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/

A Model for Professional Development Considering Adult Learning Principles

Image adapted from UCBHCA: Training of Facilitators Manual for the Functional Adult Literacy Training Manual

Overview

Throughout my studies on digital education leadership, and specifically what it means to be an effective instructional coach and to design great professional development, I have continually been reminded that many of the teaching and learning practices used with K-12 students are effective with adults learners as well.  In fact, this point has been the resolution to most of my inquiries over my graduate program studies.  So, over these last few weeks I have been both delighted and intrigued to get to look at what sets adult learners apart from adolescent learners.

What Makes Adult Learners Unique?

I touched on adult learning in my last blog post, but to recap, the most prolific commentary on adult learning, also known as andragogy, comes from the adult educator Malcolm Knowles.  Knowles narrowed his theory of andragogy down to six major principles (Knowles, 2015). He claims that adult learners…

  • Are motivated and self directed.

  • Bring life experience and knowledge.

  • Are goal oriented

  • Are relevancy oriented.

  • Are practical.

  • Like to be respected.

The Australian Catholic University does a great job of summarizing each of these principles, but I was left wondering how this differs from students.  To address this inquiry, I found another great resource, from the Nebraska Department of Labor’s professional development site.  Below, I include a screenshot of an interactive infographic that details what sets adult learners apart from children.

I found the first point especially interesting–that children base what is important in their learning on what they are told to study.  If a teacher says the material is important, students will often believe them.  Contrarily, adults want to know the value of what the are learning and specifically how it will be valuable to their teaching.  I highly recommend all interested parties check out this resource!   

Adult Learning Principles in Professional Development

In studying about adult learners I quickly realized that there are so many great resources already available it would be superfluous to make my own. Instead, I choose to search for a model for professional development that is designed with the adult learning principles in mind.  I didn’t have to go far, as my own school district is currently preparing for a Learning Improvement Day (LID) that takes these principles into consideration.  In fact, the following slides are from the recent facilitator training.

How does the LID consider adult learning principles?

  • Adult Learners are goal oriented: our LID revolves around the Lake 8, which are the eight instructional components of student learning.  Each professional development session is aligned with one of these standards. The infographic below details the Lake 8 standards.

  • Adult learners are relevancy oriented: the LID consists of several sessions and participants get to choose which ones to attend.  The sessions are grouped by grade level (elementary or secondary) and, while some are subject specific, many apply to various subjects.  

  • Adult learners are practical: the goal of the LID is to leave teachers with instructional tools or resources they could implement in their classrooms the next day.  The goal is to keep each session quick and provide time to work.  The LID site also includes links to presentation materials and suggestions for future PD for those who want to extend their learning.

What’s missing?

It is unfair and inaccurate to judge just how effectively my district’s LID day accounts for all of Knowles principles until during and after the session.  The follow three principles cannot be determined yet and should therefore be the priorities of the facilitators when designing and implementing their specific professional development session.

  • Adult learners are motivated and self directed.
  • Adult learners bring life experience and knowledge.
  • Like to be respected.

Future Inquires

  • My goal for this blog post was to be reflective rather than to judge or evaluate.  However, I am curious to know if and how my district intends to assess how effectively the learning from the LID is implemented into instruction.
  • I keep reading that effective professional development is ongoing.  How could the LID be extended?

References

ACU (Australian Catholic University). (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://www.acu.edu.au/staff/our_university/faculties/faculty_of_health_sciences/professional_practice_resources_for_supervisors/interprofessional_resource_library/Facilitating_Learning/knowles_principles

CAV: January 13, 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/lkstevens.wednet.edu/learningstrategiespd

Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) – Training Manual: Unit Two: Facilitating Adult Learning: 2.1 Characteristics of Adult Learners and Qualities of a Good Instructor. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/en/d/Jh0414e/5.1.html

LSSD Professional Learning Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://lifeinthetechlab.com/LSSD/plp/
Professional Development: Key Differences. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://nelearn.myelearning.org/mod/page/view.php?id=423

