Category Archives: EDTC 6105

Effective Peer Coaching

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)

Sources:

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.

Dynamic Resources for Ed Tech Coaches

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)

Resource 1: Tech & Learning Magazine

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 weekOn-demand webinarsApp-of-the-day, and a Blog with frequent guest contributors. The depth of information and the breadth of topics is impressive.

Resource 2: ISTE Blog

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.

Resource 3: Twitter

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.

Resource #4: EdSurge

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.’ 

Conclusion

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.

What Teachers Want: PD Barriers and Solutions

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

Barriers

  • 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)

Solutions

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)

Barriers

  • 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.

Solutions

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

Barriers

  • 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.  

Solutions

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).

Conclusion

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.

 

Sources:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2014). Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/download/?Num=2336&filename=Gates-PDMarketResearch-Dec5.pdf

DeWitt, P. (2016). Instructional Coaching in 20 Seconds or Less. Retrieved from https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2016/12/instructional_coaching_in_20_seconds_or_less.html

Gonzalez, J. (2017). What Teachers Want You To Know: A Note to School Administrators. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/letter-to-administrators/

Johnson, K. (2016). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves – EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves

Mielke, C. (2015). Is Your Professional Learning Community a Farce?. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/plc-problems/

Tools to Evaluate 21st Century Teaching

Earlier in the EDTC program, I blogged about Future Ready Schools which is an initiative aimed at evaluating a district’s current progress in terms of meeting 21st-century learning goals. The feedback I received from my peers was that it seemed like an interesting program, but left little support for teachers wishing to independently identify their own areas of possible improvement. For this week’s post, I wanted to focus on evaluation tools available to teachers for self-assessment or coaches for mentor feedback. While many options exist for teacher feedback, my focus was on observation tools that support teachers in implementing 21st-century learning skills in support of ISTE coaching standard 2: “Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences.”

Before considering frameworks for evaluation, it’s important to establish what is meant by the term ’21st-century learning.’ I found the above graphic from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning to be helpful in considering the interconnected skills required of 21st-century learning. 21st-century learning focuses on deep rather than shallow learning, opportunities for real-world problem solving, overarching themes that cross disciplines, and equipping students with the ability to process, filter, and synthesize information from a variety of sources.

 

Evaluation Tool 1: Council for 21st Century Learning

The Council for 21st Century Learning is committed to supporting 21st-century learning by offering consulting and training to districts and schools. Their work begins with a diagnostic to identify areas of need. Support is then provided through coaching, workshops, and presentations. One thing I find interesting about C21L is that they emphasize two components for successful implementation- in and for. Learning IN the 21st-Century involves the use of technology to process, interact, and publish information. Learning FOR the 21st-Century refers to the experiences and skill sets necessary to thrive when interacting with technology such as critical thinking and collaborating. C21L has publicly shared many resources on its website that are available for all teachers to use.

The following observation form is designed to be used by coaches or administrators when completing walk-through evaluations. The checklist format makes it easy to take note of the various elements within the classroom environment. I appreciate how comprehensive this list is. In addition to types of technology use (by both student and teacher), there are places for feedback on the types of instructional strategies being used, student grouping, and even levels of Blooms’ taxonomy. Instead of using this checklist solely for evaluative purposes, it would also be a powerful tool for teachers to utilize when planning or reflecting on a lesson.

Evaluation Tool 2: Strengthening Your Reflective Commentary

This tool was created by AJ Castley and included in various methods on the Warwick Learning and Development Centre for teachers to self-assess. The form provides teachers with 7 open-ended questions to consider their teaching across 3 areas: teaching, assessing, and curriculum design. Within each broad question are more particular questions designed to walk teachers through a deep analysis and reflection of what went well and what could be improved within a given lesson. Some of the guiding questions include “Why did you do it that way? How else might you have done it?” I thought this tool paired particularly well with the conversations my 6105 class has been having about probing questions (see my earlier post on Inquiry Method for Educational Coaching).

