The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

Overview

As technology brings changes to the learning environment it also alters the roles educators play in how they guide students and facilitate learning experiences.  This change is particularly apparent for school librarians as both their role as an educator and the physical space of the library is shifting.  In considering these changes, I chose to focus my final practicum experience for my DEL master’s program on how the school librarian can facilitate and promote project based learning experiences.  

For this project, I chose to look at the role of the librarian because I recently began coursework to attain my library media endorsement.  Through my learning I became interested in how a school librarian directly collaborates with classroom teachers and students to create, deliver, and reflect on instruction.  This caused me to want to learn more about my school librarian’s role and how facilitating the prominent learning method project based learning might fit into that role.

Before sharing my resources is necessary to say that I have such an appreciation for my school librarian, Cyndi, and her willingness to embrace this project.  This year marks Cyndi’s 38th year as an educator and, with her tremendous experience sometimes comes a negative stigma around educators in their last few years of teaching, the idea being that they are unwilling to try out new ideas.  This is so not the case with Cyndi.  Each time we met she was eager to learn more about PBL, she brought resources and shared research she had done on her own between meetings, and our conversations often shifted to other opportunities to collaborate on all types of topics–we even planned out a few student clubs we might want to facilitate together next year!  Having such an enthusiastic educator to collaborate with definitely gave some momentum to our conversations and we are eager to see where we can take our work together to create valuable, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for students at our school.

Below, I include my complete project, an infographic I created on high quality student work in PBL, and a reflection on my next steps in continuing my learning and implementation of PBL as well as well as my collaborative work with Cyndi.

How to Get High Quality Student Work in Project Based Learning

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) has been my go-to for resources and information on PBL.  I reflect on and share many of these resources in the summaries and next steps sections of my report, but one in particular that stood out is John Larmer’s post titled “How to Get High Quality Student Work in PBL” as I think this information is essential to understanding how to start to create a PBL learning experience.  In the infographic below I summarize his tips and insights on the topic.  I created this in hopes of having it as an easy-to-follow resource for educators.

The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

I compiled my project into a report, included below, that discusses what PBL is, provides an overview of my school, shares and summarizes my interview and collaborative experiences with my librarian, and offers resources for beginning to implement PBL at our school.

Next Steps

This project was only the start of my learning regarding project based learning and my collaborative work with Cyndi to facilitate and promote PBL at our school.  Since we still have a lot of work to do, below are the immediate next steps in continuing this project.

  1. After sharing the resources and summaries from this project with Cyndi, her and I will work together to plan a PBL experience for students next year.  We will work together to take my ninth grade English students through a PBL designed learning experience.
  2. I will advocate to my principal that Cyndi and I, along with other interested educators, would like to attend professional development on project based learning.
  3. I will follow up with the teaching and learning team in my district to see that they provide PBL professional development either on our online learning portal or through planned collaborative time.
  4. I will work with Cyndi to brainstorm ideas so she can advocate for less time managing Chromebooks or other similar tasks so she has more time to collaborate with educators across subject areas to design and deliver instruction.

References

Driving Questions Webinar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/object/webinars_archived/driving_questions

Larmer, J. (2013, October 1). PBL Blog: How to Get High-Quality Student work in PBL. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/blog/how_to_get_high_quality_student_work_in_pbl

Larson, T. (n.d.). The 4Cs Research Series. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.p21.org/our-work/4cs-research-series 

Markham, T. (2017, May 08). How PBL Can Fulfill Its Promise to 21st Century Students. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.edcircuit.com/pbl-fulfill-promise-21st-century-students/

Miller, A. (2014, May 20). PBL and STEAM Education: A Natural Fit. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-and-steam-natural-fit-andrew-miller

Project Search. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/project_search

Recharge Learning Blog. (2015, April 06). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://rechargelearning.blogspot.com/2015/04/collaboration-communication-crit cal.html

Waters, P. (2014, July 09). Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-through-a-makers-lens-patrick-waters

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

Building Relationships Between Educators and Administrators on a Foundation of Trust

Overview

What does a successful marriage, a first-time skydiver, and a educator/administrator relationship have in common?  They all rely on a foundation of trust. A marriage between a couple who lack trust in one another will likely end in divorce.  A skydiver who lacks trust in their instructor or equipment may plunge to their death.  An educator who lacks trust in their administrator or an administrator who lacks trust in their educators may drastically limit the opportunities for growth for themselves as well as their students.  While this third scenario may not be as immediately consequential, the long term effects make for an environment with little respect, learning, and integrity.

