Category Archives: Visionary Leadership

Building Checklists for Effective Engagement Resources

Good peer coaching ensures successful lesson plan outcomes. In my last blog post, I explored the value of teacher vs. student focus during peer coaching sessions and concluded that when the teacher is focused on improved learning, both the students and the teacher benefit greatly, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018).  In peer coaching, the main tasks involve co-planning a lesson, and improving upon that lesson to ensure that the activities described facilitate learning in a purposeful manner. For improvement to occur, according to coaching leader Les Foltos, there must be an explicit agreement between the peer and the coach on the definition of “improvement,” (Foltos, 2013).  This dialogue between the coach and the peer should be specific as it will drive the focus of the work. Foltos suggests using an effective learning checklist to guide this work and offers a framework of four main improvement focus areas: standard-based, engagement-based, problem-based, and technology enhanced learning, (Foltos, 2013).  Once the definition and checklist has been created, then the improvement process can begin. Figure 1.1 below summarizes the evidence-based design process described by Foltos.

infographic on the lesson plan improvement process.
Figure 1.1 Foltos’ Lesson Plan Improvement Process

The coach’s responsibility is to stimulate innovation by taking an outside perspective and offering suggestions and resources.  Without this distinct perspective, teachers can’t innovate, (Foltos, 2013). By participating in the innovation process, the coach meets the ISTE standard in “contribut[ing] to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels,” (ISTE, 2017).

In my peer coaching relationship, my peer and I have stepped into the process of improvement after designing a unit for a blended course.  My peer developed several learning activities along with associated deliverables that achieved the desired learning outcomes. However, my peer was concerned that the unit is too dry and may be isolating as students work independently on many activities. Because of these concerns, my peer would like to focus our improvement efforts on engagement.  In addition, my peer would like me to offer some good technology options that would help enhance engagement.  My peer’s request requires an actionable and tangible outcome from me. This got me thinking, how would a peer coach begin exploring technology resources for increasing classroom engagement with their peer?

Creating a criteria checklist.   “Even highly effective collaboration isn’t enough to improve learning,” (Foltos, 2013).  Effective resources that stimulate engagement must contribute to the learning outcome in some way. Gathering technology resources for collaboration then must involve some discernment process that narrows down options to the best fit with a learning outcome.  One way to start building a resource list for my peer could be to create a criteria checklist.  I originally got this idea by watching a YouTube video created by Dr. Dykema-Vanderark who is an English professor at Grand Rapids Community College. In his video, Dr. Dkykema-Vanderark explores various technology tools that increase classroom engagement. He starts off the session by communicating his criteria for a “good” engagement tool that helps meets his needs, which include: free (or low cost), easy to use, well-designed, and were flexible multi-use tools. He subsequently presents nine tools, he felt best met these pre-established criteria highlighting the main features and offers suggestions on how to use them. Though the video itself does not address my main question, the main ideas behind Dr. Dykema’s processes clarifies how to begin this process and how my peer and I could use the criteria to explore various tools together. The idea of a checklist is not a new idea, nor is it limited to process improvement. Education consultant, Patricia Vitale-Rilley, suggests using checklists as a way to manage active learning by students, suggesting that checklists are a good tool for facilitating student engagement, (Vitale-Rilley, 2015).

Criteria Considerations that Include Engagement Characteristics. Edutopia describes engagement as activities that allow students to do something with the material that they are taught. Students are talking, practicing, and moving on the content rather than passively absorbing the content through lecture, (Johnson, 2012). Given the participatory nature of the above definition, criteria characteristics for the resource checklist should include technology that allows for sharing, commenting, and other collaboration features while excluding any technology resource that simply curates information without a basis for interaction among the students. Adding to this, Foltos describes characteristics of engagement-based tasks in his own checklist on effective learning.  Some of those characteristics include: tasks that are challenging (in a good way),  hold intrinsic interest, offer choices, allow students to draw upon existing knowledge and skills, facilitates creation of a product/artifact, and allow students to apply their skills to new situations, (Foltos, 2013). While these criteria focus more on classroom activities, they may be used to evaluate technology resources particularly technology that can offer students choices or multi-functionality, and allow them to create a tangible product.  Resources that allow students to use their skills to new technology could also be a consideration.

Next Steps.

Building a resource checklist will help narrow down the list of potential technology tools used in the classroom and aid in the selection of the tools that best fits with the intended outcome of each learning activity. In moving forward with lesson plan improvement with my peer, we would need to complete the following steps to build a successful lesson:

  • Identify which learning activities would benefit from revision to improve engagement.
  • Identify characteristics of engagement for those selected activities.
  • Establish a tech resource checklist highlighting key features needed to fulfil learning outcomes.
  • Curate technology resources.
  • Compare and contrast technology resources against the checklist.

“Many educators need a research-based process for lesson design…to help them create…learning activities,” (Foltos, 2013). Using the above process ensures that my peer and I follow an evidence-based practice, keeping our focus on the student learning outcomes while increasing active-learning for more impactful lesson plans.

Resources

Dykema-Vanderark,T. (2017). Beyond the discussion board: Using online tools to increase student engagement [YouTube video]. Available from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9INVsMsFyH0

Foltos, L., 2013. Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Chapter 7: Lesson improvement process. Corwin Publishing. Thousand Oaks, CA

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Johnson, B. (2012, March 02). How do we know when students are engaged? Available from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-definition-ben-johnson

Vitale-Rilley, P. (2015). Your classroom environment checklist for student engagement [blog]. Available from: https://blog.heinemann.com/classroom-environs-checklist

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Peer coaching focus- For teacher or student outcomes? [blog]. Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/peer-coaching-focus-for-teacher-or-student-outcomes/

Peer Coaching Focus- For Teacher or Student Outcomes?

Educators are facing an ever-changing professional landscape. As society evolves into the 21st century, the needs of various industries change, requiring different skills. Teachers are challenged to improve and update skills, knowledge, and actions to match those needs, (Ma, Xin, Du, 2018). Teachers can’t keep up on their own.  “New curriculum, standards, resources/materials, assessments, methodologies, technology, and reforms will not and do not have much impact unless teachers have appropriate access, knowledge, skills and continuous learning opportunities. Teachers require time for reflection, mentoring relationships, collegial interaction, expert role models, and ongoing professional development for any of these changes to be effective,” (Becker, 2014).  As Becker alludes to, the format of professional development is important in providing educators the tools they need to make the changes necessary for successful student impact.  In order to maximize success, professional development is moving away from theory-only, lecture-based models to more effective personalized learning models such as peer coaching. Studies show that educators participating in peer coaching better practice and adopt new strategies, retain and increase skills over time, and are better able to explain teaching/learning models than un-coached educators, (Joyce & Showers, 2002).  Statistics back these findings, five percent of educators will transfer new skills into practice as a result of theory, whereas ninety percent of educators will transfer new skills into practice with theory, demonstration, practice within training, feedback, and coaching, (Becker, 2014).