These questions on this form facilitate strong self-reflection for teachers choosing to use individually. The framework would also work well for coaches looking at ways to draw out reflection from a teacher. Another way to utilize these reflection questions is to frame discussion within a PLC about a lesson or unit.

Evaluation Tool 3: Learning Design Matrix

One of the resources shared in my 6105 class this past week aligns with my exploration of feedback tools. The Learning Design Matrix was adapted from Eeva Reeder, a frequent Edutopia contributor on Project Based Learning. Within the four-square matrix, teachers and coaches can consider elements of a 1) Standards-Based Task, 2) Engaging Task, 3) Problem-Based Task, and also how technology enables and/or accelerates learning of that given task. Rather than viewing the matrix as a comprehensive to-do list, it is helpful to choose several key elements and consider how a lesson you’ve taught or want to teach fits within those elements.

Coaches can use the matrix when evaluating a teacher’s lesson or unit or when assisting them in planning. One activity we completed in class was reviewing a teacher’s unit plan and reflecting on the unit in light of the matrix. My classmates and I found elements of the matrix being used in the unit with success and then considered how we could improve the unit plan using other elements from the matrix. It was an extremely enlightening exercise.

The Inquiry Method for Educational Coaching

Inquiry is a powerful tool used by teachers to foster curiosity and independence within students. Instead of spoon-feeding content, students reach their own conclusions. Popular options for incorporating inquiry in the classroom are 20-Time or Genius Hour where students explore a topic of their own choosing. Inquiry is about more than just student-driven projects; it’s also a methodological shift where you respond to questions with other questions instead of simply providing an answer. For example-

Student: Why does the character react like that?

Teacher: Let’s consider the character. Pretend that you are his same age and have his same motivations and fears. What would you feel like if your best friend betrayed you?

Inquiry is truly an art. Having seen the power of inquiry for students, I wanted to consider its application and impact when used by technology coaches to support teacher development. One component of ISTE Coaching Standard 2 is to “coach…and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design.” (Iste.org, 2017)

Why Inquiry?

  • Avoid learned helplessness and empower teachers: Foltos points out that taking on the role of an expert who has an answer for everything can do more harm than good when coaching teachers: “Successful coaches realize that routinely taking on the role of expert with answers is the wrong path toward collaboration and capacity building.” (2014) A downside to simply providing answers without encouraging independence through inquiry is that teachers come to rely on the coach. Inquiry, on the other hand, is empowering.

Implementing Inquiry as a Coach

  • Begin with specific need: Instead of one-size-fits-all professional development, scholars like John Dewey encourage teachers to identify specific content-area problems and then explore possible solutions. This problem-solution method is effective because it “unleashes an inquiry process in which the quest first for definition, then for resolution becomes a compelling necessity” (Demetrion as cited in Ermeling, 2012). Coaches can play a valuable role in guiding teachers toward identifying needs and then creating plans to meet those needs.
  • The three lenses: Ermeling presents a fascinating argument for why educators seeking to grow with the inquiry method must learn to see their subject matter through three lenses. The first is the lens of the researcher which asks the teacher to “formulate hypotheses, collect data, rely on evidence for decision-making, and generalize from findings.” The second lens requires an educator to “sequence and connect students’ learning experiences.” The final lens, that of the student, “represents an educator’s capacity to view instruction through the eyes of the student, anticipate their thinking and use this knowledge to build experiences.” (Ermeling, 2012)
  • Creative data sources: To measure the efficacy of any newly implemented strategy, teachers are encouraged to collect data which can then be shared with a coach before planning the next steps in the inquiry cycle. Evidence should drive reflection, analysis, and next steps. Coaches can assist teachers in moving beyond traditional assessments in order to gather data. In Ermeling’s exploration on the features of the inquiry process, he includes “student work, student interviews, student questionnaires, checklists, self-assessments, portfolios, systematic classroom observations, test results, [and] audio or video recordings from the classroom” as valid data points for teachers and coaches to consider. (2012)
  • Give it time to stick: Inquiries that expand throughout several months or even the entire school year are preferable to short, brief inquiries. The reason for this is so that a coach and teacher can definitely state what cause produced what effect. (I would add the personal caveat that what works for one group of students may not for next year’s batch.) This investment requires a shift away from a focus on the “length of time or number of strategies” and towards “persit[ing] long enough to arrive at some important findings–tangible and explicit cause-effect connections between instructional decisions and student outcomes.” (Ermeling, 2012)

Tool of Inquiry: Probing Questions

Probing questions are an effective tool of inquiry which “are designed to get the teacher to think more deeply about and develop answers to the issues important to him or her.” (Foltos, 2013) Probing questions can and should be used at any point in the Inquiry process described in the previous section.

