Introducing Staff to the Concept of Student-Centered Coaching
I was hired in March of 2018 to be the Instructional Coach at United Junior High School. My background is in technology integration and will finish my masters in IDT, or Instructional Design and Technology this semester. I knew very well how I wanted to work with the teachers at United. In fact, my new principal, Mr. Schwarz, had already laid out much of the groundwork to help ease tension among the educators in the building and had explained how an instructional coach is a support resource for the teachers in the building. He also explained the dynamic between the relationship of Teacher, Principal, and Instructional Coach and the trust that must exist between all three parties. Initially, we had planned to meet with each teacher individually to discuss their goals for the year. From that point on, I would work with each of those teachers to implement those goals. It would be up to each teacher on how they would best utilize me. We would find out later, that student-centered coaching cycles would provide us with a much more powerful framework.
Up to this point, I was focusing on how I could forge relationships with the teachers in my building and also how I could gain their trust. To me, this is what my first quarter in the building would be all about. I wanted the educators in the building to see me as a fellow educator and a way to provide support, rather than an agent of the administration. It was a priority to me to make the educators in the building understand that when working together, we would need the freedom to fail. Moreover, the time we spent together planning, co-teaching, and reflecting should remain confidential. Our work together should be created with the freedom to explore and to try new things that may push an educator outside of their comfort zone.
I needed my fellow teachers to understand how my position was non-evaluatory in nature, and for them to understand that if there was an issue related to instruction that existed between the evaluator and the teacher. It was not my position to be in the middle of that conversation. If the evaluator were to ask the teacher to work with the instructional coach, such a request needed to come from the teacher as a goal for their own personal growth. That communication should never exist between the administrator and the instructional coach.
Student-Centered Coaching Cycles & Professional Growth Plans
In August, we attended a workshop at Carl Sandburg College on instructional coaching. This training changed our outlook on how we wanted to structure our initiative and created a new avenue for us to consider. Up to this point, we were primarily focused on developing professional growth plans for each educator. After this workshop, we would develop two strands of coaching within our building. The first strand dealt with their personal professional goals as an educator. These goals focused on what each educator wanted to improve on, to try in their classroom, or a new instructional strategy they would like to deploy. Mr. Schwarz and I met with each teacher to discuss these plans and to outline how the instructional coach would assist them through the process.
The second strand would be more involved and develop in a more intimate way. We decided to set up coaching cycles with each teacher, in which I as the instructional coach would work with a group of content area teachers for 4-6 weeks intensely. Together, we would come up with our goals for our students. We would look at student data and formulate a plan for student growth. We would look at instructional practices that would allow our students to reach our goals for each student. We would also explore their professional growth plans and work throughout the cycles to develop their skills to meet student needs. Together we would plan lessons, co-teach, and reflect on instructional practices and student success. Within this framework, teachers were also able to choose many different co-teaching methods they wished to use with me.
What It Looks Like
Noticing and Naming
During the lesson, the teacher and coach focus on how the students are demonstrating their current understanding in relation to the learning targets. As we work with students, we will record student evidence that we will use in our planning conversations.
The teacher and coach share their thinking throughout the delivery of a lesson. By being metacognitive in this way, we will be able to name successes and work through challenges in real time.
Teaching in Tandem
The teacher and coach work together to co-deliver the lesson. The lesson is co-planned to ensure the roles are clear, that the learning targets are defined, and that we both understand how the lesson is crafted.
You Pick Four
The teacher identifies four students that the coach will pay special attention to collect student evidence. The coach keeps the learning targets in mind while collecting student evidence. This evidence is then used in future planning conversations.
A portion of the lesson is modeled by the coach. The teacher and coach base their decision about what is modeled on the needs that have been identified by the teacher.
Harris, L. S. (2016). Student-centered coaching: The moves. Sage Publications.