The focus of the current chapter in my adventures in Digital Education Leadership is on peer coaching. In the near future I will have a tremendous opportunity to implement effective coaching techniques to support a teacher in my building on using effective technology integration in the classroom. But first I must address the question: What is essential for effective coaching? I truly want to make the best use of the time and energy I spend on coaching/mentoring staff in my building. Time and energy already run scarce for teachers and I don’t want to give anyone extra work or another new tool to learn, but rather to support what they are already doing. Therefore, I am compelled to modify the previous question to: How can I ensure that my coaching model aligns with my school’s improvement plan?
Teachers are overwhelmed with day-to-day student interactions, new curriculum adoptions, addressing the standards, communicating parents, managing paperwork, and living up to the ever-prominent teacher evaluation systems. A major element of the evaluation is addressing the improvement goals of the building. Every school has a plan to advance student learning and these plans can come in many forms, depending on test scores, demographics, and special needs of the student population. If can design my coaching model to align with professional goals that teachers already have in place, it will create trust between coach and teacher, inspire more buy-in from the teacher, and maximize the benefits for all parties involved–most important of which is the students. This perspective is further explained by Les Foltos, who suggests that the most important quality in a coach is to be supportive. They have the drive to improve and change, but when teachers are so bogged down with their various responsibilities, what they need is “a colleague who provides a safety net, the kind of support that encourages innovation. Instead of playing the role of expert too often, successful coaches call on strategies that ensure that their peers develop the capacity to improve their practice” (2014).
In a coaching or mentoring role, I often feel the pressure of having to have all of the answers, suggestions and ideas ready to be delivered on a silver platter, to be an expert. Throughout my deeper exploration of coaching roles, I have come across an interesting shift in the focus of the role instructional technology coaches. The very impressive Krista Moroder wisely proclaimed, “Let’s stop talking about teaching w/ technology, and let’s start talking about teaching” (2012). She emphasizes the need for coaches to listen first. Listen to and observe best practices teachers are already using and find ways to enhance them with technology. She does an excellent job of calling out a set of specific tasks that teachers already do, and have always done, and then providing how the technology supports those tasks:
- Cloud computing is nothing more than finding a more efficient way to collaborate with students and staff.
- Content management systems are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to communicate with students and parents.
- Personal learning networks are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to find and share resources.
- Behavior management software is nothing more than finding a more efficient way to give formative feedback of soft skills and track student behavior.
- Flipped classrooms are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to deliver direct content.
- Electronic portfolios and digital quizzes are nothing more than finding a more efficient way to assess student knowledge.
To truly meet the needs of teachers wanting to integrate more technology to support their instruction and pedagogy, a coach’s role must be supportive, not controlling, and focus on the teaching, not the technology.
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin.
Foltos, L. (2014). The secret to great coaching. JSD, 35(3), 28-31. Retrieved from: https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/JSD-June-2014/the-secret-to-great-coaching.pdf
Hertz, M. B. (2011, November 14). Mentoring and coaching for effective tech integration. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz
Moroder, K. (2012, November 17). Let’s stop talking about teaching with technology, and start talking about teaching. Retrieved from: http://www.edtechcoaching.org/2012/11/lets-stop-talking-about-teaching-with.html
Versel, N. (Photograph). (2016). Med City News. Retrieved from: https://www.braceworks.ca/2016/02/10/health-tech/well-designed-technology-can-help-vulnerable-populations/