The sixth ISTE standard for coaches encourages this peer coaching model by recommending an “engage[ment] 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,” (ISTE, 2017). If peer coaching is to be done correctly, should the coaching focus on teacher outcomes or student outcomes? This inquiry comes from my reflective thoughts on the skills and strategies used in successful coaching which are mainly teacher-focused. Given that the learner audience would be a peer, the coaching efforts logically should be focused on meeting their needs. My hypothesis is that meeting these needs would automatically relate into increased learning outcomes for the students through improved instructional methods. However, in a current peer coaching relationship, we are heavily focused on student learning outcomes rather than the peer’s needs. Are my peer’s needs being met through meeting the student learning outcomes, or should one be given priority over another?  Below are the results of my investigation, offering both sides of the argument from which I draw my conclusions at the end.

Evidence for Teacher-Focused Peer Coaching.

There is evidence to support that peer coaching has a marked effect on professional improvement and classroom implementation. A research study conducted in China looked at the impact of peer coaching on professional development, learning, and application of that learning in instructional design, attempting to investigate the problem that teachers who had knowledge of certain pedagogies were unable to apply them in the classroom. Twenty peers were coached and evaluated through performance rubrics and teaching videos. The results of the study suggest that personalized approaches such as peer coaching increased learning participation which improved in-depth learning.  In addition, participants were more effective in content application than traditional methods, (Ma, Xin, & Du, 2018). This study makes the case for keeping peer coaching focus on the instructors for improved teaching outcomes.

Several studies have concluded peer coaching effectiveness not only teaching modalities but also in personal development. Undergoing the peer coaching process can help teachers become more reflective of their work and therefore better able to identify own professional development needs, (Soisangwarn & Wongwanich, 2014).  Ma, Xin, and Du found similar results in their study, by sharing and offering suggestions to other teachers, the peers became more reflective of their own work, (Ma, Xin, & Du, 2018). By becoming more reflective, they are building emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

Lastly, effective peer coaching can also increase the self-efficacy of teachers. Researchers investigated the effect of peer coaching on instructional knowledge and self-efficacy on student teachers in a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) program. The results of the study indicated an increased self-confidence as the student teachers expressed freedom to ask questions and express their opinions. Undergoing the process of peer coaching also allowed the student teachers to become self-directed learners which built self-efficacy, (Goker, 2006).  The above evidence supports teacher-focused peer coaching because the intent of coaching is to serve as professional development, helping the peer, not the students, improve in both personal and professional skill development.

Evidence for Student-Outcome Focused Peer Coaching.

The evidence for student-outcome focused peer coaching is driven by results. Researchers Joyce and Showers argue that learning how to learn is equally as important as acquiring skills and knowledge for classroom application, (Joyce & Showers, 2002). Interestingly, Joyce and Showers make the case that the teachers should be treated like the students when approaching professional development through peer coaching.  They state that in order for peer coaching to be successful, the pair needs to identify the learning outcomes and select the training component most adequate for successful achieving those outcomes, (Joyce & Showers, 2002). This approach to peer coaching puts the student outcome first by treating the peer as a student and following a similar approach to learning outcomes.

Researchers Scott and Miner explore peer coaching solely for the purpose of improving student outcomes in higher education.  They argue that peer coaching is rarely used in higher ed due to environmental and cultural factors including the fact that professors are mostly autonomous, peer coaching can be time-consuming, and outcomes are not tied to tenure efforts nor other evaluation efforts, (Scott & Miner, 2008). However, when peer coaching focused on improved student outcomes, other evaluation methods, such as course evaluations also improved, (Scott & Miner, 2008). This makes the case for incorporating more peer-coaching and feedback as the predominant feedback mechanism in higher education, i.e. course evaluations, typically lack enough information for true improvement to occur.

Infographic on benefits of teacher vs. student outcome focused peer coaching.
Figure 1.1 Summary of Teacher vs. Student-Outcome Focused Peer Coaching.

Conclusion

The matter of teacher versus student-outcome driven peer coaching is not an easy debate to settle.  Most authors evaluated in this review often provided a two-pronged view of coaching looking at the benefits on both sides. Joyce and Showers concluded their study explaining that when teachers learn how to learn, and consistently use newly acquired skills and strategies well in the classroom, a critical point is reached that impacts students’ development, (Joyce & Showers, 2002).  Becker agrees, peer coaching can accomplish both improved outcomes from the teacher and the student when allowed in the right capacity including organizational implementation, (Becker, 2014). These sentiments are mirrored by several other authors and researchers as well. Pam Robbins, author of “Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning”, explains that there are many uses and purposes for peer coaching from understanding diversity in the classroom, implementing new technologies, or improving learning outcomes. Peer coaching is poised to help teachers face many challenges in the classroom and promotes new opportunities, (Robbins, 2015). Given all of the above evidence, it can be concluded that peer coaching should focus on both teacher and student outcomes. When done well, both teachers and students benefit.

References

Becker, J.M. (2014). Peer coaching for improvement of teaching and learning [pdf]. Available from: http://radforward.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/peer_coach_article.pdf.

Goker, S.D. (2006) Impact of peer coaching on self-efficacy and instructional skills in TEFL teacher education. System. 34: 239-254l

ISTE. (2017) ISTE standards for coaches. Available from: http://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Joyce, B., Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development [pdf]. Available from: https://www.unrwa.org/sites/default/files/joyce_and_showers_coaching_as_cpd.pdf

Ma, N., Xin, S., & Du, J. Y. (2018). A peer coaching-based professional development approach to improving the learning participation and learning design skills of in-service teachers. Educational Technology & Society, 21 (2), 291–304.

Robbins, P. (2015). Chapter 1: Establishing the need for peer coaching. In: Peer Coaching to Enrich Profession Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning [e-book]. Available from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/115014/chapters/Establishing-the-Need-for-Peer-Coaching.aspx

Scott, V., Miner, C. (2008). Peer coaching: Implication for teaching and program improvement [pdf.] Available from:  http://www.kpu.ca/sites/default/files/Teaching%20and%20Learning/TD.1.3_Scott%26Miner_Peer_Coaching.pdf

Soisangwarn, A., Wongwanich, S. (2014). Promoting the reflective teacher through peer coaching to improve teaching skills. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 116: 2504 – 2511. Available from:  https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042814006181/1-s2.0-S1877042814006181-main.pdf?_tid=aa5bc8ae-6473-42f0-a7e3-a561b25b9b8a&acdnat=1541369407_8987477626b3f7a71d8baf9789f13d8f

 

Managing Common Coaching Miscommunication

If the foundation of effective peer coaching is collaboration, good communication is one of its pillars. Mark Ladin, CMO of Tiger Connect, an IT company, shares this mindset by defining communication and collaboration as one and the same.  He argues that both communication and collaboration function on the exchange of information, however without good communication, you can’t have a functioning collaborative relationship that yields productive results, (Ladin, 2015).  Therefore, eliminating miscommunication in partnerships promotes good collaboration, (Lohrey, n.d.).  Collaborative communication offers many benefits including: creating flexible work environments that promote trust and familiarity, enhances decision-making by tackling problems through various angles, and increasing overall satisfaction of the collaboration process, (Lohrey, n.d.)