Do’s and Don’t of Probing Questions

Don’t ask if you have a preconceived answer in mind

Do paraphrase the teacher’s perspective before beginning

Do use open-ended questions

Don’t be afraid of simple questions

Original source: The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar

Found via: “Effective Communication & Questioning When Coaching” by Ann Hayes-Bell

Conclusion

When I think about using inquiry in coaching, I am reminded of the following Proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The beauty of inquiry is that you can give a teacher the tools necessary to investigate and solve future problems for themselves.

 

Sources

Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Ermeling, B. (2012). Improving Teaching through Continuous Learning: The Inquiry Process John Wooden Used to Become Coach of the Century. Quest64(3), 197-208. doi: 10.1080/00336297.2012.693754

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.

Foltos, L. (2014). The Secret to Great Coaching: Inquiry Method Helps Teachers Take Ownership of their Learning. Learning Forward35(3), 29-31.

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Sustaining Technology After PD

With new technology rolling into schools constantly it can be easy for a teacher to become overwhelmed. As coaches, I think we can help teachers become more comfortable using technology. According to Standard 1d from ISTE coaches “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms”. Looking deeper into this substandard I wanted to know strategies to help teachers feel less overwhelmed with new technology innovations.

The Struggles

With districts and schools being different across the nation there are different struggles teachers can have when implementing technology regardless of the grade level. Brendon Hyndman, a Senior Lecturer and Course Director at Charles Sturt University wrote the article “Ten Reasons teachers can struggle to use technology in the classroom” to help give an insight to what might be happening with technology use in the classroom. In the article, Hyndman stated the following ten reasons

  1. Introduced technology is not always preferred
  2. Differing device capabilities and instructions
  3. It’s easy for students to be distracted
  4. Technology can affect lesson time and flow
  5. Teachers need more professional development
  6. Not everyone has technology at home
  7. Teachers need to protect students
  8. Not all teachers “believe” in using technology
  9. Lack of adequate support, infrastructure, or time
  10. Tensions between students and teachers

While these struggles might not apply to every teacher its good for coaches to know that these struggles are happening. With this information, coaches can focus on ways to help alleviate these issues.

How Can Coaches Help Teachers

To bring education into the digital age, we must give teachers the skills they need to adapt their classrooms. And teachers can’t do it alone – they need district and state leaders to invest in meaningful professional development opportunities that let them explore new teaching practices, but what does solid professional development look like? A NWEA article by Hugh Fournier lists the following seven things to consider in teacher professional development.

  1. Align professional development to instructional goals. Armed with a good understanding of student learning goals, Jean says, “Look for synergies between assessment data, curricula, and other instructional resources.” When good information goes into a development program, good results will follow.
  2. Identify learning outcomes. While a good number of objectives will suit all teachers, there are certain teams that will need different goals and outcomes – intervention specialists, as an example. Depending on the learning outcomes needed for each team or group of teachers, different professional development needs may apply.
  3. Review existing professional development options. Many school districts likely have access to existing professional development tools. Are they right for your current needs or goals? That’s the key question that needs to be asked and discussed before settling on the professional development program that will bring the success your school is looking for.
  4. Give the gift of time. Good teacher professional development does not happen in one sitting (with or without a clown nose). It’s necessary to carve out time for teachers to meet regularly, so it’s important to dedicate time and resources accordingly.
  5. Make professional learning relevant. When designing or selecting your teacher professional development program, be sure to make sure that it can be applied in the classroom right away. It should possess insights and strategies that align with what teachers are doing in their daily classroom work.
  6. Measure success with metrics. By building evaluation metrics into the professional development program, teachers and staff will be able to measure the effectiveness of the program. In this way, adjustments can be made to ensure the overall success of the program.
  7. Keep staff engaged. Teachers and administrators need to be engaged throughout the program – during the collaboration time as well as in the classroom.

