Clarity of Instructional Vision
A reminder of the equation- Teacher change as generated by coaching = clarity of instructional vision of the coach X quality of feedback delivered by the coach X (1- fixed mindset tax)
Read week 1 here (an introduction to the coaching equation)
Read week 2 here (fixed mindset tax)
After the first two weeks of this online course, I was really excited to begin week 3. Even better that I could learn sat on a deckchair outside in the sun. For me, this week was all about diving to the depths of what ‘effective’ practice looks and feels like.
The first video this week is back in with Mr Good coach and a new teacher he’s working with. The teacher is taking on board all of his feedback about improving students’ learning. He’s got so caught up in watching all of her new teacher moves, that came from his advice that he’s forgotten one crucial part of the picture: the students.
The fundamental question should always be, ‘In what way did her new teacher moves impact the students?’ ‘Did it change their experience in any kind of meaningful way?’
Students actually have a lot of expertise on great teaching; after all, they’ve been ‘subjected’ to plenty of it in a variety of guises.
Read the article below about ‘measuring’ effective teachers-
Whilst we may feel good because a teacher has effectively implemented strategies you’ve discussed with them, it’s the equivalent of a teacher feeling great because the students in class were ‘highly engaged’ – (a poor proxy for learning).
As a teacher coach, our job is not just to get the teachers changing their behaviours but to promote changes that will have a real and meaningful impact on students’ learning experiences.
Clarity of instructional vision is therefore not just a vision of what the teacher is doing. We mean a clear vision of what students are doing, saying and thinking. We need to help teachers to make the connections between what they’re doing and students’ optimal levels of behaviour and thinking.
Ultimately, a coach needs a student-facing vision.
An effective teaching rubric is the starting point for our relationship with our teacher. It defines the language we’re going to use to discuss instruction in our coaching sessions. A rubric will also add a level of urgency to those sessions; we have a finite amount of time we’re able to spend with our teacher and a rubric helps us to use it effectively.
The rubric is like a syllabus; it constrains the relationship and defines the paraemeters of what we’re going to talk about when we sit down in our coaching sessions.
It can be quite common for teacher coaching sessions to turn into a grab bag of topics related to teaching. Whilst spending time speaking about education philosophy and politics may be really interesting, sessions are best spent focused on skill acquisition. Defining the skills the teacher will need to achieve the instructional vision laid out in your rubric.
If we can bring focus and urgency to coaching sessions then we can shorten skill acquisition loops (see the snowman effect from the last blog).
Match Education’s rubric is just intended for analysing classroom instruction to set out a teacher coaching session. By no means does it capture all the aspects of a teacher’s job.
Their rubric is named, ‘The Kraken‘- Named after teachers voted on what to call it so that it wouldn’t just be ‘Match Education Resident Teacher Evaluation Rubric‘…
They’re looking for students who are working hard throughout the class; consistently putting forward real effort on rigorous thinking tasks. Those thinking tasks are well-aligned and ordered to help the students achieve a bigger goal from the lesson. They’re getting lots of opportunities to practice and the teacher is assessing that practice in order to give them really meaningful practice so that students know where they are at any given moment and how far they have to go to improve.
Daniel Willingham has shaped many of their beliefs for the rubric.
Specifically, two principles for learning that he lays out in, ‘Why don’t students like school?’
Principle 1- Memory is the residue of thought
The longer you spend thinking about something, the more likely you are to commit it to long-term memory. This informs their beliefs about practice in a lesson. The more students are practising a set of coherently aligned thinking tasks, the more likely they are to commit that content to their memory.
Principle 2- Learning is memory in disguise
What we perceive as learning, is really just memory at work. So if we can get students to remember the content that we teach, we have real, genuine, learning coming out of lessons.
The rubric is student facing so the best way to explore the particulars is to look at learning through the eyes of a student.
What teachers are doing to set the necessary conditions for lots of learning to take place in the lesson.
- Time on task- to what degree are students engaged, focussed and working hard throughout a class period?
- Teacher radar and student response to questions- the degree to which students feel like their behaviour is noticed by the teacher. If the teacher does notice the behaviour, how does the student then respond to those corrections.
Target task mastery
A task the teacher expects all students to be able to master by the end of class. There’ll be something each of the students is required to complete independently to indicate they’ve met the learning goal in a given lesson.
- The rigour of the target task- the students feel it’s challenging but not so challenging that they couldn’t achieve it during the lesson.
- Thinking tasks- once the student knows what the target task is, the end destination, the next question is, ‘What’s happening to get me there? What are all the inter-related thinking tasks, activities, prompts and questions that are helping to build me up to accomplishing that target task on my own? This is one of the most challenging parts of a teacher’s job but ultimately for the students, ‘Do the activities make sense to me, in light of the destination task of the lesson?’
If the teacher is giving the students lots of opportunities to practice content throughout the lesson then they’re doing more of the mental heavy lifting than the teacher. Of course teachers need to explain difficult content and make connections between ideas but ultimately they need to get out of the way to let the student try to do the work on their own.
Students require space to try out new skills but they’ll also be able to give the teacher lots of information about their learning, which allows the teacher to give students meaningful feedback to help them improve their practice.
This is a broad category as feedback takes on many forms; directed at individuals, or to the whole group; the teacher writing notes on student work or whispering advice as students practice something on their own; how teachers respond to a student answer during a discussion that isn’t quite correct.
- Students get lots of feedback- individually and as a class
- The teacher is strategic about the feedback given so that it’s actionable and pushes students along towards mastery of the target task
Once all teachers aligned with the same instructional vision and language; feedback can take place.