My master’s cohort has spent the last several weeks looking in depth at ISTE standard #4 for coaches, outlined below.

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation – Performance Indicator B

Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

After all I’ve studied on this standard, I felt a bit “burnt out” when I originally read this week’s triggering question:

“What role should administrators play in professional learning programs and how do we advocate for their involvement and adequate professional learning support for technology-based learning initiatives?”  

I immediately thought of the necessity to differentiate professional development, but I’d covered that in a previous reflection. I then thought of the value of teacher voice and formative assessment but I’d done that too.  Luckily, my professional learning circle helped steer me towards a realization—most of my research and reflection has been based on how to plan and deliver great professional development.  What I had neglected to look at was the groundwork administrators and educators must lay to create an environment for powerful professional learning opportunities.  This led me to look at the necessity of building trust between administrators and educators as I studied the question:

Before teachers and administrators can collaborate together on professional and technology-based learning they must establish a relationship of trust.  How can they build this trust and what might stand in their way?

Characteristics of Trust

In her Edutopia article “When Teachers and Administrators Collaborate” Anne O’Brien, deputy director of Learning First Alliance explains that “trust alone does not guarantee success, [but] schools with little or no trust have almost no chance of improving” (O’Brien, 2014). So how do we build trust?  To begin, we must understand what combined characteristics create trust…

How do Educators and Administrators Build Trust?

Future Questions

  • What elements, aside from trust, are necessary as part of building a framework for effective professional development?
  • Gordon, J. (n.d.). 11 Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-buiild-trust.html

Resources

Alrubail, R. (2015, March 19) Administrators, Empower Your Teachers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/administrators-empower-your-teachers 

Brewster, C., & Railsback, J. (2003, September). Building Trusting Relationships for School Improvement: Implications for Principals and Teachers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/trust.pdf

Gordon, J. (n.d.). 11 Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-buiild-trust.html

OBrien, A. (2014, November 20). When Teachers and Administrators Collaborate. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/when-teachers-and-administrators-collaborate-anne-obrien

Collaborative Learning Strategies for Professional Development

Overview

After many conversations with educators and administrators, collaborations with my digital education leadership master’s cohort, a few months of pouring over professional development research, and reflections on my own experiences I can confidently say that most educator professional development opportunities are lacking in one way or another.  A few repeated sentiments include: most PD is just not relevant to my classroom, or, I know it’s going to be a waste of my time, or, it’s just filled with a bunch of top-down jargon, how is it best for students?  This makes me sad.  Professional development should be an opportunity to observe, reflect on, and apply best practices in teaching. Educators should leave a PD session empowered, not deflated. So, how can we make professional development more inspiring and engaging?

To answer this, I began by taking a deeper look at a few of the common issues with professional development.  I also looked at ISTE coach standard four indicator “B” which states that coaches must, “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment” (2016).  

After understanding some of the the issues and standards, I had a framework to begin unpacking my triggering question on this topic: What collaborative learning strategies help create effective professional development opportunities?

What’s the Problem?

Collaborative Learning Strategies for Professional Development

In exploring great teaching strategies I relied a bit on my own experiences and a lot on two excellent resources: The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies from the blog Cult of Pedagogy and PBS’s Teaching Strategies Resources menu. I sifted through these resources and choose ones that most closely addressed the issues outlined above.  I made an effort to limit the number of strategies that I shared to a few that I have tried personally, as a teacher or as a learner.  With that said, I highly recommend checking out these two sites and seeing what more they have to offer!

