The Reflective Coach – using data to drive your practice

Instructional Coaches are now common place in some schools and are a group of people who work with teachers to reflect on their professional practice and to help teachers grow and learn. At our school with have a series of specialists including Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy Coaches. As one of the school’s Digital Literacy Coaches, I support teachers and our Tech Mentors develop ideas for using technology to amplify and even transform traditional pedagogies. My work around Information Literacy and Digital Approaches to Formative Assessment are a couple of examples.

I have previously worked with Jeff Plaman, Keri-Lee Beasley, Clint Hamada and Louise Phinney on a model of Coaching for Digital Literacy, but looking back the one aspect we have overlooked is the how coaches reflect on their effectiveness in how they work with teachers. Over the last month it has been a concept that has been mentioned by colleagues at NIST in Bangkok and Canadian International School in Singapore. Below are some ideas of what we are trialling at the moment and some thoughts for the future.

Coaching Logs for Reflection

My colleagues Adrienne Michetti and Jeff Plaman from our East Campus, have developed a simple Google Form, which is used to log different coaching activities. The form (shown below) collects data about the individual the coach worked with, their subject and the nature of the interaction. The different interactions have been nicely summarised into 14 different Coaching Roles including a common interaction for Tech Help… ‘can you help me fix my printer settings’. The Google Form collates each of the interactions into a spreadsheet which is becoming a very useful reflective tool. It provides the data to highlight the patterns of interactions that the coach might have with particular departments or individuals. This can be used as a discussion prompt with other school leaders or just a personal reflection tool.

Dover Secondary   DLC Log  2013 2014

360° Surveys

Every teacher at our school is part of our Professional Learning Programme. This the processes where teachers set goals, collect evidence of learning, and reflect with their mentors, critical friends or line manager. If you are a Senior of Middle Manager (Head of Subject) you are encouraged to use a Google Form to collect upward feedback in a 360° manner from people you interact with and lead. I think there is potential for coaches to use a similar form to get feedback from staff or subject leaders you work with on a consistent basis. Some of the criteria from our school 360° survey would be useful. This is derived from our school Leadership Standards. I think we need to look more broadly at what kind of criteria would be most useful for a coaching survey. The NETs Coaching Standards from ISTE seem and obvious starting point, but perhaps some of the Cognitive Coaching material from Bill and Ochan Powell would also be useful.

Looking for Learning

Another key feedback method should include some aspect of feedback on your coaching interactions. This can be from a critical friend, who you arrange to watch a session with teachers, or perhaps you working with a small group of teachers. The crucial aspect of this is the conversation that occurs with the critical friend before the observation. You should pin point an aspect of your coaching that you want feedback on. For instance if could be how you pause and paraphrase in a conversation, or how you present a complex idea to a group of teachers. In the coaching interaction it is important that the critical friend is ‘looking for learning’ in the group of teachers in the same way we use with students. A form or template might be a useful tool to prompt some discussions.

Sharing reflections via posts

Another simple feedback method could be a series of weekly posts that look back on one interaction during the week. We use a Google + community to share between our group of Coaches and Tech Mentors, but perhaps this could be used to post small snippets from the week that highlight the use of a new tool.

Overall I feel that coaches ought to be highly reflective and think strategically about how they spend their time. Looking ahead, technology coaches need to ensure they are seen as being relevant when technology becomes a less explicit strategic goal of a school and more implicit in other initiatives such as Formative Assessment or Differentiation. In the future, I see the descriptor Technology Integrator being an obsolete phrase, as if we believe that technology to be an essential or ubiquitous  part of learning, it should be part of each teachers effective strategies, then perhaps the phrase Instructional Coach will better reflect the work of an effective coach. Regardless of any future changes a coach should be using different feedback tools to be reflective.

If you school has another approach to gaining feedback for coaches, I would be interested to see how this works. Add a comment below.

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