Dr. Les Foltos writes on how educators intentional utilizing technology to support the 21st-century learning students will need to be successful students and employees in Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. While sharing about a time he worked with educators at Microsoft he writes “They concluded that a teacher who was effective at integrating technology, focused his or her efforts on creating learning activities that actively engaged students in learning and helped them develop the skills and competencies they needed for future success” (Foltos 2013. pp 146). As I work with my peer in a coaching relationship,
This week I asked myself: “What sets of anchoring questions can coaches ask to support technology-enhanced learning experiences? How can these questions support the innovative 21st-century learning we want to demonstrate for all learners as we prepare them for educational opportunities and careers outside of our classrooms”?
I find that informed and purposeful questioning is again the key to pinpointing the instructional goal that will be supported by 21st-century learning opportunities. ISTE C 1.d states that coaches need to “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms”. We cannot effectively create this reality unless we ask detailed and meaningful questions to propel the instructional design.
The 6 Fundamentals of Technology Coaching by Ed Tech Focus on K-12 provides six important facts to anchor the coaching relationship work. Questioning supports the statement “Our communication is only as good as a plan” (M.Joseph & E.Fisher).
Fundamental #2 suggests that the coach and coachee. have a planning meeting to discuss IT integration. The questions listed anchor the coaching session to a learning solution.
What is the goal of the lesson?
Why do you want to use this technology here?
Will this enhance the current approach?
How do you hope the technology will enhance learning?
Can the technology make this idea more relevant to students?
I recently used several of these questions when meeting with my coachee and our conversation was forward-thinking. The questions provided by Joseph and Fisher provided an anchor for our work without sacrificing the voice and innovation of the learners.
In order for the product of coaching to be respected within the educational setting, it will need to align with the school’s mission and instructional direction. Additionally, it helps to get to a level of specificity in an effort to anticipate the instructional tasks and technology support in action.
When the educator feels supported by a coach, the resources, and the coaching process they are more willing to take innovated risks. When innovative risks happen students often have an opportunity to engage in deep learning. When the learning design is focused on the communication and creative collaboration of our 21st-century reality our students are living their futures in the classroom. Keep asking those questions that make others think deeply; they will thank you for the preparation for the world outside of the classroom.
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.
Establishing trust when starting a coaching relationship is key before all else but once this trust has been built and the framework is sturdy, what does the cycle of implementation and learning look like as well as the wrap up and reflection? Diane Sweeney has created the Results Based Coaching Tool (click link to have access to the template!) to help educators and coaches plan the cycle of learning from a student based perspective. Key elements of this cycle are:
Pre and Post Assess to Identify Growth Across a Coaching Cycle
Understand How the Teacher and Coach Grew by using Exit Questions
Plan for Students Who Didn’t Meet the Goal
Using the Results Based Coaching Tool combined with the general cycle framework provided by Corwin, can help give the educator and coach a sequence of steps to follow to help stay on track. In addition, providing time for the coach and teacher to reflect before they start the next cycle with the new learning and ideas they gained together will help to deepen the coaching relationship and in turn deepen student learning – especially for teachers who are new to having a coach and for a coach that is new to coaching.
While researching this topic, there was a variety of ideas of how long coaching cycles generally are. Of course, this depends on the goals, desired outcomes and bumps along the way. This led me to think more about the time management skills that are necessary for coaches to set up a successful coaching cycle and for the cycle to be implemented in full. Time is of the essence when it comes to anything in education because a lack of time (and efficiency) can quickly erode good intentions and exciting ideas and instead, cause a break down between the planning process and actual implementation. A key digital tool that seemed to be important is an easy to use online/collaborative calendar to help all parties plan accordingly with the hectic schedules that are part of teaching and coaching. Nicole Turner maps out a way to manage time more efficiently in her blog post, Time Management for Instructional Coaches ~ What Should I be doing?. Big takes aways she mentions are:
Weekly reflections and goal setting
Making a calendar and schedule that takes into account all parties and easy access
Staying organized – using tracker sheets to organize who you meet with, what you talk about and the many notes you gather as a coach
These may seem like simple steps but coaches can quickly get overwhelmed, especially when they are meeting with multiple teachers or teams. Thinking through HOW you will do the steps above before starting the coaching relationship will help a coach be ready from day one and builds trust right away with who you are working with by showing them you are on top of the logistics so they do not have to be.
Having a clear cycle explicitly in place and a time management system planned out, will help coaches to better meet ISTE Standard 2f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences because everyone will be starting the coaching relationship from a clear and concise starting point. This seems especially important when working with teachers who may be resistant to coaching. If the cycle and planning of time is a framework that takes into account the life of a teacher being coached, then the teacher will feel understood and be able to have input where they want but not have to be heavily involved in the logistics, which can result in ‘just another thing I don’t have time to do’. From this established starting point, the coaching sessions have the opportunity to dig into revising and strengthening lessons so that planning can be innovative and student-based…and realistic and doable!
Corwin. Coaching Cycle, What Does It Look Like? Retrieved from https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/coaching-cycle-what-does-it-look-like
This quarter, as part of my journey through Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program, we are investigating ISTE coaching standards. For this blog post I will be focusing my research on ISTE coaching standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth.
ISTE-C-Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth
Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the ISTE Student and Educator standards
My Research Question:
What does effective coaching look like in 21st century schools?