Resources

Bishop, D., Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R., & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State: Project Evaluation Report. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Gonzalez, J. (2015, October 15). The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/speaking-listening-techniques/

Moersch, C. (2011). Digital Age Best Practices: Teaching and Learning Refocused. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://digitalis.nwp.org/sites/default/files/files/94/Digital%20Age%20Best%20Practices.pdf

PBS Learning Media (n.d.). Teaching Strategies: Resources for Adult Educators. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://kcts9.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/ketae/

Developing a Peer Coaching Toolbox

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One major “ah ha” moment I have had during my master’s program research in digital education leadership is that good teaching is good teaching.  By this I mean that many of the best practices we use in our K-12 classrooms are equally effective when creating professional development for teachers. This quarter, my cohort has had the chance to look deeper at peer coaching and I recently had a similar “ah ha” moment; good coaching is good coaching.  Specifically, efficient coaching strategies for educators are, at their core, very similar to those used in other fields of work. I have used this perspective most recently as I have conducted research for my module 4 triggering question:

What are a few essential resources to add to my “peer coaching toolbox” that will help create valuable conversations while ensuring I don’t come across as critical?

Asking “what makes a great peer coach” without limiting my search to only educational coaching led me to countless resources, some gems and some that were easy to pass by.  As my intention is to create a “toolbox” of peer coaching resources, my resolution to my research was to synthesize some of the best information I came across into a document (shared in the “resolution” section). While sifting through resources, I attempted to really focus on the second part of my question, “[to choose tools that] create conversations that don’t come across as critical”. What follows is only the start to my peer coaching toolbox and I intend to build on it as I learn and gain more experience.

Resolution

Peer Coaching Toolbox

Overview of Resources

Since most of my peer coaching toolbox is made up of resources created and shared by others, rather than simply created by me, I didn’t think that a quick link in the “references” section gave due credit.  Below I include a brief overview of the resources I used to create my comprehensive toolbox.

  • EDTC 6103 Course Materials: this quarter it has been a bit difficult finding resources that top those provided by my professors, David Wicks and Les Foltos.  All that they have provided is already part of my toolbox, but for the sake of this module resolution I tried to narrow down to just a few resources that I found most valuable in general.  Some which I included are the learning activity checklist and tips on listening and asking probing questions.
  • Peer Coaching Resources: this resource was a gem and exactly what I was looking for to help address my question!  This was actually created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and, as far as I can tell, is for nurses, specifically those working in nursing homes.  That being so, I still found that just about all of these resources are equally relevant to peer coaching for teachers, or most professions.  I liked that they included several ready-to-use resources and among my favorites were ones on setting goals, establishing a clear plan for peer coaching, active listening, and activities for reflection and seeking feedback.  While not included in my toolbox, I really appreciated that they included a document that lists common peer coaching roadblocks along with solutions.  This is something I would like to develop later on!
  • How Google is Making Work Better: This episode of the podcast The Hidden Brain talks with Laszlo Bock about how his research on a successful workplace, outlined in his book Work Rules has been applied at Google.  In this episode, Bock and host Shankar Vedantam discuss leading theories on what creates an effective work environment.  
  • What Makes a Good Sports/Fitness Coach: when I looked at how to be an inspiring coach, I came across many resources for sports/fitness coaches.  While I didn’t come across many tangible items to add to my toolbox, I did appreciate that many of these resources seemed to focus on encouragement, positivity, and the attitude of the coach, which seemed a vital point to consider when selecting other resources.

Future Questions or Inquiries

  • What resources am I missing? Is there an element of peer coaching that is totally neglected?
  • I started this module intending to look at questioning strategies for peer coaches.  I ended up straying from that topic though because I feel like that’s already been done by many of my classmates and there are some good materials in our course documents.  In the future, this is something I would like to revisit.  
  • I want to look a bit further into how to include feedback and reflections into peer coaching opportunities.