Tips For When PD is Over

After professional develop concludes teachers might still feel overwhelmed with all of the information they just received. One of my classmates mentioned that she has heard time and time again from teachers about PD and coaching is that they want tips, tools, and strategies that they can implement immediately without a ton of extra work.

Tips, tools, and strategies should be easily accessible to teachers. Paper handouts, a bulletin board, or an online site should be available. At my own district, all technology information including tips and tools is located in our staff KIT (Knowledgebase for Integrating Technology). On this site, teachers can find technical information about curriculum, integration, troubleshooting, etc. If there is ever a need for further assistance our helpdesk is just an email or phone call away.

Conclusion

Although professional development is a strong way to initiate technology for teachers hopefully, we can implement some tips, tools, and strategies to make the job of teaching less stressful. By working to ensure that teachers aren’t overwhelmed with technology integration we can have successful use in the classroom.

 

Sources:

Fournier, Hugh. “7 Things to Consider in a #Teacher Professional Development Program | #Edchat #TeacherPD.” Teach. Learn. Grow., 11 July 2017, www.nwea.org/blog/2017/seven-things-consider-teacher-professional-development-program/.

Hyndman, Brendon. “Ten Reasons Teachers Can Struggle to Use Technology in the Classroom.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 24 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/ten-reasons-teachers-can-struggle-to-use-technology-in-the-classroom-101114.

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 7 Oct. 2018].

 

Initiating and Sustaining: Two-Part Approach to Successful PD

The good news: teachers desperately want quality technology professional development. The bad news: many still aren’t receiving options for high quality, ongoing professional development. ISTE Coaching Standard 1d asks coaches to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” (Iste.org, 2017). As I considered this particular substandard, I immediately focused in on the initiating and sustaining wording. The combination of initiating and sustaining is critical to the success of technology PD.

– INITIATING –

Needs-based PD

Just as students have a wide variety of needs, so do teachers. One way to identify the needs of teachers is by creating technology PD that is customized. Prior to planning PD, surveys can be a valuable tool in determining teacher needs. Using a combination of closed and open-ended questions, “Try to ascertain which members of your teaching staff need training on specific technology tools or techniques and determine which are comfortable using technology but need more help integrating it into instruction” (Roland, 2015). PD sessions can then be targeted based on staff interest and ability. PD sessions can also be “self-contained so that teachers can choose to attend workshops only in the areas where they need extra learning” (Roland, 2013).

The technology coach at my former school did a wonderful job of hosting PD that was teacher-driven and needs-based. Workshops for new tools were leveled for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners. Other workshops were created after polling staff to identify needs and interests. By avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, he was able to effectively implement technology innovation in our district.

Constructivist PD

All PD walks a fine line between theoretical and practical.  Quality technology PD should begin with a solid presentation or discussion of WHY this particular tool, device, or method is a good fit for meeting the needs of learners. Once a theoretical basis exists for using the technology, teachers need the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology while under the guidance of an experienced peer or coach.

This critical shift in how PD occurs can be described as dissemination versus implementation. Teachers need the opportunity within a PD session to work directly with the new tool or method being introduced. This can be accomplished through a learning environment “where we see demonstrations, engage in simulations, have time to practice new technique with expectations of ongoing support and collaborative reflection and sharing” (Kelly Young as cited in Ferlazzo, 2015).

– SUSTAINING –

PD as a Cycle

Similar to the shift from dissemination to implementation is the idea that PD should very much be a cycle of inquiry where teachers are exposed to new ideas, allowed the opportunity to practice the concepts learned at the PD, discuss what worked and what didn’t with an experienced coach or peer, and set new goals based on that conversation. This cycle is necessary because “the process of improving teaching and learning is not often smooth or instantly successful” (Foltos, 2013).

