Mrs. Cook’s Corner

Building Capacity as a Coach

ISTE Coaching Standard 2: Teaching Learning and Assessment

  • f.  Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

ISTE Coaching Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

  • b. engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice.
  • c. regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate tech- enhanced learning experiences.

This week I’m personally looking at this standard in two ways, the first as a coach needing to grow her capacity and secondly, as a coach creating and delivering PD, but not necessarily in this order. My job as a coach is sometimes about coaching teachers and other times is about providing PD. Both skills need to be developed in order to find success.

Learning for Success:

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, p154) When I think about this profound statement I get a little bit overwhelmed. But, if I break it into parts and remind myself that it takes time and practice to get to this point, I can really reflect on it. Coaches need to keep learning, we need to keep surrounding ourselves around opportunities that will grow our practice.

In order to keep my practice in the forefront, I attend monthly coaches meetings where we practice asking probing questions, we talk to fellow coaches about our successes and our disasters and get support. It is here, in this safe place that I am reminded that we are all going through similar situations and we are all too hard on ourselves. We learn about self-care and about the phases of first year teachers. We are reminded to offer support and remind the teacher that learning to teach is a continual process of purposeful experimentation, (Lipton, Wellman, 2018) which I find ironic, because we coaches are experiencing the same phases.

Retrieved from: http://weac.org/articles/new-teacher-handbook/phases/

Another thing that I do as a coach is connect with other coaches in my field, which is enhancing learning with technology. We have a monthly TOSA meeting that I attend where I can ask about new technologies and how they are being used in their districts. This is a great way to meet and share ideas with people that have similar challenges and ideas as I do. I love that this meeting is hosted by different districts so that we get a real sense about what is going on in our surrounding areas. My district has a makerspace initiative happening in our middle schools and it was a great opportunity to connect with a district that has a program fully formed. I got to visit the school and find out first-hand how their program is successful and also find out some of the challenges that it has had.

Lastly, I try to attend local and national conferences, big and small, to learn about ways tech is being used to enhance learning. It is at conferences that you get to meet new people on a global scale and build relationships and add more tools to my toolbox. These conferences allow me to gain knowledge about new tech, micro-controllers, my pet passion- Makerspaces. These trainings excite me more than anything else and I love to take what I learn and share it with my mentees and staff.

Professional Development:

Retrieved from: https://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/trends/3450-21st-century-professional-development-for-teachers

In my position as a coach, I work with a lot of librarians and teachers. One of my job requirements is too build professional development for the teachers I work with as well as for the larger district. As a shy person, it has taken me a lot of work to become comfortable with this aspect of my job. But, I’m getting there. What helps is my willingness to learn about new things and experiment with them in the classroom and on my own time. As I am building professional development, I have to have authentic ways to show how it can be used with students. I also need to make sure that I am giving teachers enough practice time and support with the new learning.

Retrieved from: https://www.kau-eli.net/off_eli/teacher_pd.html

In preparing for this blog, I looked at a lot of articles that offered advice on what to do to become a better facilitator of professional development. In thinking of my personal experience, I curated a number of tips that I think have been most helpful to me and some that are great reminders of best practice. The ideas come from Aguilar and Davis, but I have interjected my own spin on them.

1.Plan, Plan, Plan, and Prepare- According to Aguilar, you should spend 2 hours planning for every hour of development that you are offering. This is a step that I have learned through experience to spend more time on. I’m working with tech in different spaces and I need to be sure that I am able to handle the inevitable oops! I also need to consider my audience and prepare activities that they could use in their spaces.

2. Not too Much- Really think about the objectives that you want your audience to walk away being able to do and then backwards plan from there. Of course you can throw in a plethora of standards that can addressed by the technology and activities, but I have learned that you will spend a lot of time teaching the teachers how the tech works. When I am teaching about Flipgrid, a lot of time is spent making the teachers comfortable using it. I like to show them a couple of ways that I have used it with students, but I want to give them time to work with it and figure out ways that they can take it back to class and use the tool effectively.

3. Build on Existing Expertise- Because I am offering PD at the school and district level, I need to know what standards teachers are teaching, as well as know about building and district initiatives so that I can focus my content to work within their realities. When I am working with librarians, I make sure that what I’m teaching will be relevant to them and their students. Digital Citizenship is a huge initiative this year with our district, so making sure that we touch that with the technology aspect is imperative.

4. Ask for Feedback- In order to get more comfortable with getting in front of my peers, I actively encourage my audience to give me feedback. Davis suggests, 5 questions (I have modified that last two to work for me).

  • What did you learn?
  • What worked for you?
  • What didn’t work for you?
  • Ask me a question?
  • How can I support you in developing a lesson in which you can utilize this technology?

Regarding the last two questions: I think asking, What questions or concerns do you have for me? is too passive. Most people skip over this question. Asking them to ask a question is more likely to illicit a response because of it’s active nature. As for the last question, I want to make sure that teachers are successful. Attending just one professional development session, does not make them comfortable trying it out in their class. By having my support, teachers are less overwhelmed- thinking this is just one more thing I have to do, to wow! Someone wants to be there to help me create this wonderful learning opportunity for the students.

Sources:

  • Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Aguilar, E. (2014, September 18). 10 Tips for Delivering Awesome Professional Development. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/10-tips-delivering-awesome-professional-development-elena-aguilar.
  • Davis, V. (2015, April 15). 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/top-tips-highly-effective-pd-vicki-davis.
  • https://id.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-C_PDF.pdf
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4 thoughts on “Building Capacity as a Coach

  1. Melissa, Your “Plan, Learn, Do, Assess” model is point on regarding professional development and coaching best practices. Throughout this project, you have clearly modeled how our own professional development impacts our abilities to lead with heart and intentionality. The points anchored in the work by Aguilar and Davis hit home for me as I work to create meaningful and manageable experiences for others. I appreciate how you continue to lead through example, questioning, vulnerability, and patience for yourself and others.

  2. I enjoy learning from your blog about the tips on what to do to become a better facilitator of professional development. I like the tip of Not too Much which will make teachers feel comfortable and they can learn something new and do something differently when they are back to the class. Really like learning from your coaching experiences. Thank you for the sharing.

  3. Great metaphor comparing first year coaches to first year teachers! Coaching can be lonely and challenging. It is great to hear you found such a useful coaching network and you are reaching out to other sources to meet your learning needs. Coaching others and developing your coaching skills is an iterative process of, hopefully, continual improvement. There is no silver bullet. Most coaches I know get to the end of their first year of coaching and come to believe that they have a pretty good grip on coaching and what they need to do to be successful. It sounds like you are ahead of the curve!!!

  4. I love the idea of using a safe place for fellow coaches to talk about their successes and failures. You propose that teaching is a continual process of purposeful experimentation. This requires patience and iteration. These skills are so important for any successful coach that they can never be over-emphasized!

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