The ISTE Coaching Standard (1D) calls for coaches to implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms, (ISTE, 2017). A peer can feel comfortable enough to implement suggested strategies, when good communication between the collaboration peers is established. If good communication is central to collaboration, what miscommunication is common during peer coaching and what are some strategies to avoid it? This question does not readily yield concrete results on peer coaching alone, but rather there are several approaches to reasons for miscommunication including: modes of communication, a variety of communication barriers, and types of information given that may lead to miscommunication.

Modes of communication.

While mode of communication may not be the first thing to come to mind when considering miscommunication, the impact communication delivery has on conversation comprehension is compelling. According to Willy Steiner, an executive career coach, the degree of communication effectiveness compared to information efficiency differs when offered via face-to-face, telephone, or email communication, (Steiner, 2014). The author argues that face-to-face communication offers the best information efficiency (i.e. better understood) while email is most effective (i.e. quick). This can be further compounded by factoring in three types of communication: visual, verbal, and non-verbal. Face-to-face communication allows for better understanding in all three communication types, though it is the slowest communication mode.  Email is the quickest mode but tends to promote higher levels of misunderstanding in verbal and visual communication and does not allow for any interpretation of non-verbal communication, (Steiner, 2014).  A research study on adult learners using information communication technology found similar results.  The aim of the study was to determine what type of information communication technology would better support virtual coaching. The results found that email was useful for the exchange of information but lacked the ability to create authentic communication experiences or relationships, and often led to more miscommunication, (Ladyshewky & Pettapiece, n.d.).  Use of telephone technology was more effective than emailing because phone calls offered more verbal cues, while video-conferencing (mimicking face-to-face communication) was just as efficient as face-to-face conversations if technical issues are not present, (Ladyshewky & Pettapiece, n.d.).  As a result, communication comprehension is a major consideration for avoiding miscommunication. When possible, face-to-face or similar communication modes should be used to help build relationships and deliver the most amount of understanding while limiting email to information transfer only.

Communication barriers.

Research shows that face-to-face communication better maximizes understanding and relationship building in collaborative partnership. However, even in face-to-face environments, several barriers may create inadvertent miscommunication events.  According to the Coaching Room Company, there are seven potential barriers that may lead to ineffective coaching, summarized in figure 1.1 below.

Infographic highlighting seven barriers to good communication.
Figure 1.1 Seven Barrier to Good Communication.

Considering that many of these barriers involve understanding and respect of the coaching peer, developing a good collaborative relationship prior to working on the mutual project is essential for avoiding miscommunication.

Information miscommunication.

Peer coaching invites the coach to step into a leadership position in which the goal is to collaborate and facilitate work with a peer toward a mutual goal. Another area of potential miscommunication may stem from how the coach leader presents information to the peer.  Figure 1.2 below lists the various information communication errors that may arise in leadership.

Infographic on common communication mistakes
Figure 1.2 Common Communication Mistakes

It is not only important to consider how communication is performed but also what is being communicated.  Forbes Coaching Council expands on the communication errors provided in Figure 1.2 to focus on information clarity. Miscommunication can occur when the message is non-individualized or personal, (Forbes, 2018). Using the same strategies, communication techniques, and information to various coaching peers can harm the coaching relationship. A common miscommunication is use of vague, generic language or messages leading to lack of clarity in direction. The peer is left feeling like they are missing out on important information or that the information they were provided was not delivered effectively, (Forbes, 2018). To help eliminate the lack of direction, clear expectations that are developed by both parties can help promote the shared vision contributing to better collaboration.  The peer leader should avoid communicating only negative outcomes, instead include the positive outcomes to avoid creating an image that the shared work is not successful, (Forbes, 2018). Lastly, it is crucial that the coach recognize their bias and remember that the process is not about their wants but the needs of the peer being coached.  Business coach Tony Alessandra said it best, “You can choose to connect with others from their perspective, the way they want to be communicated with by modifying your own presentation style; or you can choose to meet only your own needs – facing the consequence misconnecting with others…,” (Alessandra, 2015).

Promoting good communication. Several of the communication barriers addressed above stem from how communication is delivered, what information is delivered, and how each party perceives that information. Good communication is established when both parties feel safe, comfortable, and trust one another in their collaborative environment. Both hold the responsibility of keeping an open-mind into the process and commit to relationship building. Only after good communication occurs between coaching peers can good collaboration exist.

Resources.

Alessandra, T. (2015). Expert advice- How you can prevent miscommunication. Available from:  https://www.fripp.com/expert-advice-how-you-can-prevent-miscommunication/

Forbes Coaching Counsel. (2018). Common communication mistakes to avoid as board directors. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/01/18/common-communication-mistakes-to-avoid-as-a-board-of-directors/#6f86f4332b44

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Ladin, M. (2015). Communication and collaboration: Why they are one in the same? Available from: https://www.tigerconnect.com/blog/communication-collaboration-theyre-one/

Ladyskewshy, R., Pettapiece, R.G. (n.d.). Exploring adult learners usage of information communication technology during a virtual peer coaching experience. Available from: https://espace.curtin.edu.au/bitstream/handle/20.500.11937/32326/227280_153211_Jnl_online_learning_full_paper.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Lohrey, J. (n.d.) Importance of promoting collaborative communication in the healthcare environment. Available from: https://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-promoting-collaborative-communications-health-care-environment-79568.html.

Ramsey, P.G.S. (2008). The twenty biggest communication mistakes school leaders make and how to avoid them. Available from: https://www.corwin.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/25868_081218_Ramsey_ch1.pdf.

Steiner, W. (2014). Avoiding communication breakdowns. Available from: https://executivecoachingconcepts.com/avoiding-communication-breakdowns/

The Coaching Room. (2016). 7 barriers to effective communication killing your relationships. Available from: https://www.thecoachingroom.com.au/blog/7-barriers-to-effective-communication-killing-your-relationships

Length of Peer Coaching Session for Successful Planning and Implementation

Building 21st century skills is the imperative focus for most educational institutions.  Many education articles and blog posts are centered around techniques and concepts that educators can use to develop these skills in their students. Yet what about an educator’s need to build these skills? How can educators learn and gain 21st century skills before teaching and modeling them in the classroom? One proposed method is to provide more professional development to help educators build these skills, but now many researchers argue that traditional presentation-only professional development sessions leave little room for implementation. An early study conducted by Showers and Joyce found that only ten percent of professional development participants implemented what they learned into the classroom. When educators were allowed to practice what they had learned, implementation increased drastically, (Showers & Joyce, 1996).   

