Coaching Teachers- Promoting Changes That Stick- Week 5

This was to be the final week of my Coursera course from Match Education. I knew when I began this learning that coaching was an area of my practice I felt that it was vital for me to develop. I don’t think I could have chosen a better way for me to begin this journey and having applied some of the approaches to my practice already- I am beginning to see how transformative these things might be for me, fellow leaders, coaches and our colleagues- and therefore how transformative for our students too.

Read week 1 here (an introduction to the coaching equation)

Read week 2 here (fixed mindset tax)

Read week 3 here (clarity of instructional vision)

Read week 4 here (quality of feedback – currently missing)

As it’s the final week, we’re able to see that Mr Good Coach has now graduated to Mr Effective Coach!

He is clear about the teacher’s last big takeaway before he goes in to observe and this is clear and specific- ‘Improve student time on task by more quickly noticing and responding student misbehaviour, particularly students having side conversations when they’re in group discussion.’ There’s clearly some actions to be expected from the teacher in relation to this being observed but there’s also clarity about the behaviours we can expect to see from the students. He’s clear about the ineffective practice seen in a previous lesson and he’s also clear about the impact this has on the students’ learning- when the side-conversations are taking place – the students are not able to hear the feedback she’s giving to their peers therefore there are wasted opportunities to learn.

After the observation, he’s able to provide a summary easily as he knows what he’s been looking at and for. He has also ensured that the debrief is 20 minutes after the observation to give each of them some time to take notes and reflect but not so long that the learning opportunity has faded away.

The coaching session begins with a ‘let’s dive right in’. There will be no time wasted on chatting but the relationship between them is warm- they’ll achieve what they need to in this session. What was your big takeaway? The teacher is prompted to share the takeaway and he asks her to reflect on how it went. The teacher reflects and is able to reference the things they had clearly practised together in their previous session.

He is able to prevent the teacher from diving into a fixed mindset by referencing solid evidence of what he’s seen. He’s able to compare the number of side-conversations last lesson with the number this time around. She still believes that she’s not ready to move onto another target as she feels she hasn’t mastered this one. He is able to point this out as an ‘unhelpful moment’ and says, ‘I want you to think about it differently.’

‘You didn’t miss one side-conversation you went from missing 7, to missing 1.’ He asks the teacher to repeat that back to him in order to help her out of her fixed mindset. She’s now ready to move on and so he asks her to remind herself what strategies they had discussed to address the side-conversations. She is able to recall these and now the coach is able to share how many times he saw these approaches displayed; when, with whom and their effect on student learning. Specific moments of the lesson are referenced continually. He’s then able to give her his implementation score for how well she implemented the approaches (and the impact on the students).

He gives her some praise for something else he saw (positive praise of a student) as he felt it was well worth noting and he moves on to the next big takeaway.

He’s able to reference the Kraken (their shared instructional vision) and which category within that they’ll be moving into- student practice. ‘Remind me, in a nutshell, what our vision is for student practice?’ The teacher is now able to share what she understands about this area of practice so that they can continue to move onto the next big takeaway in partnership.

He had been able, during his observation, to calculate the number of minutes students had spent on independent practice (9) and he’d also observed that during group discussions, there were maybe 5 kids engaged. He asks her, ‘What are some problems with that?’ This is where the coach is working to elicit what the next big takeaway will be for the teacher and the focus is on the students and their learning at all times.

After she’s articulated the problems for learning with this, the coach is then able to provide her with an action- ‘You’re going to turn 3 of your discussion questions from discussion questions into ‘stop and jot’. 

He was able to quote some of the approaches she’d taken to these questions during the lesson- ‘Which was the most rigorous and why?’ He’s encouraging her to use cold call and she can see that this will help her students to engage and therefore learn but also stop and jot at other times so that she’s able to assess their response to provide feedback and all students will have the opportunity to practise.

Now to the teacher’s opportunity to practise- he discusses what she’s teaching tomorrow and asks her to note a string of questions she’ll ask tomorrow.

He makes it authentic by getting her to stand up.

She begins, ‘Johnny, what effect…’

The coach questions her about the effect of saying the name first and the focus is on the impact on students of questioning in this way. Feedback is immediate and helpful.

She says ‘think about’– he repeats, ‘Think about?’ She says, ‘Write about!’ They go on like this for some time until she’s written an effective question. The coach keeps the session to time so he asks her to script another moment and practise them in lessons before he will see her next in a week’s time.