Sean McComb, a National Teacher of the Year, believes that once-and-done PD is rarely effective. McComb advocates a three-part approach to successful PD: give teachers choice, make the content relevant and job-embedded, and don’t limit exposure to a single session. Successful and sustainable change requires that teachers “learn about a way to improve, have the opportunity to plan and implement, and then reflect and adjust, ideally in company and collaboration with colleagues or a coach” (McComb as cited in Ferlazzo, 2015).

Take and Go PD

Best practice when providing PD for teachers is to include take-home resources which can be either digital or paper. These materials might include “online tutorials, help sheets or short videos [which] will allow [teachers] to review the training on their own if they do forget how to do something” (Roland, 2015). It is also best practice to provide contact information so that attendees know how to reach the presenter should they have any questions.

Teacher and technology coach, Craig Badura, has taken the idea of distributing materials to a new level with his gamification-like App Task Challenges.  The Challenges involve short and simple directions to walk teachers through the process of using a new app or aspect of an app. Badura explains, “I have to have teachers get their hands dirty while they’re learning a new tool, so to speak, but they have to have that assurance that I’m going to help them clean up when they get done if they need that help during that time” (as cited in Gonzalez, 2016).

Sources

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.

Gonzalez, J. (2016). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers | Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Roland, J. (2015). Empowering teachers to implement technology-driven educational programs. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=569

The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

This week in my final blog post of the quarter for my class on Educational Technology Leadership my question has led me to investigate how an instructional technology coach can partner with administrators to support and extend the learning that is happening through coaching. I have an interest in asking this question because I think that in my coaching role increased engagement and collaboration with administrators would benefit my coaching practice and the teachers and students at my schools. As I’ve written about before however, based on the literature I’ve read I am also in a unique position being in multiple schools. In addition to being in multiple schools, the fact that I’m in the middle of my first year as a coach also probably helps to explain why I may feel a slight disconnect to administrators in my building. So my questions, what does an engaged administrator do to support a coach in their building? And how can I help to engage administrators to make the most of my coaching role in their schools? Those questions will likely make sense to my peers who have been reading my previous posts this quarter because they are in a similar vein to my other posts. I was excited to investigate what an engaged administrator might look like from a coaching role, and brainstorm what I might be able to do to help further engage the administrators I work with. I also want to add that my past experience as a teacher in a school with an administrator who collaborated and met with her coaches regularly, did in fact give me an idea about some of the things an engaged administrator might do with coaches.

As I was looking for resources to guide my investigation I found a blog post written by Elena Aguilar titled “10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches,” which made my search fairly easy.

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

That is one of the things I have been wondering about during this year. What do principals expect of me as a coach? What is their idea of the coaching model I am following? Aguilar suggests that coaches and administrators discuss these questions and more, then she adds, “Discussing these with a coach can lead to more cohesion and clarity as well as surface any large discrepancies” Aguilar (2014). In my monthly meetings with administrators I would like to get a better sense of what type of coaching model would best benefit their school.

  • Learn Together

Our team has often talked about what learning is happening at elementary leadership meetings but as of now we are not included. I think knowing that learning would help us support each other. The point of Elena Aguilar, (2014) though is, principals can ask questions of coaches to learn about instructional best practices and I think if principals were doing that collegiality between administrators and coaches would grow as well. Maybe another approach is inviting administrators to our professional development. Maybe asking them to come to NCCE is an opportunity to build trust, and mutual support for one another.   

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

This point encourages administrators to invest in a coaches learning and growth through PD. The author suggests that learning to instruct adults is often the most difficult thing for coaches to learn, so investing in that growth will in turn help coaches and teachers. As I provide PD for schools this year I’m going to ask for explicit feedback about how to improve my work. I was able to give my first whole staff PD last Friday, and now I think my next step is to solicit feedback form the principal and assistant principal.

