This past quarter of the DEL program has been both challenging and eye-opening. A lot of my former ideas about working in a coaching role have been challenged and some have been validated. Most formal, professional coaching is carried out by qualified people who work with clients to improve their effectiveness and performance, and help them achieve their full potential (Manktelow, et al). The “clients” may be a group of high school athletes or peers in the workplace. My coaching experience in sports has provided an interesting contrast with coaching in my teaching profession. While coaching peers at work is just as important as coaching in sport, they require a different approach. Sports coaches mentor their athletes, using technical skills, experience, and a “telling” style of direction. By contrast, questioning and reflection are often more important in workplace coaching. I went into this role as an educational technology leader thinking I needed to be the expert and have all of the answers, which is what is required of me as a soccer coach. What I’ve learned is that a peer coach needs to be a good listener, ask the right questions, and support the good work that is already being done. We need to assist our coachees in arriving at the solution themselves, allowing them to take ownership and initiative for their own learning. The great commonality between my two coaching positions, and perhaps the most important element, however, is building trust. Athletes and workplace professionals alike need to feel a sense of trust and respect in order to grow and reach their full potential.
The roles I played in coaching my partner were very supportive and collaborative in nature. I mainly helped my colleague by providing just-in-time training and resources and coplanning learning activities. (Foltos, 2013) I have been peer coaching my recently hired school librarian in developing a book trailer & review project for grades 5-6 that incorporates 21st century skills. We have used and will use a variety of tech integration tools to enhance the lesson plan already in place, but my main goal has been to support the project by establishing an authentic audience for the presentation of student work. Here are some examples of how I demonstrated the above coaching roles:
- Examples of other book reviews are shared with students via YouTube videos and an assortment of former student files saved on a hard drive. Teacher librarian presented examples in a teacher-led, whole group session. I suggested using a tool to compile all of these examples into one place and provide students with access so they could refer back to them later. My collaborating partner and I had an after school session to learn about Symbaloo, and I supported her in created the following resource for her students: http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/bestbooks
- In addition to the district catalog, our librarian uses Follett Destiny Quest to assist students in the upper elementary grades to search for books. Destiny Quest is a student-friendly searching interface that is designed for today’s digital students. My coaching partner ran into time constraints with teaching students to use Destiny Quest effectively when she only sees classes for 30 minutes each week. We worked together to create a how-to video for teachers so they could support students in the classroom with using this resource. She used Screencastify Lite to create the screencast and then posted it on our staff Google Classroom. https://youtu.be/LJVXIwn1QrU
- A key learning target for this lesson is to cite sources and respect intellectual property. These students have previously had classroom discussions regarding copyright, but the extent of which is unknown. We spent a fair amount of time exploring Common Sense Education together, and with my guidance, selected the following lessons to teach regarding 21st century copyright issues:
- While one of the intentions of Destiny Quest is to provide social networking, it is limited to only reaching others who use it. In our school, only 4-6 graders utilize that resource, and not consistently. I wanted to help my coaching partner find a way to make a greater impact with her students’ work by sharing book reviews with anyone who enters the library. Our district purchased a subscription to WeVideo; I attended a breakout session at a tech leader training as well as EdCamp Edmonds on using WeVideo, which enabled me to recommend this resource and give an entry level training with my collaborative partner. She can use WeVideo to have students create book trailers and reviews.We then worked to create an even more authentic audience by planning to send the book trailers to classrooms across the country and meeting for a Google Hangout to discuss reviews and recommendations with other students. I am working with my network of #edtech leaders to establish contacts for my coaching partner’s classes.
The coaching relationship was friendly, personalized, and manageable so that it felt like a collaborative partnership, rather than me telling her what she should do. We learned so much from each other, it wasn’t just a one-way street. One of the ways to measure the success of this coaching experience is by measuring student performance. By looking at student success in completing the activities and especially the student engagement, we can determine how effective this process was. Although the project is still underway, we can already see an increase in engagement. The students have expressed an interest in continuing with these types of real-world projects that solve relevant problems.
Another thing to consider as I wrap up the current coaching plan is what comes next. I can sit down with my administrators to revisit and reflect on the coaching plan, discuss what worked and what can be improved. What I’d really like to see as a result of this experience is a sort of ripple effect. An added bonus to this peer coaching relationship is that my partner is in a new role as a library and technology specialist, which places her in a position where she is expected to support and train classroom teachers in using new equipment and digital resources. My hope is that she can take what we’ve done together and carry it into her own experiences working with peers. I am confident that she will continue to pay it forward as she facilitates upcoming technology trainings.
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Johnson, S. M., & Rigby, B. (2012). Peer coaching guidelines. Why Dev. Retrieved from http://www.whydev.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/WhyDev-Peer-Coaching-Guidelines.pdf
Manktelow, J., Jackson, K., Edwards, S., Eyre, E., Cook, L., & Bhanu, K. (n.d.). What is coaching?: How to be an effective coach. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_15.htm