Differentiating Professional Development

Those in the profession of education are all too familiar with buzzwords, those bits of jargon that often come and go as topics of conversation and professional development.  While these words can often feel a bit exhausting, one that has seemed to stick, and for good reason, is “differentiation”.  Since I started studying the pedagogy of teaching, differentiation has been at the core of most of my learning .  Educators are tasked with understanding how to modify the content, process, and product of instruction to meet the needs of individual learners (Carlson).  If we understand that this is a fundamental component of effective teaching, it is safe to say that instruction should be differentiated for all learners, regardless of age level, experience, or background.  Therefore, effective professional development for teachers must be differentiated so that it is valuable, effective, and efficient for everyone.  

This is no easy task.  In a classroom, a teacher may have around 25-30 students that they see every day as they teach them one, or a few, subjects.  In this scenario, differentiating instruction is often an ongoing challenge.  Contrarily, opportunities for professional development are much less frequent and, depending on the school, there could be 50-100 (or more!) educators who all teach different subject areas and grade levels.  How can professional development be molded to meet the diverse needs of educators?

What’s Wrong With Professional Development As It Is?

Finding a comprehensive list of tips on differentiating professional development was a bit of a struggle, but it was easy to find a ton of commentary on what currently isn’t working in professional development opportunities.  One of the best resources, the Center for Public Education’s “Teaching the Teacher’s: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability” findings report, offered a clear idea of why most professional development is ineffective.  They looked at the types of professional development offered to teachers over the course of a year.  They found the following:

This information is concerning because, “most development happens in a workshop-style model which research shows has little to no impact on student learning or teacher practice” (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009).  Workshops, the report suggests, are ineffective because, in contrast, professional development programs that impacted student achievement were lengthy and intensive, but workshops are often only over the course of a day or two.  Workshops are not ongoing and there is rarely any follow-up.  Additionally, workshops assume that the issue teachers face is a knowledge gap and once they learn a few tips they will be much improved.  In reality, the struggle is in implementing instruction.  So, while a workshop may help educators gather resources, they must then have the opportunity to observe and practice good teaching in action (Gulamhussein, 2013).  This report goes on to offer some excellent tips for creating effective professional development.  While I highly suggest anyone in the education profession to check out this report, its focus is not directly on differentiation. In what follows, I use this reports tips for effective professional development, along with a few other resources, to provide an idea of how to differentiate professional development.

Differentiating Professional Development

Future Inquiries

  1. I found this topic really interesting, but as it’s one I’ve only just begun exploring, my resources were mostly introductory.  I would like to find more resources that get a bit deeper into differentiating professional development.
  2. Most of the information I found suggests that professional development be differentiated in the same ways we differentiate learning for K-12 students.  This makes sense, but are there other resources to consider when teachers are the learners?

Professional Development and Project Evaluation Mind Map

I created the following Coggle Mind Map based on my reading of Chapter 2: Evaluating and Assessing Professional Development from Sally Zepeda’s book Professional Development: What Works.  I will be using this learning throughout the quarter as I continue to look at what makes professional development valuable, effective, and efficient.

Resources

Carlson, A. M. (n.d.). What is Differentiated Instruction? Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-differentiated-instruction-examples-definition-activities.html

Gulamhussein, A. (n.d.). Teaching the Teachers. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teaching-the-Teachers-Effective-Professional-Development-in-an-Era-of-High-Stakes-Accountability/Teaching-the-Teachers-Full-Report.pdf

Guskey, T., & Suk Yoon, K. (2009, March). What Works in Professional Development? Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://www.k12.wa.us/Compensation/pubdocs/Guskey2009whatworks.pdf

Project Evaluation Report. (n.d.). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State, 1-87. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Zepeda, S. J. (2012). Professional Development: What Works. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Zdonek, P. (2016, January 15). Why Don’t We Differentiate Professional Development? Retrieved January 12, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-dont-we-differentiate-pd-pauline-zdonek

Soliciting and Providing Feedback through Peer Coaching Experiences

Overview

Imagine peering into the engine of a running vehicle.  It is likely that you visualize several parts, working together harmoniously so the car runs smoothly.  It is less likely that you think about how many trials and errors, restarts and near quits it took for the vehicle to get to the point where it ran at all, let alone well.  Observing extremely effective peer coaching may look the same–it just seems to work.  However, unless I’m missing the secret key to coaching, this is very far from true.  In fact, the one “key” idea I have learned is that becoming a great peer coach and implementing a peer coaching plan is extremely difficult.