The next steps for me will be to-

  • Try out the coaching approaches for myself with staff I work with
  • Introduce the approaches to our leaders
  • Produce some quick guides and resources to support us
  • Explore more coaching learning from Match Education and elsewhere

Explore ‘Match Minis’ here for yourself to support the development of your own coaching skills.

Coaching Teachers- Promoting Changes that Stick- Week 3

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-

Ensuring fair and reliable measures of 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.

 

The Kraken

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.

Kraken 1

 

Kraken 2

Kraken 3

Behavioural climate

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?’

 

Student Practice

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.

 

Teacher Feedback

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.

 

 

 

Coaching Teachers- Promoting Changes that Stick- Week 2

A few weeks ago, I completed week 1 of the coaching teachers MOOC from Match Education. I’ve known for some time that I need to more formally develop my coaching skills but I wasn’t entirely sure how to achieve it. Technology has a crucial role in enabling lifelong learning and development for all, and often for free. The timing of this MOOC has been perfect as I embark on some new coaching relationships with individual staff. The skills I’ve already practised have, admittedly, felt a little too conscious and forced but that’s no bad thing; it’s an indication that deliberate practice is taking place and the more of this that happens, the more my approaches will become automated. Consulting my coachees and observing the impact our relationship has on their practice will all help me to ensure that what I practice is worthwhile.

I completed week 2 of the MOOC the weekend before last and and the content was asking me to consider the vital role of the ‘fixed mindset tax’ component of the ‘effective coaching’ equation we had been introduced to. I think that this week is potentially going to be the one with most impact on me, especially as the learning has real implications for working with students too.

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)

The first video of this week relayed how Mike Goldstein had been interviewing a candidate for Match Education and it came to the feedback part of the day.

‘Now I want you to open up your brain so I can drive a truck through it.’

He was preparing the candidate for feedback. This candidate was open to the feedback but it’s still important, for teachers we work with, to also prepare them for it- open them up to hearing the feedback (perhaps not in exactly this same way!). Staff we work with won’t necessarily be open to the critical feedback, at least, not all the time. They’re human and reflecting on how I’ve responded to feedback in the past, I know that my response is highly dependent on the timing of it and my state of mind.

When we talk about fixed mindset tax, we’re talking about the kinds of behaviours people exhibit that prevents them from hearing information that tells them they have to change in some way.

Effective coaching is all about ‘sticky change’ and if the person you’re coaching doesn’t truly believe they can make a change then you’re not going to get anywhere.

‘The Fixed Mindset Tax is therefore the penalty a coach pays in a feedback session where the teacher is being coached on a skill that they’re not confident they can develop. The teacher with fixed mindset may demonstrate a number of behaviors that deflect the feedback a coach is delivering, or undermine the potential solutions that the coach offers. In these situations, the coach loses tons of valuable time supporting the teacher emotionally, justifying their perspective, or convincing the teacher to take ownership over barriers to student learning.’

Teaching is multi-faceted. Just because a teacher has a growth mindset about one thing, doesn’t mean they won’t have a fixed mindset about something else. Mindset also changes with a teacher’s mood. They might be growth about an aspect of their practice one day but fixed the next. I guess that explains why progress made can be so variable. Why teachers, and humans(!) ‘hit the wall’.

An effective coach won’t just coach a teacher in the areas they have a growth mindset already. An effective coach has license to coach a teacher in any area that will have payoff for students.

Effective coaching is about promoting growth mindset no matter the task or day.

Mr Good coach has been using the learning from this MOOC- especially the learning from the ‘Instructional Vision’ week of the course- he now has clear goals for his teacher and a rubric for what’s going on in the classroom. He and his coach now have a shared language. Quality of feedback is good too- he’s now learnt just to focus on one area and the thing he’s picked will have great impact on the students. He’s modelling the skill for the teacher and giving feedback along the way so they know how to implement it for themselves. It’s still a warm relationship but the actions are much more focused.

So- with the new teacher who’s keen to learn from everything, coaching is deemed to be effective. But what about with a teacher who’s not quite so enthusiastic?

The example we’re given is a teacher who is apprehensive about all kinds of aspects of teaching- in fact, he’s beginning to question whether he has the talents to actually stay in the profession.