What Showers and Joyce were researching was the concept of “peer coaching.” Peer coaching is a professional development strategy in which colleagues spend time in a collaborative environment working towards improving standard-based instruction and support efforts for building 21st century skills, (Foltos, 2013).  Peer coaching may take on many forms but usually includes a collaborative process in which the teacher leader assists in co-planning activities, models strategies and techniques, provides observation of teaching and reflection, while avoiding formal evaluation of the peer, (Foltos, 2013).  Through peer coaching, the collaborating pair begin to build a culture of standards and expectations, increase instructional capacity, support ongoing evaluation, and create a platform for connecting teaching practices to school policies, (NSW Department of Education, 2018).  Student learning benefits when teachers learn, grow, and change through peer coaching, (Showers & Joyce, 1996). 

The ISTE standard for coaches defines a peer coach’s role: as “contribut[ing] to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels,” (ISTE, 2017).  Therefore, understanding peer coaching best practices is important to effective coaching.  Since the coach’s role is to take part in the planning, implementation, and evaluation cycle, I began wondering about effective time spent in coaching sessions with a peer.  This wonderment stems back from my past role as a nutrition counselor. One of the biggest issues that would come up concerned the appropriate length of a counseling session. Medical insurance allowed for billing in fifteen-minute increments though fifteen minutes was hardly enough time for any successful progress to take place. There was distension among professionals about whether 30 minutes or one hour was more effective. My former employer insisted that every session should be a minimum of one hour, which felt appropriate for first, second, and sometimes even third session, yet felt unnecessarily long after about the fourth session.  I often wondered at what point is there too much information given, in comparison to too little, for a coaching session to be effective?  Now as I step into the role of a technology coach, these same questions enter my mind, what is a reasonable timeframe for peer coaches to fulfill their roles (i.e. how long would a coaching cycle take)? 

My questions, as it appears, do not have a straightforward answer. A program called “Incredible Years” offers some guidelines into actual number and timeframes, citing that one-hour coaching sessions should occur after every two or three teaching lessons particularly if the educator is new to the program. More experienced educators may meet less often. Despite these very specific guidelines, the program designers state that the guidelines serve as recommendations at best, (Incredible Years, n.d.).  

Researchers and educational leaders agree that coaching, regardless of its medium, is an individualized process. According to educational leader, Les Foltos, peer coaching needs to be personalized to be effective. One of the hallmarks of a good peer coach is making the process manageable for the coaching partner, (Foltos, 2013). Time spent on improvement will be dependent on other time obligations, such as current workload.  Rather than focusing on a fixed time minimum, Foltos recommends that the time set out for coaching should be based on the peer’s capacity and readiness for improvement, (Foltos, 2013). In fact, peer coaching may never have a clear resolution time but rather it may be a cyclical process. The key to understanding the process length will lie in continual reflection and evaluation of the coaching goal(s), (Foltos, 2013). 

Foltos isn’t the only educational leader to suggest the long-term nature of peer coaching, the NSW Department of Education defines peer coaching as a “long term professional development strategy,“ (NSW Department of Education, 2018). Like Foltos, the NSW suggests a cyclical nature to peer coaching as outlined in figure 1.1 below. 

Infographic describing the four steps to peer coaching facilitation.
Figure 1.1 Peer Coaching Facilitation

The peer coaching cycle is dependent on relationship development and trust building that supports open, honest communication and comfort with risk-taking. Once these relationships have formed, the coaching process can be ongoing because professional development needs and goals change. The length may also be naturally determined as many teachers choose to continue the collaboration process even after the initial goal has been met, (Showers & Joyce, 1996). There is congruence among researchers that length of peer coaching session is less important than the process that is followed.  Initial peer coaching sessions should focus on relationship building in which both parties share goals, agree on the coaching process, and establish agendas with topics to explore.  A good peer coach would help their collaborative partner establish SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals that help them build a personalized timeline for meeting their joint objectives, (NSW, 2018). Once this process has been followed, any sequent sessions should allow for flexibility and reflection, ensuring its ongoing nature, (NSW, 2018). 

Though there are many similarities in nutritional and technology coaching, the timeline needs are vastly different.  In both instances, the relationship development between a coach and their partner is crucial for success.  Open, honest communication and risk taking does not readily occur without a safe and established relationship. However, in technology coaching, the idea is to work with a peer, not a client, to build a collaborative partnership that is long lasting and transcends any initial short-term goal.  

Resources 

Foltos, L., 2013. Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Chapter 1: Coaching roles and responsibilities. Corwin Publishing. Thousand Oaks, CA. 

Incredible Years, (n.d.) IY peer coaching expectations. Available from: file:///C:/Users/Catalina/Downloads/Peer-Coaching-Dosage-8-16%20(1).pdf 

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches  

NSW Department of Education, (2018). Peer Coaching [website]. Available from:  https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/learning-for-the-future/Future-focused-resources/peer-coaching 

Showers, B., Joyce, B., (1996). The evolution of peer coaching. Available from: http://educationalleader.com/subtopicintro/read/ASCD/ASCD_351_1.pdf

A Reflection on Peer Coaching

The overarching definition of ISTE’s Visionary Leadership Coaches Standard is that
“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.” We’ve been working this quarter on the use of Peer Coaching as a methodology for that type of leadership and the coaching project I’ve been working on has brought a number of interesting issues up for me.

Shared Vision

I’ve been working with a group of three teachers who have taken over leadership of our Future Ready Teacher User Group. Approximately 20 teachers (who were part of the past two year’s Tech Cohorts) get together each month to share and learn together about current district tools and new ideas as well as being introduced to new tools. The past two years they’ve worked with me as the instructor and the focus has been on learning about the SAMR model (Puentedura 2006), skill building around available tools and developing a culture of trust and innovative thinking. My goal was to develop Human Capacity in our buildings around technology integration. I need more leaders at the building level who can serve in an unofficial coaching capacity and who can model tech enriched lessons and progressive thinking.

I came across an article called “How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning” (Saphier, West 2010) that suggested that coaches should work with the strongest teachers first to build a “tacit farm team” for future coaches. In future years they could be matched with new teachers to become mentors or collaborative partners and would in turn help strengthen the skills and capacity of a a new group of teachers. The three teachers I’m working with are the heart of my farm team and it puts me in the role of having to step back and allow them to develop their own vision for the group.

The experience reinforced the idea for me that it is important that we share a vision, either as a district or a group and also have a plan for reaching that vision. As suggested in Foltos’ (2013) book Peer Coaching, we developed a written Peer Coaching plan to define our roles and set our goals for our group. The difficult part has been that we don’t yet have a clear vision for technology use as a district so some of the things we would have liked to do as part of our professional development for this group wouldn’t have been supported. The vision we were able to work toward was that we wanted more sharing, more collaboration and continued relevance to the daily use of technology in classrooms. I think we are beginning to do that.