References

Goldburg, A. (2016). SPECIAL: What makes a GOOD COACH? Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www.competitivedge.com/special-what-makes-good-coach

How Google’s Laszlo Bock Is Making Work Better. (2016, June 7). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/480976042/how-googles-laszlo-bock-is-making-work-better

Peer Coaching Resources. (2015, August). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.alliantquality.org/sites/default/files/Peer_Coach_Resource_508_FNL.pdf

Quinn, E. (2016, April 5). 9 Qualities of a Great Sports Fitness Coach. Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.verywell.com/what-makes-a-good-coach-3120792

Reeder, E. (2011, March 4). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://pimarsc.pbworks.com/w/page/37053775/LessonActivityChecklist

Setting Goals and Establishing Action Steps

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For the past four years I have taught an English support class for students who need a little extra help being successful in school, and particularly in reading and writing.  While I typically change up my lessons each year, hoping to grow off of successes and missed opportunities, one unit that has remained mostly intact revolves around having students create SMART goals (detailed in the additional resources below).  The task is simple–they make an academic SMART goal that they want to work to attain for the school year.  They get frequent opportunities to reflect on their goal, discuss character traits that one might need to reach a goal, and they can revise and edit their goal as the year progresses.  Ultimately, it does not matter whether or not they meet their goal, but having a clear idea of what to work towards helps students maintain clarity and focus on how they want to progress through the year.  I was thinking about this project as I began to consider my question for this module, which was…

What is a SMART goal for a secondary level peer coach based on 21st century learning? What are the components of this goal and what resources are available to help attain it?

As I find myself in more peer coaching opportunities, I feel like I have way too many goals–listen better,  don’t interrupt, help others take risks, create an environment for taking risks, and on, and on, and on.  While there is nothing wrong with being aware of areas for improvement, these “goals” can seem a bit too vague or unspecific and leave me feeling overwhelmed as they aren’t exactly attainable.  So, this week I chose to take some time to make one specific SMART goal for myself as a peer coach, which I will reflect on and edit as I progress.  Additionally, I included five specific action steps I will take to reach my goal to help have a more specific idea of how to move towards achieving it.

My Peer Coaching SMART Goal and Action Steps

goal-and-steps

Additional Resources

SMART Goals

As I previously mentioned, I teach a unit on writing SMART goals.  Below, I have included the presentation that I use to introduce SMART goals to students.

21st Century Learning

I had intended to create a resource that took a deeper looking into the P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning.  However, when I started my research I quickly learned that anything I had to say would be redundant as there is already so much great information out there.  One particular article I enjoyed reading was by Jennifer Gonzalez titled “Buzzword Bling: Putting Subtance Behind our Big Words”.  In it she explains that many belileve that teaching 21st century skills means teaching with technology, and while technology is a part, it is not the whole.  She explains that “we must also include life and innovation skills along with the traditional core subjects” and to do this we need to “step away from notes and lectures and build experiences” (2016).  To understand the P21 framework more completely, I am also including the infographic from the P21 site, which lays out each component.

framework-copyrighted

Future Questions

  1. How can I effectively reflect on my goal over time?  How can I ensure it will continue to grow as I grow as a peer coach?
  2. How do the 21st century learning standards relate to the ALA standards for the 21st century learner?

References

Bernard, S. (2008, December 03). BookmarkCollaborative Crusader: Creating a Twenty-First-Century Learning Community for Teachers. Retrieved November 4, 2016, from https://www.edutopia.org/collaboration-age-technology-lisa-huff

Gonzalez, J. (2016, July 17). Buzzword Bling: Putting Substance Behind Our Big Words. Retrieved November 04, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/buzzword-bling/

Partnership for 21 Century Skills (P21). (2007). Retrieved November 4, 2016, from https://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/Bishop Pre-Con 2.pdf

Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. (2016). Retrieved November 04, 2016, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/learning

Baby Steps Towards Mastering Coaching Behaviors

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One statement that often causes me to roll my eyes is when people say, “well, it’s easier in theory than in practice”.  I find this insight to be negative, dismissive, a way to throw in the towel before even giving something a chance.  This being so, I cannot help but keep having this thought over the past few weeks as I have been learning about behaviors and communication strategies that an effective peer coach must employ.  For example, I know that a good coach listens attentively without interrupting, yet I often find myself railroading other people’s thoughts with my own.  I know that a good coach creates a safe space for learners to grow, yet I sometimes find that I come across as sarcastic or self-righteous, qualities I know can be very off putting, particularly in a learning environment.