Even the directed feedback and clear goals is lost on this teacher. The teacher is presenting all kinds of behaviour that prevent him from hearing and internalising the feedback.

As a coach, you can’t just say that you’ll only be effective with teachers who have a growth mindset, just as it’s not ok for teachers to say they’ll only be effective with certain students. Whilst the job is harder, it’s not impossible and we can’t just give up…

Being proactive is the answer and often the first step is getting the person to admit they have a problem with fixed mindset.

The four horsemen of fixed mindset

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Image available from here

We’re first of all given the example of Orin being asked by his wife to get a check-up with his doctor regarding his health and weight. He goes to the doctor in the end as a wheezing basketball coach is never good.

The doctor tells him what the results have shown. The patient responds by saying, ‘I’m in great shape – look at me- you don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Look, the numbers don’t lie. It’s all here.’

The patient responds by saying, ‘I know. I suck at taking care of myself. I’ve let my family down. I’m setting a bad example to my kids.’

‘Ok, don’t get too down. There are steps we can start taking today.’

‘I just find it so difficult- what with managing this that and the other. Fast food is just so cheap.’

‘Well that might be true but…’

‘Actually, I’m not all that worried. This has happened before and I’ve always sorted myself out.’

‘But you really should…’

‘Thanks- bye!’

This is reminiscent of coaching sessions I’ve facilitated with teachers in the past, although this is a much more exaggerated version. At these times, I felt as though the teacher was doing all the talking but not in productive ways and I was a passenger to their monologue; attempting to steer it. It never felt as though we really got anywhere fast or anywhere at all.

In this example, Orin (the patient), has displayed the following behaviours-

  • He was defeatist and pessimistic about being able to change his habits.
  • He was overly optimistic and rejected the doctor’s sense of urgency.
  • He blamed factors outside of his control for his poor health.

It’s easy to see why these behaviours may not exactly be all that helpful. We need to move beyond the teacher deflecting the problem or the feedback is never going to stick. And ‘sticky’ feedback is, after all, what effective feedback is aiming for.

Establishing some common language for naming these behaviours is an important step. This normalises the fact that we all feel fixed mindset at one point or another.
This isn’t something we tend to discuss openly but we’ll have to if we want to make progress with our teachers, as coaches.

Once this conversation is had, it can allow the teacher to be more mindful of behaviours and work to self-correct them.

The next series of clips we were presented with all involved a teacher who was working on how she notices and responds to misbehaviour. The coach had given her several strategies to work towards this- including use of demerits as a minor consequence for students not meeting her expectations.

In the feedback session, the teacher displays 4 common fixed mindset behaviours- the 4 horsemen of fixed mindset.

You’re right, I suck

This is a teacher who responds with a fixed mindset by talking about all of the things they’re terrible at and unable to do. Teachers in this mindset take feedback as commentary on themselves as a person rather than as advice on how to improve their practice.

The fixed mindset tax is paid in that the coach is required to take on the role of therapist- spending their entire time building the teacher back up.

You’re wrong, I rule

This time, the teacher responds by disputing the feedback. They’ve done things because you asked them to or they thought things were great when perhaps they didn’t.

The coach then spends time paying fixed mindset tax by justifying the data and observations they have in front of them.

Blame it on the rain

Third period, right after lunch. That student was out of control and completely derailed everything- he’s not usually that way.

The problem the coach wants to discuss is not something they can solve. They have no urgency solving the problem. They’re blaming it on everything other than the approaches they’ve been working to develop.

The fixed mindset tax is paid here in that the coach spends the entire session getting the teacher to focus on things that are a problem and convincing them that they do have the agency to change these things.

Optimist without a cause

This is a tricky one- they’re mostly agreeing with the feedback and they’re not disputing the narrative the coach brings to the session BUT they’re not placing the right level of urgency on solving the problem. They’re dismissing the complexity of the issue to the point that they’re not internalising what they have to do to make the changes. They merely assume that other factors and time will make it all fine in the end!

The fixed mindset tax is paid by the coach in the time spent trying to move the teacher’s general observations into practical and achievable actions that the teacher believes in the cause and potential of.

View the videos for yourself here.