Integration of Technology to Promote Transformational Change

This has been a more challenging aspect of working with this group. My instructors are models for their fellow teachers but they are not in an acknowledged coaching role with them. A lot of what they are doing is facilitating and coaching by example. The instructors and I have talked a lot about using the SAMR model to help move teachers move from using technology as simply a substitution for traditional pen and paper activities toward redefining teaching and learning with technology as a tool to make that possible. Even after three years with the first group we are still talking about it and very few teachers have tried anything terribly transformational with technology. It does take time but it feels like there are pieces missing that will move us forward with technology integration. In the same article referenced above (Saphier, West 2010) the authors define coaching in schools as a “strategic, systematic approach to improving student learning”. They go further to list these purposes and practices, which are meant for content areas, but I think have some interesting tie ins to our Users Group.

  • Coaches and teachers engage in public teaching in front of one another, with the expectation and practice of giving and receiving rigorous feedback aimed at student learning.
    • My instructors have been demonstrating new skills and leading discussions but what if they also taught a model lesson and/or we used some of release time funds they have access to get subs for people in the group to come in and watch them teach? Could I leverage them as model teachers as well as for the ability to facilitate the users group?
  • Staff members regularly consult and ask each other for help.
    • The instructors wanted to shift more of our meeting time to sharing and collaborating so each meeting has time dedicated to both. We are seeing more open sharing of ideas but I’d really like to see if we can leverage social media to allow people to share even outside the meetings and develop more of a collaborative online community.
  • Staff meet in regular groups to discuss how to improve instruction of specific concepts and skills related to student learning.
    • It’s not always easy to do this with technology because in many cases, it’s meant as a tool to support learning in other content areas, not as a stand alone topic. However, we could spend more time focusing on technology practices that we could measure things like engagement. Liz Kolb’s Triple E Framework might be a good tool to introduce to my instructors to see if we can use it to reframe some of our discussions with the larger group on how technology can be integrated and support their content areas.
  • Questions related to practice permeate adult discourse, and they are authentic questions centering on the most tenacious and ubiquitous issues of teaching and learning.
    • When I read this it dawned on me that we don’t ask enough questions in our User Group meetings. I ask questions of my coaches to help guide them to thinking about good practices for running the meetings and choosing topics but we aren’t translating that to discourse we could be having with the larger group about how technology is impacting their students, how they can measure the effectiveness of their tech integrated lessons or on how they can improve them. It might be time to bring that up with my instructors.

Coaching teachers is challenging but coaching coaches has made me have to stop and think about the approaches I take, the questions I ask and the other things I do to coach others and try to articulate those for my coaches. I have a ways to go but becoming more conscious of the skills I’m using successfully and the ones I need to work on will help me be able to help them as well.

 

References

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

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E FrameworkTriple E Framework. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

SAMR. (2017). Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Saphier, J., & West, L. (2010). How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning. Phi Delta Kappan91(4), 46-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/003172171009100410

Adding Technology Capacity to Buildings Through Coaching

coaching terms wordle

Our district is considering adopting an Instructional Coaching Model in our elementary buildings next year to support our ELA adoption. I love the idea of having more support for teachers in the buildings in any capacity. These new coaches won’t specifically be in buildings to support technology but if we can mesh some training around ways technology can support reading, writing and language we can develop capacity in teachers and coaches to use those tools in other ways or for other purposes.

We can already leverage the technology capacity we’ve nurtured the last few years with our Future Ready Teacher cohort. There have been three groups of teachers who have spent a year of ongoing, hands on technology integration training and who have stepped up to become tech leaders in their buildings. Some of the new coaches may come from this pool of teachers and bring with them the expertise and skills they’ve acquired. In other buildings, we’ve developed the capacity for technology leadership that can help support new coaches if we consciously provide opportunities for them to work together.

The ISTE Standards for Coaches help lay out some of the essential areas of focus for Tech coaches. Coaches can be both just in time support and training resources for teachers but can also serve as a communication channel between teachers and administration and can help promote a bigger picture view of technology usage in the classroom. Many districts have successfully provided access and devices to staff and students but still struggle with getting the usage to move beyond substitution level. Coaches can bring perspective, experience and skills that busy teachers haven’t had time to acquire. They can be leaders in their buildings and help communicate a vision of a new way of thinking about instruction that is supported by technology.

It’s not easy to find amazing teachers who are strong in both their content areas and technology. I suspect we’ll find the strong content providers in our district and we’ll have to train them up to be strong tech leaders as well. The article,  How Districts Can Adopt a Tech Coaching Model (Kipp 2017) suggests that having a clear job description that spells out the expectations around technology and a systematic, ongoing training cycle can best support new coaches.

Most coaching models center around training and support for coaches as well as clear expectations for the coaching role. In Peer Coaching, Foltos (2013) suggests a written coaching plan that can help both teacher and coach stay focused on the learning targets and have clear norms and purposes for the coaching relationship. The Edutopia article, Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration (2015) highlights a high school that created a successful model using a BDA (Before, During, After) cycle. It’s easy to remember and clearly defines the working relationship around a lesson. The article does point out that successful coaching models depend on a flexible schedule for coaches so that they can move were they are needed and also have time for the informal conversations that help build solid relationships with teachers.

I like the idea of combining mentors and coaches in this model Mary Beth Hertz shares in Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration (Hertz 2011) to leverage expertise in the building and add to the tech coaches ability to meet people’s needs. If every teacher who received a cart of mobile devices also received a mentor who had used a cart in their classroom for a few years, I wonder how much faster we could be moving toward more creative uses of technology in our classrooms?

For myself, I want to see more technology coaches in action. Local conferences and users groups provide some opportunity for learning and sharing with other coaches. However, it would be interesting to set up chances to visit other districts or do a coach exchange for a day and swap places with someone to learn more about their system and they can learn about ours. More opportunities to work on coordinated projects, like EdCamps, with other districts would also benefit our teachers and new coaches by providing access to new ideas and new resources.

References

Bentley, K. (2017). How School Districts Can Adopt the Technology Coach ModelCenterdigitaled.com. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from http://www.centerdigitaled.com/blog/technology-coaches.html

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

Hertz, M. (2011). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech IntegrationEdutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz

Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration. (2015). Edutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/instructional-coaching-driving-meaningful-tech-integration

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

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

Is SAMR Enough? Module 4: Teacher Practice and Technology Integration

Introduction to Module 4

For my post this week in Module 4 of my fall class, in Educational Technology Leadership I decided to focus on the SAMR model for technology integration. My district uses SAMR as a way to gauge technology integration but I wanted to know if there was a way to use that model as I work with teachers so that it doesn’t feel like an extra layer to them. It seemed to fit in this module since my professor asked us to think about what skills, resources and processes will you use to help peers co-plan learning activities they want to improve? Again since our district is already committed to using SAMR I thought I could use my question to aid teachers in the district plan for technology integration. Basically I wanted to know how can the SAMR scale be used to help improve learning activities in a way that is manageable and beneficial for a classroom teacher? My goal in this investigation is to try to not add anything else to a teacher’s plate.