While in my MEd program, I have gotten a lot of attention within my school as someone teachers can come to for any technological help. As able as I am to answer questions and provide assistance, I find myself constantly asking what should my approach to these moments look like each time. My question helps me reflect on what effective coaching looks like in schools like mine where new technology and 21st century skills are now being implemented into the curriculum. What does this mean for the teachers who have never used these technologies or programs before and to the coaches like me who are trying to help support them during this change?
Defining Effective Coaching
Being in the field of education I hear the word “effective” quite often related to student learning, learning environments, assessments, and so on. I believe that as human beings we strive to make our time worthwhile and discover ways to make student achievement as successful as possible. By doing this we research new ideas, new lessons, and new ways to keep students engaged and to keep the material relevant to the world around them. Time is constantly moving forward, and technology has made a huge impacts in the way students are learning in the 21st century. Some teachers are more accepting of this change then others, but essentially we all still want the same thing, student achievement. As a coach, it is our duty to help both those who are accepting change, as well as those who are reluctant to it. To do this we have to remind ourselves what it truly means to be “effective”. Is being effective essentially to be as efficient as possible or is there more to it?
One of my favorite reads this season has been “The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation” written by Elena Aguilar. In chapter 3 of the book, Aguilar introduces “beliefs” that help a coach become more effective. (Aguilar, pg 67) We all have beliefs in something or someone that keeps us going in our most difficult moments and Aguilar describes these beliefs as “strongly held opinions that drive our actions.” (Aguilar, Pg 69-70) She emphasizes the need to reflect on your beliefs and remember those times that you thought you couldn’t do something, but now you can. (Aguilar, Pg 69) Beliefs can always be changed similar to the way we change our instruction based on our students needs. As a coach we seek to help teachers uncover their beliefs and discover how these beliefs help drive their instruction in the classroom. However, as a coach we must first formulate our own coaching beliefs and determine what core values are important to us as individuals. (Aguilar, Pg 83-84) Some examples of beliefs Aguilar provides as a coach are(Aguilar, Pg 78-81):
Meet people where they are.
There is no coaching without trust.
Be here now.
Transformation takes time.
The journey is the destination.
Rules of Instructional Coaching
Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching in the time period we are in, but with the amount of things teachers are asked to do in a single day, as well as implementing technology into our lessons, I go home exhausted and wondering what I could have done better. This makes professional development opportunities so important to educators because they are taking their valuable free time to learn more on how to handle their classroom routines, integrate technology, and so much more. As a teacher, I am always looking for hands-on professional development opportunities. While I am now moving into a new role as a coach, I try to keep in mind the areas in which I needed support and the professional development opportunities that helped build me into the educator I am today. I remind myself of what will be most beneficial to educators I am coaching and try to put myself in their shoes to determine what would be the best professional development opportunity for them to be successful.
While researching effective instructional coaching I found an info-graphic that caught my eye due to its description to “keep coaching relevant, interesting, and even fun!”. I felt this list of rules had everything I was looking for, it provided me with hands-on experiences as well as important suggestions as a new instructional coach. A few of my favorite rules they included were (Holz, 2018):
Staying up to date
Focus on the teaching, not the teachers
Align with the school’s mission
Teacher Toolbox: 21st Century Skills
Something that is important to highlight in regards to coaching is what it means to transition teachers and classrooms into the 21st century. It is important that educators can see the benefits of a variety of resources when thinking about how to implement new technologies into their classroom. Things like creating online presentations and recordings, posters, digital portfolios and even digital worksheets and quizzes are just a few of the many things currently available at their disposal. (Educatorstechnology, 2016) Providing teachers with several ideas they can use and places they can find them is quintessential when coaching them about 21st century classrooms. Its the range of small tech tools to large technological projects that not only makes the addition of technology effectively easier, but more flexible for the individual teachers and their classroom. Below I have displayed an info-graphic that provides both coaches and teachers a variety of digital skills that are now relevant in 21st century classrooms.
Real Life Example
After researching my question I felt like I learned quite a bit on how to be an effective coach and the steps I need to take to be ready for my new role. I still felt a need to see firsthand what effective instructional coaching would look like on a district level. Luckily for me, I found a great video by Edutopia that helped me see a day in the life of an Instructional Coach. This video is great for those who are just beginning their coaching journey as well as for those who are going to begin working with an instructional coach at your school.
Aguilar, Elena. (2013). The Art of Coaching, Effective Strategies for School Transformation. San Francisco, CA. Jossy-Bass.
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. (December 30, 2016). 9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/12/9-fundamental-digital-skills-for-21st.html
My colleague, Rachel and I just met to discuss her goals for our coaching session. As we got to talking she shared that she had little time to produce on her goals from our last peer coaching session; I could feel her anxiety drop when I asked if she would like to spend our sessions creating as opposed to just talking about the ideal solutions. As I felt her tension drop our collaboration became real and focused on her goals instead of a list of ‘shoulds’; to me, this exemplifies the heart of trust within a peer-coaching relationship.