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

Aguilar says, “coaches are leaders who need leadership development” (2014),  and that is definitely how I feel. Certain staff members, but not all, do seem to look to me as a leader. Often, I’m asked about the plans of the district. A lot of that depends on my coaching relationship with that staff member. Guidance from a leader is definitely something I am looking for in my position and in each of my schools. Again, I think this often comes up in whole staff PD settings so asking administrators who sit in for those trainings about how I handle staff questions is a good next step for me.

  • Appreciate your Coaches

This point is about recognizing the contribution that a coach makes to your school. I understand that I’m still working on my contributions, but I admit it would be nice if an administrator knew what I was doing. In my monthly meetings with administrators we do get to talk about what I‘m doing in the school, but usually I’m leading that part of the conversation. I am hopeful though that sometime later in the year, they hear about my work from a teacher and mention it to me in one of our meetings. That’s recognition for me!

It also seems that as I am given the opportunity to speak in front of a staff more often and if I continue to ask for feedback from administrators they will certainly see some of the work I am doing. As an instructional coach in a handful of schools my role might be unique or at least of less focus in the literature I have read but many of the same concepts still apply. One overarching theme this quarter has been building relationships and I recognize that just as I am doing that with teachers, I am still definitely doing that with administrators. I’m hoping that the reading I’ve done for this post will keep me moving in the direction of strengthening relationships with administrators and in turn will allow me to experience greater buy-in and participation in coaching in each of my schools. 

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2014, October 9). 10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/10/10_ways_for_administrators_to_.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Walpert-Gawron, H. (2016, June). How to Be a Change Agent:The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach. Educational Leadership, 73. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jun16/vol73/num09/The-Many-Roles-of-an-Instructional-Coach.aspx

A More Effective Online Peer Coach

As part of my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at SPU, I recently engaged in and completed an exercise in peer coaching with a teacher.  I took into consideration that I now work at a startup, and the professional learning I would be working with her on would be all online and for a particular product. I gradually transitioned from the point of power and requests to a more to a collaborative partner, capable of leading and guiding inquiry. I practiced communication skills, including active listening and questioning strategies as my collaborating partner and I worked to rebuild our ECT program at Edmodo. Much of my work in this course centered around the study of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Communication by Les Foltos

Beyond what we already learned and addressed how can I create a broader and more personal relationship when conducting online peer coaching?

As part of my reflection, I am considering how I can engage in peer coaching practices without ever having a traditional classroom to step into.  All the coaching is done online through Edmodo classroom and groups. On top of that, how do I evaluate and create metrics of success on the online coaching model? As I work in a business where I must demonstrate all efforts as value to the company.  So I must put forth a plan to revitalize the ECT program.

What is essential to the program to create trainers who we can trust? What support does my facilitator need from me to be more successful in the next cohort? 

Research by Shauna and Baker (2005) explains that One of the challenges resulting from the growing popularity of online education is how to efficiently evaluate online instruction.  Within their paper “Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development” where the central question isn’t whether this new approach to education is effective — the plethora of “no significant difference” studies mainly render that question moot — but what steps can be taken to not only ensure that individual courses are useful but provide the necessary guidance to promote faculty growth and development as they teach online.

Ensuring Quality of Online Instruction – Peer Coaching Cycle – “A team of experienced online instructors is currently adapting this peer coaching model for the online environment and has performed preliminary online peer coaching during this past academic year.”

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Within the protocol, the coach logs into Blackboard course site multiple times during a week. “We encourage the online peer coach to take particular notice of the virtual classroom environment and interpersonal communication dynamics.  Such facets include the design and layout of the blackboard web pages, the tone of the announcements and course materials, the level of learner-instructor engagement and learner-learner engagement in class discussions, the types of media used for presenting materials, the ease of navigation, the clarity of course instructions, and the instructor’s mastery of the course content and effectiveness at presenting it to the class.” As I look towards the future of our program, at Edmodo I see how important it is to figure out a way to evaluate the course as it is happening.  The program facilitator is an experienced teacher but teaching online with a cohort from 19 different countries is a whole different beast.  The kids that come to school every day are pushed from so many different sides to attend her class while these grown adults must see value and excitement every single time they log into the system.  It was tough to witness the attrition (the loss of customers or clients over time) because the end results are ECTs and these advocates are so valuable to the company.  As it sits thought it is just too long to keep hard-working teachers engaged, six weeks is a long time to stay concentrated on anything in this day and age especially when there isn’t any promise of compensation at the end.

