Sustaining innovation in computer science education

In my Digital Education Leadership program, we are working with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for educational coaches.  The coaching standard includes the requirement of designing relevant and effective lesson plans.  This past quarter, we have worked on revising and improving a lesson plan with a peer faculty member.  I have learned some important lessons during this process.  The challenge for me moving forward is to sustain the innovation process with my fellow faculty.

Experienced Peer Coaches understand that a coach’s professional learning needs to mirror what we know about effective professional development; it needs to be sustained, intensive, and connected to practice.  (Foltos, 2013)

The most important aspect of my lesson planning process is the collaboration with my fellow faculty member.  I had some pre-conceived notions about which revisions or improvements are important and necessary.  In working with my other faculty, we realized that we had overlap on what things we thought were important and necessary, but there were things that one or the other did not feel was worth pursuing.  Without this collaboration, we would not have focused on the work that is relevant to the lesson plan and not come up with any shared goals.

Collaboration is ... communicating about your shared goals“Print” by chrizinger is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The key to making this collaboration successful was the communicating openly and honestly about our goals.  Both my peer and I have taught this course in the past, and both of us saw several opportunities for improvements in our classrooms.  We talked about what went well and what we wanted to keep from our past instruction.  We also talked about sharing a goal of presenting student work outside of the classroom.  There is a Washington Computer Science Fair that is upcoming in December that we both planned on attending.  This would be a great opportunity for students in our class to demonstrate what they have learned.

It sounds rather obvious to state that good communication skills are required for a successful collaboration.  However, the devil is in the details when it comes to establishing strong communication paths.  My first attempt at this project had me working with fellow adjunct faculty.  I learned that communicating with some of these faculty had some pretty big challenges.  Some communication can be done over email or even in a web chat setting.  In initial meetings, however, I have been much more successful with face-to-face meetings.

This is where the challenges started for me.  Just finding an available time for the group to meet was difficult.  While we do have a calendaring application provided by my institution, not all of the participants publish their calendar on the application.  This means I could not see people’s free/busy time without exchanging email and negotiating a day/time to meet.  This is a tedious exercise all the way around.

Next, for a physical meeting, I had to reserve a conference room.  My previous employer used the same calendar tool for viewing other people’s free/busy time for viewing conference room availability.  This made setting up a meeting straight-forward.  However, my current institution does not have the conference rooms integrated into the calendar system.

Fortunately, an administrator at my school mentioned that I could schedule conference rooms using the 25Live tool.  My institution has their own landing page on this site that let’s me see room availability – greatly simplifying the task of scheduling a conference room for an event with the correct capacity.

25Live Landing page

The other valuable lesson I took away from my coaching exercise is the importance of being patient and using an iterative approach.  At times, I wanted to move things along much faster than my peer.  This put a lot of pressure on the other person.  Fortunately, with a good communication channel, the person felt comfortable telling me that they felt we were moving to fast.

My peer also mentioned that we would be teaching this class again in the spring quarter.  We agreed that a better approach would be to reflect on small changes we make on the first round, observe how the changes improve the learning experience, and then make additional adjustments for the next quarter.

Any reflective conversation between a Peer Coach and collaborating teacher needs to be focused on evidence about teaching and learning.  (Foltos, 2013)

Overall, the coaching experience this quarter has provided me with several tools that I can use to collaborate with my peer faculty.  I will introduce – and even demo – these tools during our department meetings and in the faculty learning community meetings.  I will continue to develop my communication/collaboration skills as well as recognize situations where patience and iteration will better serve the goal of sustaining innovation in instruction. I look forward to hearing the response and recommendations from my peers!

References

  • Bransford, J., Brown, A., Cocking, R. (2000) How people learn: brain, mind, experience and school. The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Retrieved on 11/2/2019 from https://www.nap.edu/read/9853/
  • Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. Chapters 9 & 10. 
  • ISTE | ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

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