Figure 5.1 Fetter, 2017)elaborates on the importance of comfort within communication and collaboration during peer coaching. Rachel has admitted that she needs a partner to support her creation of rubric and observation plan for her fellow advisors based on her new job. When Rachel moves past the comfort level she is able to think through what she knows to be ‘good advising’ skillsets to create a system of self-evaluation for others within her team. Rachel is able to identify the best practices that can support other teammates as they grow into their positions. I feel fortunate to work with a peer who will also have an opportunity to coach others on our team
“Peer coaching reduces isolation by providing the professional dialogue that encourages teachers to generate solutions to their own problems”(Chaudhry. A, Sivakamasundari, B. pp. 203). During our last session, Rachel was able to articulate how she wanted our communication to continue in our sessions. When we started talking about what communication styles Rachel felt would support her growth she specifically asked for suggestions for best practice. I took a risk and shared that our conversations should be about her needs and not my past experiences, Rachel took a risk and shared that she learns best through other’s past experiences and followed the statement by asking to be pushed to utilize technology to support her work and that of her team.
Rachel is able to communicate her needs and knows that my best intentions lay in her goals, Rachel is willing to try new technology because she knows I will listen to HER needs; listening to these needs is what makes peer-coaching dynamic and successful. Rachel and I are not just Knowledge Sharing as Chaudhry discusses, we are building a foundation of support within a work environment that I hope we will both be able to grow within.
“successful Peer Coaches don’t push for one big, dramatic change, instead relying on an incremental process of continuous improvement. These successful coaches insist that effective coaching requires an understanding of what people need, when they can do more and when they simply can’t. In addition to keeping the workload manageable for their peers, successful coaches are careful to ensure that they aren’t pushing their learning partners too far beyond the comfort level. This careful reading of their learning partners’ needs encourages many coaches to work toward small changes and continuous improvement”(Foltos, L. pp. 67).
As I get ‘REAL’ I see how Rachel needs the workload to be manageable to her standard, how she is excited for improvement but we cannot move forward if she feels pushed; when someone feels pushed maybe they are REALLY saying, “Hey, did you hear what I said, are you listening to me?”. Rachel and I are okay with difficult conversations. She wants to use tools she hasn’t used before, she sees the value in intentionally focusing on the goal for her team while maximizing time and voice of colleagues. Together we may have some moments of discomfort, however, if we continue to value the other and build on our trust in the end I know we will have a dynamic product of self-assessment and a relationship that we can count on for projects to come.
Chaudhry, A. S., Sivakamasundari, B.Perceptions of Teachers About Knowledge Sharing in Schools. Innovations Through Information Technology: 2004 Information Resources Management Association International Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, May 23-26, 2004: 201
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.
This quarter, as part of my journey through Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program, we are investigating ISTE coaching standards. For this blog post I will be focusing my research on ISTE coaching standards 1 and 2: Visionary Leadership and Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.
ISTE Coaching Standard 1: Visionary Leadership– Technology Coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.
Indicator:d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms
ISTE Coaching Standard 2:Teaching, Learning, and Assessment- Technology Coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for all students.
Indicator:f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences
In my last blog post I learned a lot about how important it is to develop a trusting relationship with your coachee. In this blog post I wanted to research more on collaborative norms such as questioning and listening, but felt overwhelmed with the amount of information I found. I decided that it wouldn’t be fair for me to simply sum up a variety of strategies and information, as much as it would be to give an in-depth view into one of the collaborative norms: Listening. I decided to narrow down my research and possibly save some of the information I gathered for future blog posts and focus this blog post on the importance behind listening and the role Empathy plays within in.
Listening with Empathy
When researching the key words collaborative norms and listening, I found many references to phrases like listening respectfully and/or active listening. I have heard both of these terms before and felt like I wasn’t learning anything new as much as I was being reminded to be respectful and give my attention to the person speaking, which are great reminders but not exactly what I was hoping to share within this blog post. However, when I dug deeper I found some interesting material on the impact Empathy has in a conversation and how it can change the way you listen to others. In one of my resources written by Jim Knight he emphasizes that, “so much of communication depends on understanding others.” (Knight, 2016) Jim goes on to say, “When we demonstrate empathy, we see beyond our stereotypes and stop seeing people as objects. Instead, we start to see others as the unique subjects they are.” (knight, 2016)
Components of Empathy
Jim also references the book, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It written by Roman Krznaric in 2014 which categorizes two main components of Empathy. (Knight, 2016)
Affective empathy: is about sharing or mirroring another person’s emotions. (Krznaric, 2014)
Example: “If I saw my daughter crying in anguish, then I too might have the feeling of anguish. ” (Krznaric, 2014)
Cognitive empathy: involves making an imaginative leap and recognizing that other people have different tastes, experiences, and world views than our own. (Krznaric, 2014)
Example: “A child chooses to comfort their crying brother or sister with his/her favorite toy instead of their own knowing they would be happier with the one they like the best. ” (Krznaric, 2014)
In a coaching conversation it is important to remember that you are building a relationship with the coachee and are there to help them however they feel they need to be helped. During the time you will have together, trust will need to be an essential component of the relationship and showing empathy towards your coachee for what he/she has to share is essential to a successful coaching experience. Jim Knight suggests thinking about what your coachee or conversation partner is thinking and feeling about the topic being discussed even before asking a probing question within the conversation. (Knight, 2016) He also provides the following three ways on how to get better at demonstrating empathy:
When we Look Back, we consider interactions we’ve had with people learn from them so we can be more effective in the future. (Knight, 2016)
When we Look At, we consider interactions we are having or observing. We might keep a log of times we demonstrate empathy, for example, or take notes on the ways others do or do not demonstrate empathy. (Knight, 2016)
Looking Ahead is making plans for how we will interact in the future. When we Look Ahead to demonstrate empathy, we consider our own thoughts and feelings and the thoughts and feelings of others. (Knight, 2016)
After gaining so much new knowledge on Empathy and the impact it has on a conversation, I wanted to know what types of listening strategies would work alongside it. Jim provides the four strategies on developing effective listening skills:
Commit to listen.