Now is not the first time I have learned about effective communication and collaboration techniques. This topic, and many related suggestions, have come up in my k-12 schooling, in education and linguistics classes I took when I was getting my bachelor’s degree, in professional development opportunities, and in personal self-improvement scenarios. Why then, if I keep learning the same conversational and coaching tips, have I not been able to fully implement them into my communication habits?  The simple answer is because it’s hard.  Hard tasks take repeated, consistent effort.  It takes grit and patience.  This being so, I am excited that I have another opportunity to look at my coaching habits, to reflect on how I have improved, and to set some goals to keep getting better.

An issue I face every time I dive into the topic of effective communication and collaboration is that I am quickly overwhelmed–there is so much information on the topic available, so many “tips” and “tricks” and “how to’s”.  Furthering my dilemma is that a lot of this information is good, valuable, I want to use it.  However, I also know that people learn best through scaffolding, by breaking down the learning into manageable steps.  So, while I am feeling very inspired to improve my communication habits in hopes of becoming a better learning coach (and person as a whole!), I am going to need to make myself slow down.  This week, I am going to focus in on a few communication pointers that I know I need to work on, choosing tips I can easily and frequently implement.  Once I get these down, I can look at the next steps to continue improving my communication skills.

Easy-to-Implement Communication Pointers for Peer Coaches

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  • Don’t interrupt: give the learner time to finish their thoughts–interrupting someone while they are speaking is not only rude, but I may not have the whole idea of how I can offer assistance of I don’t let them fully express their ideas.
  • Paraphrase what the learner says:  repeat back what the learner says as it demonstrates that the coach is listening and helps them process their ideas.  For example, asking “is this what you mean” helps learners know whether or not they are being concise and accurate, and in turn helps them fine tune their ideas.
  • Set clear norms and objectives: if all learners are aware of the behavior expected of them as well as the objective they are working to meet, the learning session will run much more smoothly.  It will also be easier to reflect on the learning if the objectives and expectations are clear.
  • Show, don’t tell: In an article titled “The Secret to Great Coaching, Les Foltos includes an analogy that I really appreciated.  He explains that “coaches need to understand that their learning partners, like rock climbers, need to be able to act on their won when they reach the crux of the problem” (Foltos 2014).  If a coach doesn’t let learners reach their own conclusions, they will become dependent on the coach.  The coach must provide opportunities for self-discovery to help learners feel empowered.
  • Ask probing questions: to help lead the learner to their own ideas, ask questions to spark their thinking.  Rely on lists of question stems, or simply ask “why” or “please elaborate”–again, let the learner make their own discoveries!

Building Blocks of Trust

For the Google Hangout that was paired with this week’s study, one of our instructors, Les Foltos, asked us to look at the following list of behaviors that build trust in the workplace (Peer-Ed 2015).

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Les asked that we take this information and build a diagram of our “building blocks of trust”, which should consist of a five-block pyramid with the behaviors we found to be the most important, or those that we wanted to work on improving.  I am including my “building block of trust” below.  I designed it similar to how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is organized, with the behaviors at the bottom being essential before those above are attainable.  As Les stated, my building blocks will change as my skills as a coach develop, so this is just a work in progress.

capture

Future Questions:

  • How will I know when I have mastered these communication skills? What can I do to reflect and check in on my progress?
  • I choose to focus on communication skills that I need to work on, but that I think most people could benefit from implementing too.  What’s missing? Is there a big “coaching to-do” that I am leaving out?

Resources

Les, F. (2014, June). The Secret to Great Coaching. Learning Forward, 35(3), 29-31

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

ISTE Standards for Technology Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

 Wicks, David and Foltos, Les. (2015).  Building Trust: Behaviors that Build Trust in the Workplace.  Seattle, WA. Retrieved October 17, 2016.