In my investigation I came across some other technology integration protocols that might be useful to a teacher or a technology coach, especially if a district didn’t have a protocol they were committed to using or if it wasn’t clearly implemented or understood. With the help of my professors I found the Triple E as well as TPACK. In my own searching I also came across a protocol called the Trudacot. In addition to SAMR I will spend some time reflecting on the Trudacot and using it to answer my question for the module. I didn’t feel that I had time in this post to get into Triple E or TPACK during this post.

Connection to ISTE Coaching Standards

This module seems to have an extremely clear connection to two of the ISTE Coaching standards we are focusing on throughout the quarter. First ISTE-C 1d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms. The second standard supported by this module is ISTE-C 2f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences. The reason why I think the connection is so clear in this module is that in using the technology integration protocols I have seen seems to guide teachers back to focusing on what is really good teaching. As coaches if we continue to remind teachers that the focus is on good teaching, I think that some of the concerns and discomfort with technology might actually be erased. Furthermore, as we continue to advocate for good teaching through using a reflective process like Trudacot or SAMR I think that collaborative higher-level thinking among teachers and coaches will continue to shape innovation and fuel the change process. I’m excited that my district has decided to use the SAMR model as a way to gauge technology integration and I hope that through this post I can figure out some ways to guide teachers as we think through the process together.

Three Resources to Consider: The SAMR Model, Trudacot and Peer Coaching

SAMR

There is a lot of information on the SAMR model available on the web. There are some very well known blogs that have taken up the SAMR model as a topic for their posts including Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. She has even linked other SAMR resources from all across the spectrum of use to her page. So, there is abundant information available. Still I’m not sure that teachers fully understand the model (or that I do) and from what I’ve read during this module this is a common problem. One great thing about SAMR is its simplicity in comparison to some of the other protocols, it’s only four sections. However, maybe for that reason there seem to be some misunderstandings.

The SAMR Model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura
Image created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.
http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

As I look at SAMR as a part of my job, talking through it with other coaches and using the protocol my district has developed to measure technology integration I realized that don’t know if teachers are taking advantage of the SAMR protocol to leverage technology and improve student learning. As a coach I wonder how I can aid that change and what support I can offer to teachers in that process?

Even though it is short, I think SAMR can seem a bit complicated and foreign to teachers especially those who might be unfamiliar with the model in the first place. I think as a coach it is important to emphasize that often it is appropriate for teachers to stay in one area of the continuum, to ebb and flow depending on many factors, or to move up slowly during the course of a unit. Many of the resources I’ve read this module emphasize again that there are many great lessons that don’t have to incorporate technology (Swanson, 2014). In other words, focus on good instruction, not technology.

One great addition to the SAMR that I think would be very helpful to teachers is Kathy Schrock’s graphic and blog post that connects Bloom’s to SAMR. Teachers across the spectrum are more familiar with Bloom’s than SAMR so to me it makes sense to connect the two to help teachers see how as you move up the SAMR ladder the cognitive load increases, (Schrock, 2013). The language of Bloom’s is familiar to teachers. They feel confident working to improve a lesson to move students from knowledge toward evaluation, however going from substitution toward redefinition might feel foreign. As a coach I think I can help to bridge that gap by using the work Schrock has done by using Bloom’s to explain SAMR. Finally, in discussing higher level thinking it is possible that the discussion may lead to the integration of technology into a lesson or unit thereby moving the lesson or unit up the SAMR scale.  

 Digital Bloom’s Video

Trudacot

The next model I wanted to discuss is called Trudacot. Trudacot is a discussion protocol designed to facilitate deeper learning. Trudacot is short for Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template. In his post introducing Trudacot Scott McLeod argues “while SAMR is useful as a concept, its use of four levels often puts teachers on the defensive because they feel labeled and judged when placed into a lower level” (McLeod, 2017). I think he is right because I got the feeling that teachers might have felt judged during our latest technology walk through. Some even asked about the effectiveness of the snapshot view that we got of classroom practice. Their feelings are valid, even though we have said it is not evaluative, it’s hard to feel that way when 2 adults enter your classroom and take notes as you teach or as your students work. One thing they may not know is that in our walkthroughs we are categorizing technology use on the SAMR scale we are collecting a longitudinal study of integration since it has been done in the district over a two year period.

Regardless, this reaction by teachers is what got me thinking about how we could support integration without overwhelming teachers. I think the key lies in a coach thoroughly understanding the protocols and questioning techniques needed to help teachers move to purposeful integration of technology because of high quality teaching and reflection throughout that process.

The Trudacot discussion protocol seems to aim to get teachers to consider instruction instead of focusing on the technology through a series of questions that are answered by the teacher. I would think that these questions could be easily used by a coach to help stimulate the lesson design process, but there are a lot of questions. In order to not overwhelm a teacher it would be necessary to either unpack the process together slowly or a coach could internalize the process and call upon it in a discussion with a teacher drawing from the questions and categories in Trudacot.

Peer Coaching

Les Foltos, in his book Peer Coaching (2013) is continually saying it doesn’t make sense to overwhelm teachers by giving them a number of different areas of focus to consider. That is making more sense to me as I learn more about these protocols. Part of the coaches job seems to be eliminating those choices through careful consideration and asking questions of the teacher to draw out what they would like to focus on. “Too often, teachers plan their lessons around technology instead of putting learning first, (Foltos, p. 136, 2013). As a coach, at times I feel I’m dealing with two extremes of the spectrum. There are teachers who are fully focused on technology, while others seem that they couldn’t care less about integrating it into their classroom instruction. Whether that comes from learned helplessness or just the overwhelming amount of work teachers are expected to do I’m not sure. As an instructional technology coach I think looking through the lens of instruction and higher level thinking is helpful. I wish I could help teachers to understand that the work we can do together should lead to higher quality instruction and deeper learning even if my title is instructional technology coach, it’s still all about the learning.

“The coach’s job is to bring the conversation back to pedagogy and learning objectives before talking about technology. It is at this point in the process when meaningful conversations about integrating technology occur, (Foltos, p. 151,  2013). Clearly coaches, teachers and students benefit when there is a clear understanding of a technology integration model or protocol but that isn’t the ultimate goal. As a coach if I can clearly understand the tool used by my district and even other protocols, I believe I can use that knowledge to help teachers improve instruction while at the same time integrating technology in more meaningful ways. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the teaching!