When we commit to listening, we enter into conversations determined to let the other person speak, and this means we don’t fill up the conversation with our own words. (Knight, 2016)
Make sure your partner is the speaker.
Good listeners give others plenty of opportunity to speak. For that reason, you should teach yourself to ask, “Am I the listener or am I the speaker?” If you find that you are always the speaker, work on taking on the alternate role. (Knight, 2016)
Pause before you speak and ask, “Will my comment open up or close down this conversation?”
Careless words in response to what someone says can negate another person’s comment and create the same impact as not listening at all. If my comments shut down my partner, then I should find another way to respond or say nothing. (Knight, 2016)
Stop interrupting other people when they are talking. When we interrupt others, we are showing them in not-so-subtle ways that we believe that what they are saying doesn’t really matter—our comments matter so much more. (Knight, 2016)
Knight, Jim. (2016). Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected. London, UK. SAGE Publications Ltd.
Krznaric , R. ( 2014 ). Empathy: Why it matters, and how to get it . New York, NY : Penguin .
This quarter, as part of my journey through Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program, we are investigating ISTE coaching standards. For this blog post I will be focusing my research on ISTE coaching standard 1: Visionary Leadership.
ITSE Standards for Coaches 1: Visionary Leadership: Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.
Indicator: d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.
Within my graduate program we have been discussing what it means to be an instructional and/or digital coach in schools. Through these discussions I noticed that many of the aspects of coaching are relative to building a strong relationship with another person. I began thinking of what exactly makes relationships so strong and what determines if the relationship ends up being long lasting? I also thought about myself and my own relationships I have with others and what aspects to the relationship made it a priority in my life. After pondering these questions I believe the answer comes down to one word, trust. I believe the ability to trust others and be trusted by others is a key ingredient to a healthy and strong relationship whether personal or professional.
After establishing that trust is an essential component to building strong relationships, I then had to think about how I would establish trust within an opportunity I will be having this quarter with a fellow colleague. This quarter I will be coaching a fellow peer within my school on how to implement technology into one of her lessons. This peer has had past coaches and has requested help from others before, but has expressed the concern of not wanting someone to simply come in and do it for her as much as she wants a learning experience in order for her to grow her own set of skills. With this knowledge at hand I came up with the following question to lead my investigation for this ISTE standard: What are the best practices and/or strategies to help build trust within a coaching relationship?
Defining Trust & Trustworthy Traits
For this investigation I have chosen to use Stephen M. R. Covey’s definition of trust as being, “the feeling of confidence we have in another’s character and competence.” (Covey, 2008) I think an example of trust would be feeling confident that if you told someone something in confidence that they wouldn’t go and share that information without your consent. Another example of trust would be feeling confident that the employees you hired to fix the plumbing in your home are competent enough to handle the situation within the agreed upon time.
Jim Knight, author of the book, Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected, goes deeper into analyzing trust by evaluating character traits people have that are either trustworthy or untrustworthy. (Knight, 2015)
As you can see above, Jim provides different traits that help determine the amount of trustworthiness a person shows through their words and/or actions. (Knight, 2015) I felt this was a very powerful chart as it made me reflect on my own personal traits and analyze the traits of others around me.
Laying the Foundation
Within Jim Knight’s book, Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected, you can also find a diagram he has made that helps introduce you to what he calls the, “five trust factors”. (Knight, 2015)
The Five Trust Factors
“We trust someone when we know they won’t do us harm. So, to build trust, we must be honest and transparent. When we hold back information or we lie, we demonstrate that we can’t be trusted.” (Knight, 2015)
“People trust us when we do what we said we would do when we said we would do it. For that reason, we have to be careful not to over-commit. We can keep enough time to do what we need to do reliably by under-promising and over-delivering, saying no, and using organizational rituals.” (Knight, 2015)
“Promises don’t mean much unless we can deliver, and trust develops or is diminished depending on how well we do the work that we do. We can increase our competence by developing skills, gaining knowledge, or by being credible.” (Knight, 2015)
“Another way to encourage others to feel safe and trust us is through personal warmth. We can show warmth in the authentic way we listen, demonstrate empathy, share positive information, and be vulnerable.” (Knight, 2015)
“The more people are focused on themselves, the less we trust them. However, the more people are committed to serving others, the more we trust them. Stewardship is embodied in a genuine focus on others, the way we communicate, the way we give credit to others, and the simple fact that we care.” (Knight, 2015)
“Without trust there can be no coaching” (Aguilar, 2013)
While reading The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation written by Elena Aguilar, I found the ten different steps/strategies she provides to build trust very insightful. I provided an overview of the first four steps she provides readers which I found relative to my first meeting with my coachee.