How do I want to proceed with rebuilding the program?

Recently, I attended Advocamp an Advocate Marketing Strategy conference in San Francisco because that is a significant aspect of my job.  It was put on by a company called Influitive which is in the business of creating online hubs for other businesses to host advocate marketing campaigns and challenges.  It really allows you to gamify the system and reward your advocates with rewards and points.  The most valuable session I attended was by Deena Zenyk, from Influitive her session was titledUncover the hidden value of your advocacy program by learning to use the power of campaign-based planning.” She recently wrote a book about the Six Habits of Highly Effective Advocate Marketers and “Consider your last big purchase: What influenced your decision? A paid advertisement? A polished press release? A celebrity Twitter endorsement? A marketing email? A product webpage? Probably not. More than likely, you listened to someone you know and trust. An authentic voice with relevant experience is the most convincing proponent when we’re considering a new product or company. That is the power of an advocate.”  I think that this message although hard for some teachers to believe but sometimes we are a hard audience to sell to and we really only like to listen to people who have gone through what we have.  Sometimes I talk about my first couple years of teaching at an alternative high school like some people talk about serving in the military.  Now I know it is not comparable to what our military does for our country, but I genuinely do not feel like people at my work know what it is like for a teacher unless they have themselves have taught a couple of years.  That is just one reason why our ECT program brings so much value to our company because teachers only like to hear from other teachers when talking about a product.  But how do we create a course that is the right balance between getting enough experience with the product and short enough to keep everyone’s excitement and engagement?    So Deena Zenyk mentioned a system that CISCO put together years ago called VSEM, Vision, Strategy, Execution and Metric.  Moreover, I am going to put my program through this organization and see what comes out.  Here is what it looks like when diagramed.

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Is collaboration worth the investment? As you plot the next steps in your collaboration journey, it helps to understand the returns that are possible

The improved collaboration represents the best opportunity for business leaders to tap the full range of talents of their people, move with higher speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade. But building a collaborative organization requires a transformative approach to culture, processes, and technology – along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. Leaders who encourage change on all three fronts will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

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Resources:

Cisco Inc (Ed.). (2012). The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential – CISCO. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.cisco.com/en/US/services/ps2961/ps2664/collaborative_imperative.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Foltos, L. (2015). Principals boost coaching’s impact: school leaders’ support is critical to collaboration. Journal Of Staff Development36(1), 48-51,.

Shauna, T., Ph.D., & Baker, J. D., Ph.D. (2005). Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from Http://warehouse.olc.edu/~cdelong/dl401/peercoaching.pdf,

Institute for Higher Education Policy. (2000). Quality on the line: Benchmarks for success in Internet-based distance education. Retrieved from http://www.ihep.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/pubs/qualityontheline.pd

 


The ISTE Coaching Identity (Module 5, ISTE-CS)

I feel pretty satisfied right now with the idea that peer coaching is an activity that someone might choose to engage in, and is a subset of the broader term “coaching” (for more information about different coaching approaches, see Borman and Feger, 2006; and Kurz, Reddy, and Glover, 2017). This fits into the ISTE Coach Standards as one way to engage in the coaching-related indicators. However, only a third of the ISTE-CS relate to the activity of coaching; the rest relate to modeling behavior or advocating for technology integration (I use these remaining two categories loosely). So:

If only a third of the indicators relate to actual coaching, what is this “thing” that we call the ISTE Coaching Standards? It’s not just about coaching, so what is it about?

What I see in the ISTE-CS are guidelines for an identity. Being an ISTE Coach, in its entirety, is more like a way of being than it is just choosing to engage in various activities. 

The ISTE Coaching Identity

The primary indicator that supports this idea is CS 6c:

Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology enhanced learning experiences.”