The videos alone are recommended as a really positive growth mindset intervention. They help teachers to see what’s ahead in a year of critical feedback but they also help them to see the issues with the kinds of language this teacher exhibits in each of the fixed mindsets. During coaching, our coachees are then often able to stop themselves during a feedback session when they see themselves exhibiting that behaviour and say, ‘Hold on…that’s not productive. Let me consider my response again.

I have already implemented the approach of explicitly speaking to a future coachee about the important part mindset plays in how we’ll work together. She loved being introduced to the 4 horsemen of fixed mindset and, like me, could also see the significance to her work with students as much as our work together.

Recognising and calling the mindsets out is only the first step though. Let’s see how ‘mindset’ plays out in the context of a full coaching cycle.

The snowman effect

Robert Pianta researched interventions that could potentially shape a teacher’s expectations for their students.

He knew that teachers with high expectations for their students were more likely to have high student achievement.

Group A of teachers got direct instruction about high expectations whilst group B received coaching about basic teaching skills.

Group B were the more successful group of teachers where resulting high student achievement was concerned. Pianta and his researchers believed this was because this set of teachers saw, more quickly, evidence that students could learn and display positive learning behaviours (ones that had previously struggled). This lead to them having those higher expectations because they had evidence to support it- they weren’t just told to have high expectations.

The mindset effect was two-fold in some ways- it affected their mindset about the students’ ability to learn but it also affected their mindset about their own ability to grow- as they saw that coaching was helping them to improve their practice. They were then more hungry for feedback and for growth.


A Hannah Tyreman original (I know, it’s pretty special!)

The large circle of the snowman is the skill the teacher is trying to develop.

  1. The top of that circle is the first feedback session where the 4 horsemen are likely to be present. The coach must slow down their coaching to identify these behaviours. Time will also be spent developing common language to defeat some of those behaviours.
  2. Once some of the horsemen are back in the stable then feedback can take place- the kind that is internalised by the teacher. The teacher clarifying detail and processing- leaving the room with an idea of the way ahead.
  3. Imperfect implementation- Implementation takes place where the teacher is working to implement strategies and approaches. It will be imperfect at this point in the journey.
  4. Then improved, but sub-optimal, feedback sessions- because the teacher’s mindset has not yet been transformed.
  5. Then improved implementation and refined feedback
  6. Then acquisition of the skill

Having achieved this skill, the teacher can now see that they’re one small step towards achieving the vision of excellent instruction the coach has laid out for them. She now has evidence that she’s able to change and improve.

Skill B is the next part of the torso. The circumference is significantly shorter than it was for the first skill- this is because it takes significantly less time for the teacher to acquire the skill (without all the common language agreements and fixed mindset hurdles).

It’s shorter also because the most important thing that happened in A was not the acquisition of a new skill but the development of a growth mindset. If she can take that mindset and bring it to subsequent coaching sessions then the loop of acquisition will be much tighter.

  1. It will begin with a coaching session with fewer appearances of the 4 horsemen. Feedback is processed and internalised.
  2. There’s still imperfect implementation as it’s new skill development BUT there’ll be more confidence and optimism about acquisition.
  3. Improved implementation and refined feedback takes place
  4. The loop ends with the teacher feeling confident that the acquisition of this new skill will have real payoffs for his students.

For skill C, the feedback loop is even tighter.

So what are the implications of not developing a growth mindset or pushing our teachers to fully acquire a new skill?

You’ll end up pushing the Skill A snowball uphill and not really getting to anything else- the loop of feedback for Skill A just gets larger, picking up more and more horsemen along the way. What we want is a downhill trajectory where momentum is gained.


(Another Hannah special. You’re welcome!)

 

Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick – Week 1

You can still sign-up to the MOOC here

Learn about Match Education’s case for a student-facing rubric here

A story

Our first video depicts a coaching session for a brand new maths teacher with enthusiasm and optimism in abundance.

The video we’re shown indicates the ‘coach’ doing all of the talking and sharing stories about their own teaching. This kind of approach clearly wouldn’t have a positive impact on her practice; the ideas were in abundance and not organised in any kind of framework for her to follow. It also wasn’t clear what she would work on first to improve tomorrow.

Coaching should seek to change behaviours.

Whilst what we were shown was an extreme example; I have been considering these things within my own practice recently-

  • How often do I speak to someone about their practice and share tales from my own practice? How helpful are these and if they are helpful then am I using them in the right way to help with changes that will be long-lasting in their practice?
  • How often do we talk about several aspects of their practice all at once without prioritising the aspects in any way?
  • How often do I offer multiple suggestions for aspects of their practice without giving a single one time to settle?