Resources

Common Sense Education. (2016, July 12). What is Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqgTBwElPzU&feature=youtu.be

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483300252

Going Deeper with Learning Technology Integration — A 9-Question Protocol. (2017, October 5). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://frontandcentral.com/moving-to-digital/going-deeper-learning-technology-integration-using-9-question-protocol/

SAMR. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Swanson, P. (2014, December, 16). Rethinking SAMR – Teacher Paul. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from http://www.teacherpaul.org/2889

Trudacot. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/resources/trudacot

Turning SAMR into TECH: What models are good for. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://www.litandtech.com/2013/11/turning-samr-into-tech-what-models-are.html

Evaluating Tech Integration

Part of the ISTE coaching standard 1:Visionary Leadership states that coaches need to “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. “ There are a few parts of that statement that stuck out to me this week. First, in order to implement a shared vision we need to share the same language and vocabulary. Tech integration models can serve as a common way to talk to staff about the purpose and uses of technology in their classrooms. It can be valuable for an organization to have a common model, not only to assist in implementing technology but using one that is widely used by professionals in other districts can open up opportunities for local and global PLNs and access to resources that have been vetted by others.  

The other part that stuck out to me was the idea of “supporting transformational change”. I know what the vision in my head is but it’s not always easy to guide teachers who are new to integrating technology through the process that I’ve spent years learning and experimenting with. It would be easier if we had a tool that 1) was related to our tech model, 2) would make it easier for teachers and coaches to work with and that 3)  would be, in part, a self guided way of analyzing a lesson or project to determine the presence and transformative power of technology but also it’s appropriateness and impact on students.

My district has been using the SAMR model for the last few years because it was widely used and seemed fairly easy for teachers to access. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “What is Redefinition?”, I don’t find the model as useful as I used to.  It’s possible that it’s a good starter model for teachers who are just being introduced to technology integration but as a global model I’ve seen as many definitions of what constitutes modification and redefinition as I’ve seen presenters give examples to teachers. Honestly, I don’t know that we’ll ever really be able to redefine teaching with technology until we redefine teaching. If you start with a teacher who is unwilling to think differently about their instruction the best you’ll get is substitution and augmentation. Add it to a willing teacher’s classroom and you’ll often get modification but the only teachers I’ve seen truly start to redefine their teaching and learning using technology are the ones who are willing to rethink “normal” and “traditional” and take the risk to change instructional practices and use technology to support that change.

In Peer Coaching, Les Foltos states (Foltos, 2013) that improving learning requires two things:

  1. Helping prospective Peer Coaches develop insight into the characteristics of learning that will prepare students with 21st century skills.
  2. Using these insights and research from the learning sciences to come to agreement on a norm for effective 21st century learning.

I’m a big picture person. If my vision is to start moving those willing teachers towards rethinking instructional practice, I need a model that includes thinking about instructional practice as well as technology and 21st century skills and, I need a formative assessment tool to help teachers, coaches and principals reflect on the learning tasks they are asking students to do and also decide how technology can help that task be transformative.

Here are some possibilities:

The Lesson Improvement Process

Foltos’ chapter on the Lesson Improvement Process includes the following areas of emphasis:

  1. Create a Task – Relevant, real-world tasks that hook the learner and stimulate interest and an essential question(s). The use of the Learning Activity Checklist can help teachers look at levels of engagement, problem based tasks.
  2. Define Standards – A lesson’s purpose should be aimed at teaching to standards but it’s important to keep the focus on a small number of standards, including the technology based ones.
  3. Learning Context – helping teachers understand the depth of learning needed to master the standard and how to scaffold the learning in order to achieve that depth of learning, including assessing the learning and understanding of the students.
  4. Student Directions – “a road map (for the student) to solve the task their teacher outlined”. Choice, engagement and clarity are important to this process.
  5. Reflection & Feedback – using collaborative communication to pre-assess whether the lesson has the potential to meet the purpose of the learning
  6. Assessment – both summative and formative assessments to track learning and provide ongoing feedback for both the teacher and the student.
  7. Resources & Information – The tools and sources of information that will be used in the lesson. This is one of the areas technology can be integrated.

I like this approach for helping teachers rethink a learning target. It puts the standards and the intended learning first before considering the technology tool. It does include a template for developing a lesson, although the intention is more for the teacher and the coach to work together on the lesson design. This does give the coach the opportunity to guide the discussion by asking questions or prodding thinking in the four areas of standards, engagement, problem based and technology. This is a good model for lesson planning and a coach using it as a tool would be able to help teachers integrate more technology into their lesson.

TRUDACOT (Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template)

TRUDACOT is another tool that is meant to be a discussion protocol between teachers or with coaches to rethink lesson design that includes the integration of technology. I like the potential of this tool to give teachers entry points into redesigning a lesson. Version 2 gives teachers and coaches a way to formatively assess a lesson, either before it’s taught or as part of an observation and then use the questions to pick one or two areas to redesign. Not all of the sections are centered around technology so it does get at some of the rethinking of instructional strategies that I want to get at as well as the technology pieces. The downside is that it is fairly long, 9 sections with 3-4 questions. It would be easy for a teacher to feel overwhelmed at first if there were a lot of “nos” so it would be important to focus small and pick one area at first to make changes in and work on improvement over time. I think I’d start by having teachers use it as a way to evaluate and improve sample lessons from videos or other sources until they see how it could be used effectively.

Triple E framework

Kolb’s Triple E Framework is an interesting way to look at technology and provides both a model and a tool for reviewing a lesson and considering how technology is used as a tool. It doesn’t focus as strongly overall on lesson design or standards but as a tool to review how technology is used to support instruction it’s simple and easily understood. Level 1 is about Engaged Learning. She’s especially interested in not only how students engage with the technology but how they engage with each other to co-create learning.  She still gets at the issue of “redesigning” instructional practice in Level 2: Enhanced Learning although she uses the term “value added” and defines it as “when the tool is somehow aiding, assisting, or scaffolding learning in a way that could not easily be done with traditional methods.” In Level 3: Extended Learning the focus is on audience. I’ve always felt that truly redefined learning has to somehow include a wider audience than just the teacher so this resonates with me. I’m going to introduce this model to a group of teachers I work with and see what they think.  We’ll try using the rubrics she’s developed for lessons and for apps to practice looking at sample lessons through this lens. I’m interested to hear what my teachers think.

TPACK

I do like the TPACK model because it brings together technology, pedagogical practice and the content area being taught. It is the trifecta. My frustration with it is that it’s fairly complicated for teachers who are just getting started. There has been a lot of research done on using the TPACK model to evaluate technology integrated lessons and there are rubrics available that could be used with teachers but there would be a longer learning curve with this model than with some of the others. I want to do some more work with it involving some more experienced teachers to see how they might use it.

I haven’t truly found one model and tool that gets at everything I’m looking for but it may be possible to use multiples ones. In the long run, they are all asking for the same things. How can we effectively use technology as a tool to help create relevant, real world learning for students that can’t be done in any other way?