Step 1: Plan and Prepare
Essentially this step is all about being prepared for your first meeting with your coachee. What outcomes are you hoping for and what information do you need to have by the end of the meeting? Do you have questions ready? If not, here are a few from the book that I found helpful:
Background Questions (Aguilar, 2013)
What do you enjoy about your position?
What is challenging about it?
What do you think are your strengths?
What do you think are your areas for growth?
Relationship Questions (Aguilar, 2013)
How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues?
How would you describe your relationship with your students?
How would you describe your relationship with your students’ parents?
Do you have colleagues (on-site or off-site) that you trust? That you feel good about collaborating with?
Professional Development Questions (Aguilar, 2013)
How do you feel that you learn best? Can you tell me about a powerful learning experience you’ve had over your time as an educator?
What is your understanding of what coaching is? Of my role?
What are your hopes and fears for our work?
What do you need from me as a coach?
Is there anything I should know that would help me in my work with you? That would make our work together more effective?
Is there anything you’d like to know about me that would help make our work more effective?
What do you anticipate might be a challenge or get in the way of our working together?
How can I support you when those challenges arise?
Advice from Elena Aguilar: “It’s imperative that you feel confident, clear, and prepared. Your client will be watching you and listening to you very, very carefully. She/he will be looking for indicators of your competence, credibility, integrity, and character.”
Step 2: Cautiously Gather Background Information
This step warns us coaches to be careful of the information you gather about your coachee before meeting them. Even though you want to know them better in order to help them, sometimes asking others of their knowledge can lead to unhelpful opinions and impressions of the person you will be working with. It is better to build trust by starting off on a clean slate and getting to know each other by asking questions directly with one another. To sum it up, try not to gather background knowledge unless you know the person you are asking is unbiased and a trusted individual. (Aguilar, 2013)
Step 3: Establish Confidentiality
From the beginning of the relationship you should make sure you are establishing confidentiality with your coachee. You will likely need to remind them of the confidentiality agreement you are providing them with multiple times within your first meetings. One way to phrase this would be, “Before we get started, I want to return to what I shared in my e-mail about the confidentiality of our conversations. Our conversations are absolutely confidential. I will not discuss what we talk about with your supervisor or anyone else. If I ever need to e-mail your principal or supervisor about something we talked about, I will CC you on it. I would speak to him or her in person about you only if you are present.” (Aguilar, 2013)
Some of you may be wondering what happens when a principal or director asks about how the coaching is going and how you provide them with an answer and continue to keep the trust you are establishing within your coaching relationship. Elena Aguilar suggests making the coachee aware that you will only share what she calls the four T’s with their supervisor.
T– The teacher’s name that is receiving the coaching.
T-How much time is spent with the coachee each week or month.
T– The topics that are being worked on. (Example, “Mrs. Brown and I are looking at formative assessment strategies for academic vocabulary.“)
T– The tasks that she is doing with the coachee. (Example, “I am observing Mrs. Brown and offering feedback. We read an article together.”)
Step Four: Listen
Listening is a core component to building trust. Coachees will be watching to see if your engaged and interested in what they have to say. For the first few meetings Elena suggests using active listening where you paraphrase or restate what the coachee just finished saying to ensure you are both on the same page on what is being shared. (Aguilar, 2013) Elena also suggests to make sure you are always using deep listening when working with coachees and not being distracted by what happened before the meeting or what you have going on after the meeting.
To end this blog post I decided to share three personal suggestions that I have learned from my own experience that has helped me build trust with my peers at work. I hope they can also help guide you in your adventures!
Remember that actions speak louder than words. Your coachee will be looking for those trustworthy traits I discussed earlier and will be determining how much they share with you based on how you make them feel.
Remember that relating to your coachee is a great way to build trust. It is okay to show that you are not perfect, in fact allowing your coachee to hear about stories of your failures may help build the bond and allow them to open up even further.
Remember to smile and look approachable to others even when you think they are not watching, because they are. If you look and sound friendly then more people are likely to be willing to ask for your assistance then if you look busy and unapproachable.
Aguilar, Elena. (2013). The Art of Coaching, Effective Strategies for School Transformation. San Francisco, CA. Jossy-Bass.
Covey, Stephen M. R The Speed of Trust . New York: Free Press, 2008.
Knight, Jim. (2016). Better Conversations, Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected. London, UK. SAGE Publications Ltd.
d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms
My question: What are best practices for establishing trust with teachers and families at our school and guiding our school community towards a positive digital education perspective. (versus just telling them the positive ways students can use digital tools in the classroom)
Gaining the trust of the whole school community to implement educational technology in classrooms is tricky because there are many preconceived notions around screen time and a variety of perspectives and backgrounds that everyone (teachers, parents, caregivers) comes to the table with. As I prepare to lead a Digital Education Presentation for the PTA at my school, I have been looking at the ISTE Coaching Standard 1, Visionary Leadership, and more specifically the ISTE Coaching Standard 1d – Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms to better prepare for this presentation by using a coaching mindset to find best practices for gaining this invaluable trust.