I chose to engage in this MOOC because, like so many other educators, I’ve landed in a role where I’m influencing practice, having had little to no real grounding in what it means to coach teachers effectively (bar a one day session involving some role-play 5 years ago and a half day session on the GROW model a couple of years back).

Coaching is challenging in institutions but once it is in place, how do you make it effective? Just having it in place, whilst an achievement, will not necessarily lead to high impact.

Matt Kraft was involved to explore the impact of their coaching model (match residency programme)- access his publications here.

The coaching model was highly intense with full days in several sessions over the summer. There was a focus on aligning teachers with goals that were to be sustained over a long time period. A common language about practice and improvement was established and iteration was important with continual practice and feedback the day after. Significantly, all participants were open, eager and committed; essential for the intense coaching process. A randomised control trial was carried out. The studies are ongoing with a 3rd cohort of teachers participating in the randomised trial.

With the first cohort, they found a striking level of impact- observers, principals and students were all involved in evaluating the teacher and all of those teachers were deemed to be more effective by the end of the year.

The 2nd cohort was a larger group- coaching didn’t move the needle for this group. This might have been related to the fact that the total days and weeks of coaching were reduced (by 1 week out of a total of 4). Each coach was also required to work with more teachers. Their hope is that the 3rd cohort will help them to delve into this effect some more.

The Match Education formula for effective coaching

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)

Teachers will often mistake coaching as being effective when really all it has been is good; merely as it has made them feel validated and supported. It is effective coaching we must drive for; the kind that leads to long-lasting change.

Clarity of Instructional Vision

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Before work begins, the coach and the teacher need a shared vision of what great learning looks like. This vision should be focussed on the students- what the students are doing, saying and thinking at any given moment of the lesson.

Match Education have a rubric for this that will be shared in a future week of the MOOC-

  • Students are on task, paying attention and working hard throughout the lesson.
  • They feel like the teacher notices their behaviour so if they do slip of task for a moment, they’re able to be re-directed without much fuss or complaining.
  • The students also feel like the objective of the lesson is clear to them and it’s rigorous too. It’s something difficult but still attainable.
  • The activities of the class are aligned to that objective and they feel like they’re getting lots of opportunities to practise and get feedback from their teacher so they know how they’re getting on and what they need to do to make progress at any given time.

There are many sports movies with coaches in them that we can learn from. This MOOC uses the Hoosiers movie as the example-

The team in this movie gets a new coach in the form of Gene Hackman. His vision is very different to that of the team and the town. In his first practices, he doesn’t even use a basketball and when he does introduce it, he tells them they have to pass 4 times before they’re able to shoot. This is at such odds with the players’ philosophy that it took time to get his team on the same page. When they did then his practices made sense and the team became successful but this took too long. Ensuring they were on the same page to begin with would have helped.

An effective teacher-coach relationship requires an aligned vision.

Quality of Feedback

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What should actually happen during a coaching session?

The first video did not have any of the expected components of good quality feedback and instead featured the following-

  • Too many areas for the teacher to focus on
  • No priorities set for high-leverage areas
  • No accountability for previous feedback
  • No opportunity set for the practise of new skills

Whilst coaching is a collaborative endeavour, it’s ultimately directive

  1. Here’s what I want you to change
  2. Here’s how we’re going to work together to make that change
  3. Here’s how I’m going to make you accountable so that the change actually happens

Feedback is reasonable in scope.

‘Teachers have a lot to think about. If you’ve ever been yelling the homework assignment down the hall after half the class has already left, then you know exactly what we mean. Given the cognitive demands of teaching a lesson, we tend to think that asking a teacher to keep one focus area in mind when they start teaching is already plenty.’

Feedback aligns with instructional vision.

‘If you’ve defined a clear instructional vision, it will keep your feedback focused and constrained within a set number of topics. You can think about this vision as the yearlong syllabus for your coaching relationship. A teacher might show up with burning questions about the Freire text she’s working through, but a quality feedback session maintains direction and urgency towards your goals around instructional coaching. Might we suggest happy hour for that very worthy Freire discussion?’

Feedback addresses a high-leverage area of growth.