In building anything great, the process needs to be altered, refined, expanded, and sometimes thrown out.  In prior blog posts for the quarter I have shared some peer coaching strategies I’ve found effective as well as reflected on my successes and areas of improvement.  For my final reflection, I wanted to look at how to continue to grow a powerful peer coaching system, specifically by looking at when feedback is and is not appropriate, how and when to solicit feedback, and what to do with it once gathered.  I chose to include my final reflection on my recent “real world” peer coaching experiences along with this post to provide a reference point and to keep me thinking about how to continue growing as a peer coach.

Feedback vs. Evaluation

The infographic below represents the difference between feedback and evaluations, which I created by synthesizing some of the most relevant information from various resources, listed in my “references” section. I thought that it was important to distinguish between these two terms before looking further at the place for feedback and evaluation in peer coaching opportunities. I am glad I did so as it actually appears that feedback is much more effective at encouraging growth, and is therefore more appropriate in peer coaching.  Evaluations, while useful in determining areas of growth, are best suited for conversations between administrators and individual teachers. Examples of how feedback can be used in peer coaching, with resources, are included further on.

Feedback in Peer Coaching

In our cohorts Google Hangout several weeks ago, one of my professors, David Wicks, made a quick side comment about how a coach must be careful with how feedback and evaluation are used in peer coaching.  This was a sticky comment, it got my brain spinning, and it gave me a good framework for my research. I chose to spend the remainder of my peer coaching course exploring the question, “How can a peer coach effectively self-assess and gather feedback from others in order to grow as a coach and ensure that the feedback is accurate?” While I never directly asked David why he said this, my initial inquiries helped lead me to two possible reasons:

  1. Evaluations have no place in peer coaching.  From here on, I will only talk about feedback.
  2. One must be very intentional in seeking feedback and consider how feedback is solicited, how the questions are worded, what is done with the feedback once received, and who gets to review it.

To help further focus my exploration, I appreciated that my classmate, Liz Ebersole, asked me the following question:  “Would you use this type of evaluation/feedback to plan PD for coaches or to collect data to advocate for adopting a peer coaching practice at the school/district level? What do you hope to learn from the feedback and how will you share it and who with?”

Using David’s comment and Liz’s question, I created the following infographic to display a rough idea of how feedback can be used in peer coaching and included a few resources that might help start the process.

Reflection on My Peer Coaching Experiences

This quarter I had the opportunity to practice peer coaching by working with a teacher at my school.  While there were a few hiccups in the process, this experience was so valuable for me because I was able to debrief and share ideas with my master’s program cohort.  An overview of what I learned during this process, along with the work that my colleague and I produced, is included in the document below.

Future Inquiries

  • In my peer coaching experience, I worked with a colleague who is also a close personal friend.  This presented unique challenges and made parts of the process easier.  What additional tools and strategies might a coach want to use when working with someone they are less familiar with?
  • One topic that myself and others in my cohort explored this quarter was that other professional fields, outside of education, offer great insights into how to be an effective coach.  I would like to explore this further in the future.
  • In this blog post I touched on providing feedback in peer coaching.  I would like to look at this deeper too and gain some “field experience” to help explore this further.

Resources

Baehr, M. (n.d.). 4.1.2 Distinctions Between Assessment and Evaluation. Retrieved December 08, 2016, from http://www.pcrest3.com/fgb/efgb4/4/4_1_2.htm

Rehman, S. (n.d.). Effective Feedback. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://phoenixmed.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/content/facdev/rehman-512014.pdf

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.