When it comes to the whole school community, there are 3 main takeaways from my research that I believe will help to alleviate some of the fear or nervousness around using digital education in the classroom. In the article, Engaging Families as Learning Partners Using Digital Tools by Matthew Lynch, there is a breakdown of how to teach families what it means to use technology in the classroom. These same suggestions apply to fellow teachers, as well. He has 5 suggestions to engage families but the first 3 are what I am focusing on to first build the trust needed for support of digital education implementation. The first suggestion that Lynch makes is to Teach the Parents How to Use the Digital Tool. If we take the time to give families hands on experiences with the tools and platforms students are learning, they are more likely to see the active role students have in their learning when engaged with digital tools. If teachers take on a coaching role with parents (and invite other teachers to join in on this as learners) then it moves away from the teacher trying to solely make a case for why educational technology is great and instead puts the experience directly in the hands of the adults to see for themselves. This is more likely to shift perspective because it is a hands on experience for them versus a lecture trying to convince them.
The second suggestion Lynch makes is to Explain the Importance of Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship. Students are growing up in a digital age and there is no getting around that. Coming at this reality with a digital citizenship focus in order to better teach how to manage our online and offline lives helps families to see that we have the chance to teach mindfulness and awareness of navigating the digital world AND how we can influence the use of digital tools as a way to enhance learning versus passive consumption. When a student learns how to create their own digital portfolio highlighting their learning, this is powerful and stays with them as they move through their K-12 education and beyond.
A third suggestion from Lynch is Using Digital Tools for Communication. Highlighting the way digital tools and platforms can strengthen home to school connections and making these connections personal and meaningful for parents and students helps teachers to build strong relationships with families. Megan Ryder writes about the importance of not just building relationships with others but also maintaining them in her blog post, Strategies for Building Relationships as an Instructional Coach. Though she is talking specifically about relationships with staff, this is crucial for families, as well. Communication is what maintains relationships so using easy platforms to keep communication alive, relevant, timely and positive can slowly shift negative perspectives of using digital education in the classroom when parents see a benefit for themselves, as well as for their child.
Through all of this, there will be hiccups, missteps, technology that doesn’t work like you hoped and a learning curve for how to find and use the best digital education tools and platforms in your school and classroom. Two of my favorite suggestions for building trust with those you are coaching (whole school community) was from Ashley Paschal, 5 ways to Build a Trusting Coaching Relationship. She speaks to the importance of listening without judgment and to laugh. Parents and other educators are looking to coaches to feel safe in how the uneasiness they may feel about the fast paced and always changing digital education world. My own perspective has shifted immensely since staring the SPU Digital Education Leadership program but that has taken a lot of research, conversation, patience and time. Remembering to accept where parents and educators are at in their journey with digital education and truly listening without judgement to understand where they are at in their journey (and WHY!) is the only way to start forging a pathway of trust that can enable you to guide towards a shift in perspective.
To use the word ‘coach’ to describe an educational coach almost seems like a misnomer. The term ‘coach’ implies one person has skills and insight that the other does not. Terms like ‘supporter’ or ‘collaborator’ seem much more fitting. Modern coaches and their peers “are learning with and from each other, as they co-plan learning activities, model, team-teach, observe, and reflect. This is a collaborative relationship that requires meaningful discussions about ways to improve teaching and learning [that] are likely to challenge current practices.” (Foltos, 2013) In other words, coaching is not a one-way street where one party is being spoon-fed tips and tricks!
The balance between coaching and collaborating is one that needs to be set early in the relationship. As part of collaborative norms for coaching, Foltos suggests using the concept of ‘joint accountability.’ Joint accountability can only occur after coaching pairs have both explicitly committed to norms for both their individual and collective responsibilities. The scope of this accountability may change depending on the task at hand. Is the coaching relationship a year-long one? Or is the focus narrow to a specific unit or new technology implementation? The scope and purpose of the collaboration should guide the norms being established.
Having norms in place can prevent the type of spoon-feeding or learned helplessness that can arise when teachers misunderstand the purpose of an educational coach. What this looks like on a practical level is the use of probing questions to guide the teacher through inquiry. The role of the coach in solving a problem is to help the teacher think critically and perhaps consider the issue through a new lens. Ultimately, “the collaborating teacher develops the answer that he or she brings back to the classroom to implement… [drawing] on what he or she learned with and from the coach.” (Foltos, 2013)
Another element critical to the success of a peer coaching relationship is the willingness and commitment of the participating teacher. A successful coaching relationship can only exist when the participating teacher is “open to collaboration and want[s] to improve teaching and learning. The willingness to collaborate and improve is essential.” (Foltos, 2013) Just as it is with young students, buy-in is critical. A teacher must be in a position of wanting to learn and willing to try new things. Likewise, the coach should not enter the relationship with preconceived notions and solutions.
Giving teachers voice and choice in the coaching process is essential. While many districts assign coaches to teachers, this is not the best practice. Teachers should never feel they are “being punished and forced to change.” (Foltos, 2013). Instead, teachers can be given opportunities to partner with coaches who are interested in collaboration. This is where the term ‘coach’ can hinder the success of educational coaching. Shifting away from the model of having a handful of “expert coaches” working with a large population of teachers, peer coaching can be much more accessible and amenable to teachers. For example, an English teacher can coach a Social Studies teacher who is interested in implementing Close Reading in his/her classroom. Or a teacher who is passionate about assistive technology can work with the resource specialist in exploring new tools for students.
Ultimately, a great deal of time and energy must be exhibited by both the coach and participating teacher in order to make the coaching relationship successful and beneficial for all parties. Though this can seem like a lot of work, the effort pays off when “…you can take risks and try out new ideas, instructional strategies, or different approaches to the curriculum and discuss the results with a trusted colleague.” (Robbins, 1991)
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.