Setting the Stage: Establishing an Environment for Peer Coaching

A photo by Julia Caesar. unsplash.com/photos/asct7UP3YDE

“Leap, and the net will appear.” (Zen saying)

Overview

This fall I began my fifth year of teaching, a milestone in many ways. While I am still at the beginning of my career, I am no longer a “new” teacher.  I have greater confidence in my instructional strategies, classroom management skills, and collaborative relationships.  I no longer have slight dread while wondering how am I going to make it through the year but now find myself asking how can I shape myself into a phenomenal educator?  As I have been wondering this, an answer has presented itself in my module one explorations for my digital education leadership program.  This quarter, my cohort is looking at the role of peer coaching in the professional learning environment.  While my learning has been very general so far as I am just delving into this dynamic topic, it is clear that great educators are shaped by great educators.  So, if I am to become great and help others do so as well, I must work to create an environment that successfully integrates peer coaching into professional development.  

I start this exploration with a strong advantage as I get to learn about peer coaching from Les Foltos, an expert on the topic and one of my professors for the quarter.  In his book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, I was struck by how frankly Les explains that creating a successful environment for peer coaching requires educators to be extremely vulnerable.  In his introductory chapter he explains that, when confronted with a peer coaching opportunity, the learning partner hears, “my coach is asking me to open the doors of my classroom and to demonstrate want I know and what I don’t know.  My coach is asking me to take risks and make mistakes in public” (Foltos 2013). While I am eager to get into the intricacies of models for peer coaching, this point stopped me in my tracks.  It made me realize that, before I can understand what meaningful peer coaching looks like, I must first look at what elements are essential to establishing an environment where peer coaching can happen.  Without a safe learning environment, educators will not feel comfortable being vulnerable and therefore cannot open their doors to peer coaching opportunities.  

What is essential to creating a successful environment for peer coaching?

As is often the case, when I began exploring essential elements of a successful peer coaching environment, I was met with an overabundance of information.  After skimming through multiple blog posts, educator resources, and scholarly articles, I started to see many overlapping ideas and decided that, rather than reinvent the wheel, I would synthesize my findings into a comprehensive list.  Below are what I found to be the leading tips on creating a successful environment for peer coaching.

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What topics relating to peer coaching will I explore in the future?

All that I have learned this week has been both fulfilling and overwhelming.  Now that I have gotten to dive into the topic of peer coaching, I am aware of how much great information there is out there to explore!  Since this week’s blog post only scratches the surface, I wanted to take a moment to mention a few ideas that have started to spark in my head which I would like to look at deeper in the coming weeks.

  • Now that we have created an environment where peer coaching can be successful, how do we get teachers to “open their doors”?
  • What is the role of an instructional coach?  
  • What behaviors and strategies should an instructional coach master in order to be effective?
  • My school district currently has nine full time secondary level instructional coaches.  How are their roles defined?  What are the next steps my district is taking to create an environment for peer coaching?
  • How can we make time for feedback and reflection more valuable in professional learning opportunities?

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2011). Four Conditions Essential for Instructional Coaching to Work. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/four-conditions-instructional-coaching-elena-aguilar

Dupree, O. (n.d.). What is an Instructional Coach? Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://piic.pacoaching.org/index.php/piic-coaching/what-is-an-instructional-coach

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Gonzalez, J. (2016, September 25). How Pineapple Charts Revolutionize Professional Development. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pineapple-charts/

Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

Guest Post: Who Sits In the Big Chair? Reflections on Building Collaborative Partnerships with Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://yourinstructionalcoach.com/2016/09/07/guest-post-who-sits-in-the-big-chair-reflections-on-building-collaborative-partnerships-with-teachers/

Empowering Teachers to Create Effective Learning Environments

Overview

In my studies for my digital education leadership master’s program, I have frequently been reminded that effective teaching strategies are not dependent on the learners or the environment.  Specifically, many great teaching ideas I come across for my ninth grade classroom are just as relevant to a group of teachers learning about technology.  This realization has been especially apparent I as have been studying ISTE Coaching Standard 3 (Performance indicators e and g), outlined below.

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 – Digital age learning environments: Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.
E – Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments
G – Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community

These performance indicators call for technology coaches to help educators create effective digital learning environments.  To do so, classroom teachers must feel confident enough with digital tools that they can use them independently in their classrooms.  I initially responded to this standard as I normally do, thinking the solution was as simple as just showing teachers some cool digital tools and assuming that alone would be enough for them join the digital learning bandwagon.  With this in mind, I started my research by exploring the question: how can digital video, audio, and social media be used in professional development (PD) in hopes of modeling these platforms so educators can use them comfortably on their own?  However, I soon realized that the second part of this question, getting teachers to use digital tools comfortably on their own, was the essential point to address.