‘Observe any teacher and you’ll be able to find elements of their practice that they could improve upon. Quality feedback, however, will identify the area of growth that is the biggest barrier keeping students from learning. Again, if you have a clear instructional vision, you can probably use it to identify the highest-leverage interventions to move the teacher closer to that vision.’

Feedback is supplemented with modeling and practice.

‘It would make for odd feedback if a basketball coach said, “Hey, your jump shot form is all wrong. Get back out and try it again,” and then sat down on the bleachers. Typically you’d expect the coach to stand up, grab a ball, and model the appropriate technique. We think the same is true in teacher coaching. If a coach is committed to modeling new skills and setting up opportunities for the teacher to practice those skills in the coaching session itself, they’re much more likely to see that teacher executing well in subsequent lessons.’

Teacher is accountable for implementing previous feedback.

‘This is a big one. It’s possible for a coach to have accounted for elements 1-4 above and still fall short of quality feedback if she’s not willing to hold the teacher accountable for following through and mastering new skills. We see plenty of almost effective coaching where teachers lose ground when gains are not solidified by closing the loop with implementation feedback.’

Fixed mindset tax

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Most educators will now be familiar with Carol Dweck‘s teachings on mindset.

Our mindset changes depending on the task we’re faced with. You might be growth about being able to improve one aspect of teaching, you might be more fixed on another. When we’re in a fixed state of mind, we believe that our ability is fixed and there’s little we can do to change it. When we’re in a growth state of mind of then we believe we can, given time and effort, change how good we are at something. An individual’s mindset is not an overall disposition, and can change from skill to skill.

Even if the coach shares a clear vision with the teacher, if the teacher doesn’t believe they can make the improvement then they’re never going to get better.

Fixed mindset tax is therefore in the equation as it represents the learning lost in a feedback session between a coach and a teacher who isn’t optimistic about his or her ability to improve at the classroom skill they are discussing.

‘The Fixed Mindset Tax is the penalty a coach pays in a feedback session where the teacher is being coached on a skill that they’re not confident they can develop. The teacher with fixed mindset may demonstrate a number of behaviors that deflect the feedback a coach is delivering, or undermine the potential solutions that the coach offers. In these situations, the coach loses tons of valuable time supporting the teacher emotionally, justifying their perspective, or convincing the teacher to take ownership over barriers to student learning.’

Final messages

Be aware of the apparent success of ‘good’ coaching rather than ‘effective’ coaching. Teachers can rate their coaching experience highly not because it changed their classroom behaviors for the better, but because interacting with a coach is emotionally validating for them.

A clear instructional vision allows teacher and coach to have a common language about which to discuss effective classroom practices.It will allow for goal-setting and progress monitoring of the teacher’s classroom practice. It will also keep feedback sessions urgently focused on a well-defined scope of potential topics for feedback.

Quality feedback consists of the following three elements-

  1. Feedback is accompanied by the coach providing direct modeling for new skills that the teacher will be implementing.
  2. Feedback that has been delivered is revisited by the coach to ensure that the teacher has successfully implemented previous discussed skills and techniques.
  3. Feedback is delivered with language that aligns with the instructional vision decided upon by teacher and coach.
A teacher with a fixed mindset- “We talked about this in grad school, and I never really got the hang of it. To be honest, I think we’d have more success if we moved on to improving my questioning techniques.”

A teacher with a growth mindset- “I’m actually really bad at this skill. We need to spend a lot of time discussing this so I can nail it down and not stress out about it anymore.” OR “This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to do as a teacher. Everyone says it takes years to master, but I’m willing to give it a shot even though it’s daunting.” OR “I’m not sure that this is the most high-leverage thing we could be discussing. Don’t you think that making sure all students are engaged in the lesson would be even more valuable to discuss?”

Clarity of instructional vision- Regardless of where it comes from or how it is articulated, both coach and teacher come to an understanding about the specifics of the instructional vision.

 

‘At its core, effective teacher coaching is about change. And change is hard. Especially in a profession as fast-paced and cognitively demanding as teaching. We believe a coach needs to attend to all three variables in our formula in order to drive meaningful, lasting changes in a teacher’s practice that have real payoffs for kids. That’s legitimately rigorous work. But we also believe there is no more powerful lever to change a teacher’s practice than a coach – someone who will meet a teacher where they are, and work relentlessly to take them where they need to go.’