel it’s a starting point for me as I look into peer coaching opportunities within my own building this year.

Cited by Queensland Government

References

Brown, L. (2014, February 28). The Importance of Trust. Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://teachforall.org/en/network-learning/importance-trust

Cavanagh, M., Grant, A., & Kemp, T. (2015). Evidence-Based Coaching Volume 1 : Theory, Research and Practice from the Behavioural Sciences. Australian Academic Press.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

“Role of Coaching in an Educational Setting.” Queensland Government, Department of Education and Training, 29 Jan. 2015, from education.qld.gov.au/staff/development/performance/resources/readings/role-coaching-educational-settings.pdf