Robbins, P. (1991). How to plan and implement a peer coaching program. Washington: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Educational technology coaches are tasked with finding new solutions to meet the needs of teachers and students alike. Because educational technology is still a relatively new field which is constantly shifting as new programs emerge, coaches need dynamic resources. This week I am exploring (free) resources that coaches can utilize in their pursuit of ISTE Coaching standard 6.a. – “Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement [student and teacher standards]” (Iste.org, 2017)
Tech & Learning Magazine is a monthly magazine available in both print and digital editions. It is free to educators who indicate they have an influence over their school’s technology choices (which ideally includes ALL teachers and coaches!). The timely articles offer a wide range of topics and support. In a given issue you may find advice on implementing ed tech in the classroom, reviews of new software, and a theoretical approach to issues like digital citizenship. In addition to the magazine, the Tech & Learning website offers a plethora of great (and free) resources for ed tech coaches: Site of the week, On-demand webinars, App-of-the-day, and a Blog with frequent guest contributors. The depth of information and the breadth of topics is impressive.
ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) literally wrote the standards that ed tech coaches use when assessing their own effectiveness and that of teachers and students. A list of resources would not be complete without a mention of their expertly curated blog. The blog’s careful use of categories and tags makes it easy to navigate to the resources most applicable to a particular need. The quality of articles posted is exemplary. For instance, this post on media literacy includes practical takeaways for classroom teachers, an infographic guide for student use, and a clear correlation to ISTE student standards.
I’ve previously sung Twitter’s praises for personalized professional development and I’m sure this won’t be the last time! Twitter provides a platform for ed tech coaches and technology-minded teachers and administrators to come together to share ideas and resources. The following hashtags can be saved as a quick search for instant access to a large variety of ideas, resources, tools, and opinions related to educational technology: #edtech, #edtechchat. For teachers and coaches who use Google, #gafe is a treasure trove of ideas. Looking for accounts to follow? This post has a list of top contributors in the ed tech Twitter community.
EdSurge is another website that publishes timely, relevant articles regarding technology in education. A unique feature of EdSurge is its dedicated section to HigherEd. Posts include current ed tech news, research findings, implementation guides, and content-area technology uses. Many resources treat content areas and technology separately, but I have found that EdSurge meshes them in extremely creative ways such as this recent post on Hamlet, Harry Potter, and ‘computational literary analysis.’
In considering a ‘dynamic’ resource for ed tech coaches, I based my search criteria on the following:
Does this resource allow for choice in learning?
How frequently is the resource updated?
Are a variety of diverse voices amplified within this resource?
Is this resource user-friendly?
Does this resource go beyond mere reporting and aggregation to deliver content that teachers and coaches can (and want to) implement?
The four resources highlighted here earn a yes vote for each criteria element. I find myself returning to them again and again when I am in need of inspiration. Do you have a suggestion for an educational technology coaching resource? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
This week’s post is heavily influenced by a discussion I had with colleagues as we were attending a professional development session. I walked away from the post-PD discussion thinking about the ways in which districts could better facilitate PD with teacher needs in mind.
Most administrators and coaches can agree that relying on one-size-fits-all, spoonfed traditional professional development is not optimal for teacher development. So how can we better mee ISTE Coaching Standard 1d, “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms?” (Iste.org, 2017)
Encouragingly, research has found that coaching and collaboration support teacher development and improved student outcomes. School leaders have subsequently implemented “coaching, feedback from observations, and professional learning communities, or PLCs” (Johnson, 2016).
While this sounds promising, the reality is that there is an enormous disconnect between research findings, administrator’s approach to PD, and how teachers perceive PD:
Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014
This is an area of teaching that I feel strongly about as we struggle to be considered professionals and recruit/retain new teachers. Jennifer Gonzalez, the author behind the brilliant blog Cult of Pedagogy, says it best:
“After listening to thousands of teachers tell their stories, I have reached the conclusion that there is one deciding factor that determines where teachers will fall on the continuum, one element that makes the difference in whether the teachers in any given school will lean toward positive and productive or desperate and crushed: That element is the administrator. Behind every teacher story is an administrator who is interpreting policy, setting expectations, and establishing a tone that will determine the quality of their teachers’ work, and by extension, the education their students receive. If too many teachers are drowning at the unhealthy end of the continuum—and our current teacher shortage suggests that this is the case—then too many administrators are tolerating, or creating, unhealthy working conditions. Administrators who may have forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher.” (2017)
For this post, I am going to explore three popular areas of PD (coaching, PLC’s, and workshops) to identify what barriers exist within each and then propose solutions to those barriers.