References

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Koehler, M. (2017). TPACK.ORG. Tpack.org. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://tpack.org/

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Triple E Framework. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. trudacot v2 annotated. Google Docs. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/147Pqvr32qwnPXUBmUM1r8p10unZ-pID_cgLjkGwwAus/edit

21st Century Skills to Connect Teachers and Coaches: Module 3

Module 3 of EDTC 6105 and my definition of the problem

For this week my program is focusing on 21st century learning. The topic alone brings a lot of questions forward, what is 21st century learning? Does it matter to teachers and students? How do you measure 21st century learning? My search for resources didn’t really narrow down my options much. Since we are focusing on peer coaching and thinking about how we define 21st century learning and how to use that definition in our coaching, I started to wonder, do teachers and coaches define 21st century learning in the same way? I think that often we do, but for a large portion of teachers maybe it isn’t even considered because of all the other worries and concerns that come with teaching in a classroom with nearly 30 unique individuals from different backgrounds and environments in the same room. Teachers are busy, they have a lot on their plates as I’ve said before on this blog, so I think 21st century learning might not be on the forefront for many teachers. I wonder how coaching can help teachers to move toward sharing the same definition technology coaches have of 21st century learning, and integrating that learning into their practice.

In framing my question it is important to note that teachers and coaches are in vastly different circumstances at least based on my limited experience as a coach. The pressure I feel as a coach is different than the constant pressure I felt as a teacher to bring my students to standard in a subject that they didn’t necessarily like or in an area of need that supported my growth goal. I want to share that struggle with teachers and offer support that will help them achieve those goals. However, coming from the realm of the classroom teacher and having been a teacher in a dual language classroom for the last 8 years gives me insight into what teachers experience. Based on my reading I have tried to think critically about some ways that teachers and coaches can work together to see growth in students while at the same time improving teaching practices in classrooms.

The Coaches Role

As a coach I feel like part of my job is knowing the latest research and knowing and being able to visualize ways that teachers can subtly change their practice in order to improve student learning. Many teachers do this same research and learning while teaching full time, but I have to acknowledge that in moving into a coaching role part of my responsibilities include knowing the current best practices in teaching pedagogy and specifically technology integration. It doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than teachers, but it is still worth stating that part of my role includes researching how to help teachers move toward incorporating 21st century learning into their classrooms. As a coach, I have additional resources and time available that teachers do not always have. I can use that time to research how to support growth in teaching practices and instruction.

One other benefit from a coaches role is the exposure I have to different classrooms. As a classroom teacher I maybe got to see 2 or 3 different classrooms a year max, instead I had to learn what teachers were doing from reading, or listening to them describe their practice. Recently in my coaching role I was able to tour every classroom in 8 different elementary schools. That exposed me (although briefly) to a couple hundred teachers and their approach to teaching literacy, math or another subject and showed how they were integrating technology. That is many times the exposure I would have gotten to different classroom as a teacher and I’m not even considering the classrooms I have visited at other times this year as a co-teacher.

Not surprisingly because I’m an instructional technology coach, I think that technology might play a prominent role in allowing for better differentiation in the classroom and might lead us to improving our teaching in a way that lifts students to a higher level of achievement, including mastering 21st century skills. Foltos, (2013) makes the role of a coach clear when he writes that a “coaches job is to encourage innovation.” He goes on to add that, “without this kind of outside stimulus, drawing on prior learning may only succeed in supporting the status quo,” (Foltos, 2013). As a coach, I’m available to be the outside stimulus that can aid in integrating 21st century learning into the classroom.

Challenges for Teachers

It might sound easy so far, just organize a meeting with a coach and voilà, 21st century skills will arrive. I must acknowledge that integrating 21st century skills into your teaching will not be a quick and effortless process, change is usually difficult and often slow. As I reflected, I drafted a quick list of things that might qualify as constraints to a classroom teacher:

  • Lack of time
    • No formal collaboration time – or fragmented focus during that time
  • Curriculum
  • Evaluation
  • Standards
  • District or school policies
  • Lack of training

This is just a quick list I came up with while outlining this post, it isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but I’d love to hear of you have other constraints that might keep you from integrating 21st century skills into your teaching. Or, on the other hand, if any of the things listed actually drive you to integrate 21st century skills into your teaching.

What to Try

I think a great place to start is to “define the skills and competencies your students will need,” as Foltos, 2013, shares in Peer Coaching. Then match those competencies with school goals, and pick one skill to work on. Slowly add to those skills to change your practice. This is the work that coaches and teachers can do together to lead to more 21st century skills being taught in all classrooms. Another good resource is the 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them from the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation. The author defines these skills as:

  1. Adaptability
  2. A desire to learn
  3. Confidence
  4. A knack for teamwork
  5. An empowering nature
  6. A global mindset

If you consult other sources you might see different skills. From what I have read there doesn’t seem to be consensus about what skills are definitely 21st century skills. P21.org seemed to focus much attention on critical thinking and how to teach it. Notably, incorporating PBL into undergraduate education courses led to more effective critical thinking skills as noted by Ventura, Lai & DiCerbo (2017). It also seems to be different if you are talking about teachers skills or students skills. I think both are important because to teach skills to our students, we need to possess those skills. Many of the skills listed above are facilitated through technology. Similarly, there is the graphic of 9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers from educatorstechnology.com 

9-fundamental-d_19217909_509343d7c3bf1adffcfc2e825791322c41d30799

I believe that in partnership with instructional technology coaches if they are available, or with the right mindset when using technology student learning will increase.

I would encourage teachers who are able to pick a skill they want to learn and email or call a coach to begin working on learning that new skill. Have a learning goal in mind, a project or a lesson where you integrate that skill or tool into your teaching. Try to think beyond that even to see how students could use the same tool to produce something that demonstrates their learning. Then continue to use those skills in a number of lessons or a unit. Another idea for how to work with a coach would be to offer personalized learning to students. Develop fluency in tools that lend themselves to this personalization. Finally, ask questions. Ask your coaches, ask your students maybe even ask of yourself. How can the work be improved, extended, modified to reach more students? That is how we empower students to be 21st century learners and it’s one of the ways we demonstrate that learning to our students. Here is a quote from The Global Digital Citizen Foundation that just might sum up how difficult and necessary it is to work to define 21st century learning and to incorporate it into our teaching. A final quote comes from 4 Common Misconceptions about Teachers We Must Rethink.

When writing lesson plans, you need to connect to curriculum, design essential questions, and create challenging projects. Students need something to strive for that will develop skills for living successful and happy lives. This isn’t a lesson that comes from any textbook, either; it has to come from the mind and heart of a passionate teacher.

Doing those difficult things will certainly lead to increased development of 21st century skills in teachers and students.

Resources

4 Common Misconceptions About Teachers We Must Rethink. (2017, September 10). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/4-misconceptions-about-teachers?utm_content=60114297&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers. (2016, December 30). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/12/9-fundamental-digital-skills-for-21st.html

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

Ventura, M., Lai, E., & DiCerbo, K. (2017). Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking. Pearson. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/Skills_For_Today_Series-Pearson/White_Paper_-_P21_-_Skills_for_Today-What_We_Know_about_Teaching_and_Assessing_Critical_Thinking_v4_1.pdf

Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2017, February 24). 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/six-essential-modern-teacher-skills-need