This indicator defines an ISTE Coach’s purpose, which is to promote technology enhanced learning experiences, and directs the ISTE Coach to reflect on his or her practices and dispositions. It is the element of reflection that solidifies for me the idea that the ISTE-CS are working to achieve identity formation. Sfard and Prusak’s (2005) theory of identity states that identities are stories told about persons (yes, they are equating identities with stories), and additionally, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are particularly important. But in order to have an opportunity to create and tell stories about ourselves, we must reflect. So to me, CS 6c says, “Develop your identity and compare it against the prime directive ISTE Coaching.” In light of the rest of the indicators, CS 6c says something more elaborate: “Look at all the activities you’ve engaged in. Notice how by engaging in these activities you have created stories about yourself. Compare these stories to the ISTE Coaching Identity and evaluate how you want your stories to change or remain the same – i.e., continue shaping your identity against the ISTE Coaching Identity.”

Peer Coaching as an Activity, Not an Identity

While I’ve chosen to call peer coaching an activity and not an identity, you could certainly argue that one could develop a peer coaching identity. In fact, by Sfard and Prusak’s (2005) definition of identity, if you engage in peer coaching at all, there will likely be stories about you as a peer coach, and therefore you will then have a peer coaching identity. But because of the scope of activities which I think count as peer coaching (see my past blogs Peer vs. Peer Coach vs. Coach, Compatibility between peer coaching and the ISTE-CS, and Can one person both lead by example and work as a peer coach?), I think that the ISTE Coaching Standards describe an identity which can encompass the peer coaching activities, whereas the reverse is not true – a peer coaching identity can’t encompass all of the ISTE Coaching activities. Therefore, for the purposes of my blog, I choose to continue calling peer coaching an activity and the ISTE Coaching Standards guidelines for an identity.

But, Good Teaching First

Beyond the role of coaching, the ISTE-CS also ask you to be a role model of, and an advocate for, technology integration. However, one of the key ideas from Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration by Les Foltos (2013), which I think should overlay the ISTE-CS, is that good teaching comes first and then technology integration comes into play to support good teaching: “Technology integration is all about the interrelationship of pedagogy, content, and technology. And technology is the least important of the three elements in this equation” (p. 151). This idea isn’t abundantly clear to me in the ISTE-CS, but it is of the utmost importance.

My Mental Model

I can think of more than one way to diagram this, but the most straight forward way (maybe) is to just diagram the main activities that you engage in as an ISTE Coach, with the overlaid lens of “good teaching.”

One large circle labeled "ISTE Coach" with three smaller circles completely inside the larger circle. The three circles are titled "model," "advocate," and "coach." Completely within the circle labeled coach is another circle labeled "peer coach." The whole diagram is covered by a half-transparent blue square with faded edges. The square is labeled "good teaching lens."

Either this diagram is over simplified, or the words I’ve chosen aren’t quite right – I’m using the verbs “model” and “advocate” loosely – but it highlights the main thing I’ve been thinking about all quarter, which is how peer coaching fits in in the scheme of the ISTE-CS. I’ve said that it’s one way to engage in coaching, out of many possible ways. Another way to look at it, which is consistent with my diagram being a diagram of activities, is that it is a collection of a particular set of activities that a coach can do, among a wider set of possible coaching activities (for more information on coaching activities, see Borman and Feger, 2006; and Kurz, Reddy, and Glover, 2017).

I’m curious where I’d be right now if someone had just drawn this diagram for me at the start of the quarter. Would I have been able to quickly adopt the model? I think so. But is this even close to what other people would draw? I have no idea! I would love to know how you would diagram, or otherwise draw, your thinking regarding the ISTE-CS and the related peer coaching.

 


References

Borman, J., & Feger, S. (2006). Instructional coaching:
Key themes from the literature. Retrieved from https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/TL_Coaching_Lit_Review.pdf

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

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). ISTE standards for coaches (2011). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Kurz, A. Reddy, L. A., & Glover, T. A. (2017). A
multidisciplinary framework of instructional coaching. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 66-77. http://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1260404