Area 1: Coaching
Distribution of coaches: Fewer than half of all teachers in America receive coaching in the course of a school year. (Johnson, 2016)
Stigma of receiving coaching: The majority of existing coaching is focused on struggling or new teachers which results in a negative stigma associated with coaching. Veteran teachers who could otherwise benefit from coaching feel they are ‘in trouble’ if assigned a coach. (Johnson, 2016)
Frequency of coaching: Coaches are spread thin throughout districts in the US. Despite the benefits of regular, intensive coaching, most teachers who are assigned coaches only meet monthly or a few times a month (33%) or even less frequently than monthly (27%). (Johnson, 2016)
Disconnect between observation and coaching: Teachers struggle to find meaning and value in observations that result in quantitative written feedback. Without offsetting the feedback with qualitative, in-depth feedback and mentoring, it can feel hollow. (Johnson, 2016)
Experience of coaches: Teachers are skeptical of coaches who also serve as administrators or coaches who have not been in the classroom for many years. Teachers may feel that the person lacks relevancy and the ability to provide authentic, effective feedback. (Johnson, 2016) Further, there is a perception by teachers that some coaches are in that position because the administration did not want them in the classroom. (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014)
Two easy solutions to the lack of coaches and quality of administrator-only feedback are the #observeme and Pineapple Chart methods of peer feedback (both of which are explained clearly in this post by Robert Kaplinsky). Essentially, both strategies allow teachers to invite colleagues into their class with some areas of feedback in mind. This allows teachers to gain input from fellow respected peers and also to get targeted feedback. The bonus is that both tools are invitation based– no surprise visits!
When observations are completed, it is so important for administrators or coaches to take the time to debrief with teachers and provide qualitative comments. Just as handing an essay back to students with no comments and only a score is devaluing and unhelpful, so is observation that only results in a score on a scale. Just as with students, feedback should also be specific. Goals should also be established for moving forward. I found the following Post-Observation Coaching Protocol from Engage New York to be very valuable in ensuring the observation process is beneficial for both teachers, and coaches/administrators:
Instructional coach and blogger Lisa Westman has written a wonderful guide for new instructional coaches that includes the importance of building credibility. Some key ways to build credibility and rapport as a coach include sharing your passion, modeling continued learning, and being consistent and honest. (Westman as cited in DeWitt, 2016)
Area 2: Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
Admin-directed content: Teachers feel that when administrators dictate the content of PLC meetings, they are less productive for teachers and therefore student achievement. (Mielke, 2015) Administrators’’ priorities often are informed by test scores and raw data whereas teacher priorities are shaped by knowledge of individual student needs.
Summative vs formative: Similar to the first barrier, asking PLCs to focus solely on standardized test scores is often at the detriment of valuable in-moment formative data that teachers gather each day in the classroom. (Mielke, 2015) Teachers understand that test scores are so rarely reflective of student ability and only address a limited area of knowledge. Also, emphasizing test scores and criticizing teachers for these scores in impoverished districts where students are often reading and writing many grades below level seems unfair and counterproductive. It should come as a surprise to no one when a high schooler reading at 2nd-grade level scores poorly on a CCSS reading test.
Less talking, more acting: If all a PLC ever does is talk about what they’d like to do or rehash what has already been done, teachers are not going to see the meeting time as valuable. (Mielke, 2015). Without action, a PLC is just a mandated chat session that robs teachers of valuable time to plan, grade, and support student learning.
A successful PLC allows teachers the opportunity to set the agenda and norms. Just as in the classroom, ownership leads to engagement. When administrators trust their teachers to know which areas students need support in the most, PLCs can better serve those students. Summative data should be considered in conjunction with formative data.
Mielke suggests administrators pose questions for PLCs to explore rather than issuing demands. For example, PLC members can identify an area of need and then admin can play a supportive role by developing inquiry questions. For example, “You’ve said often that your curriculum maps aren’t always aligned. What would you need to align them?” (Mielke, 2015)
In a 2014 survey completed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers reported that the top four areas they would like to see implemented in their PLC are 1) time for lesson planning, 2) the opportunity to discuss learning objectives, 3) development of teaching skills and content knowledge, and 4) the chance to debrief on student behavior, class procedures, and expectations. Allowing and encouraging PLCs to focus on areas of need will allow PLCs to be productive and not just another task added to a teacher’s already full plate.
Area 3: Workshops
Time, the most precious commodity: When planning meetings or workshops, how deliberate is the consideration of the meeting’s necessity and length? Is the content of the meeting absolutely essential to all people required to attend? Has this content already been delivered in just a different way? All of these questions are critical to the planning of meeting and workshops and yet like most teachers, I can count on one hand the number of meetings and workshops over the years that have met these criteria.
Needs-based approach: Many administrators encourage teachers to differentiate instruction and content for students and then neglect to do so when providing PD workshops. What is relevant and helpful to a first grade PE teacher rarely will be as beneficial for a high school chemistry teacher.
Being absolutely deliberate about the frequency, length, and content of meetings and workshops is vital in making teachers feel respected and valued. If the message can be delivered via email, do it. Consider some out-of-the-box ways of communicating. Trainers and coaches can prepare videos for dissemination via YouTube or meetings can be held virtually through Google Hangouts or Voxer. I’ve previously blogged about Google Classroom being repurposed as a tool for collaboration which would work well school-wide for PD purposes. Anytime that asynchronous collaboration can be provided, schools will get more buy-in.
Though it requires more time and planning, targeted, choice-based PD will impact the engagement of teachers: “Whenever you can give your teachers choice in content, process, or product, you’ll get better results.” (Gonzalez, 2017).
Though this post is in part a condemnation of current practices, I hope there is also some light at the end of the tunnel. Research has shown the areas that work (coaching and collaboration) and it is encouraging that schools are attempting to put this research into practice. I hope that moving forward, teachers and administrators can work together to refine the coaching and collaboration models into methods that work for each individual school and its unique culture and needs.