To create such an environment, technology coaches must first consider the end objective, to help educators feel motivated and empowered to embrace educational technology.  Coaches must also consider their learners who are teachers that may or may not embrace technology. With this in mind, coaches can work to create PD opportunities using the effective teaching methods educators rely on in their classrooms. If successful, coaches can empower teachers to confidently explore and implement digital learning tools independently.

Teachers as Students

Teaching teachers is scary.  Anyone who has had the opportunity to lead professional development for educators likely knows this to be true–if you disagree, please tell me your secrets!  Many educators, myself included, can’t help but judge “teachers of teachers” on their presentation methods, learning activities, and management strategies. How can we not when our own careers revolve around creating killer lessons and learning opportunities?  If we assume that most teachers get hung up on the delivery of professional development, it becomes clear that teachers of teachers must consider effective teaching practices used in the classroom when creating PD. When teachers are students, they expect to be engaged and leave motivated.  To help foster this, some questions to consider when before developing PD opportunities might include:

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Know your Learners

Professional development opportunities require a lot of forethought in order to be successful.  In the planning stage, it is vital to think think about the unique needs of your learners.  In any given PD session, the learners are not simply educators, but rather a diverse group of people with varying learning preferences and needs. Some may require accommodations to access the material, some may have significantly more prior knowledge of the content than others, some may be unmotivated to learn, and so on.  When providing PD, I have noticed a few common trends in participants which appear to hold some back from embracing new learning.  Below, I outline these trends and provide possible suggestions to address each.  While applicable to any learning environment, the trends and suggestions specifically consider learners participating in technology PD.

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Combatting the “Curse of Knowledge”

Technology coaches, among others who lead PD for teachers, are typically current or former teachers who have demonstrated exceptional confidence with using digital tools effectively for learning. These coaches, who often have a wealth of resources to share and enthusiasm to boot, also commonly share one potential fatal flaw, the curse of knowledge.  “The curse of knowledge”, as described by Christopher Reddy in Edutopia’s article “The Teacher Curse No One Wants to Talk About”, is the phenomena that occurs in educators when they have such a strong base of content knowledge that they overlook the difficult and time consuming process it takes to acquire this knowledge.  Reddy explains that educators, “do not remember what it is like to not know what they are trying to teach” and therefore “cannot relive the difficult and lengthy process that learning [the] content originally took” (2015).  In creating technology PD, coaches must consider how the curse of knowledge might be negatively impacting the participants. Does the coach meet the learners at their level and build them up, or is the learning process overwhelming the learners? To address the curse of knowledge, Reddy offers several thinking points which are outlined in the Coggle mind map below.  While these points relate to teaching in a K-12 classroom, they are applicable to any learning situation. 


 

Future Questions

  1. For this module I had intended look at methods to empower educators to use video, audio, and social media in the classroom by using these tools in professional development.  In my research, I came across several resources (included below) on the topic.  I ended up shifting my focus a bit and would like to look back at my guiding question and address it more fully in the future.
  2. I ended up reflecting professional development as a whole rather than just on technology PD.  I think that most of my resolution is relevant to technology PD, but wonder what other points technology coaches should consider when creating PD opportunities.  

Resources

Arora, D. (2014, June 25). How to Use Social Media for Professional Development. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/how-use-social-media-professional-development

Davis, M. (2013, February 26). Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-media-resources-educators-matt-davis

How to Encourage and Model Global Citizenship in the Classroom. (2016, July 19). Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2016/07/how_to_encourage_and_model_global_citizenship_in_the_classroom.html

Raths, D. (2015, June 17). 6 Ways Videoconferencing Is Expanding the Classroom — THE Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2015/06/17/6-ways-videoconferencing-is-expanding-the-classroom.aspx

Reddy, C. (2015, December 18). The Teacher Curse No One Wants to Talk About. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-curse-of-knowledge-chris-reddy