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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/

Workshop Proposal: Giving Quiet Students a Voice with Social Tools

Rationale

Every classroom has them.  Students with great ideas who are just too shy to speak out, while a few dominate the conversation.  Give those students a voice in your classroom with technology tools that let them be heard.  In this workshop, on giving quiet students a voice with digital tools, you will learn about and how to use several different types of forums, polls and interactive assignment tools to increase participation and get those students into class discussions.  Use these tools as pre-cursors to classroom discussions to spark the flow of ideas and empower all students in your class!  This workshop also addresses tips for selecting, evaluating, and managing digital tools so you can feel confident that you are using the best tool for the task!  

This workshop seeks to address the following essential questions:

  1. How can I encourage quiet students to engage in class discussions and activities?
  2. How can I balance class discussions and activities so that more students are participating?
  3. How can I select, evaluate, and manage digital tools?

Workshop Structure

This workshop is best suited for a 90 minute session to allow time for collaboration and for individuals to experiment with the tools. It could easily be shortened, by only covering the presentation (or parts of the presentation), or lengthened, by giving more work time afterwards.  An approximate breakdown of the session is as follows:

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One point to highlight about this workshop is it’s collaborative learning element.  Creating a collaborative space is essential to experimenting with and troubleshooting digital tools.  As the workshop facilitator, I intend to keep the presentation short to allow time for participants to explore tools in teams and to provide opportunities for trial and error so they are more confident to use the digital tools on their own.  If possible, it would be beneficial to incorporate a flipped learning element where the participants could come prepared with a lesson or learning activity they would like to apply their new learning to.  To foster a collaborative environment, I have created activities on Padlet and Answer Garden which asks participants to reflect on their teaching and share digital tools and ideas relating to the topic.  Additionally, the presentation includes a think-pair-share activity to promote collaborative relationships during the workshop.

Presentation Materials

During the workshop I will share the giving quiet students a voice presentation, included below.  Participants will need computers, tablets, or phones with internet access so they can actively participate with the presentation.  I will need access to a projector, with either a laptop hookup or a designated computer attached that I can use to access the presentation.  If the technology does not come through, the workshop could easily be adapted to focus on discussing the essential questions and planning lessons or brainstorming ways to incorporate digital tools that promote engagement in discussion.

Content Knowledge Needs

The digital tools covered in this workshop can be used in just about any learning environment, regardless of age range or subject. That being the case, the specific student learning standards addressed may vary by task or subject.  However, this workshop topic most holistically addresses Common Core State Standards in English/language arts relating to speaking and listening. By twelfth grade, students are expected to prepare for, participate in, respond to, and evaluate discussions.  Taking advantage of digital tools that increase student engagement directly addresses this standard.

This workshop is also intended to address standards six and seven of the newly released 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.  Standard six requires that students communicate clearly and express themselves creativity through appropriate digital media.  Standard seven asks that students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning through collaboration.  As already noted, the digital tools featured in this workshop encourage wide participation in discussions and learning opportunities.

Teacher Needs Addressed

This workshop addresses several accessibility needs, including:

  • Rather than having the presentation simply displayed on a screen at the front of the room, participants will also have access to the presentation from their personal devices by using Pear Deck.
  • Participants can access the presentation using a shortened link available on the introductory screen.  They may choose to access it this way if they would prefer it to Pear Deck.
  • Using Pear Deck I can share notes from the presentation with participants once it is finished.  This way, participants can access the information for later reference.
  • The introductory video includes closed captioning for participants with hearing disabilities.
  • The location of the workshop will be accessible to all, regardless of disabilities.  
  • The digital tools highlighted in the presentation were selected because they were all free, available on any device, and easy to use.  They are also all applicable to any subject or age range. They are all web based, so students would need internet access to access the tools at home.

Workshop Proposal

The main points of the workshop are addressed in this post.  The full workshop proposal is included below.