By: Matt Rhoads, Ed.D
Dr. Matt Rhoads is a Tech and Instructional Leader and Innovator with hands in Adult Ed, K-12, and Higher Education. He is the author of several books and is the host of Navigating Education – The Podcast.
A major part of my role is to provide instructional and EdTech integration coaching to teachers. The goal is to build capacity in instruction as well as build equitable learning environments and opportunities for our students. The new teacher center provides a framework that helped me devise some of our systems relating to the coaching systems discussed in this post. I also use quite a bit of Jim Knight’s work, including the book “The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching” to support my coaching practice. Creating systems with coaching is a key to its success across various departments and schools. Ultimately, we want to improve teacher efficacy and instructional capacity. Using coaching systems has been key in building our programs and teacher confidence to try and experiment with new things in their classroom to support our learners. Also, before jumping into discussing coaching systems, relationships must be built and cultivated throughout each of these systems in order for there to be trust for coaching to be effective. Trust is the foundation for coaching, which is predicated on building strong relationships between the coach and coachee. Relationships and trust ensure the systems work for the long term. Therefore, with this said, the goal of this post is to share systems that can help support instructional and EdTech coaching by illustrating what I do in my role as an instructional leader and coach.
We provide several types of coaching to support teachers. This includes drop-in observations and feedback, POP cycles, and one on one coaching meetings. Most recently, we are moving into using the POP cycle for many non-evaluative observations and coaching cycles to support teachers in instructional and EdTech by building capacity in one or more areas.
Drop-in observations relate to drop-ins to provide feedback. Teachers need feedback – especially feedback that can help build their efficacy and brainstorm on various ideas for their lessons. Providing positive feedback, and appreciation, and then adding a few recommendations have been the ingredients for this.
The POP coaching cycle relates to having a pre-observation conference, observation, and then post-observation conference. These are the foundation of coaching cycles. Goals are set relating to where a teacher wants to improve in and then an assessment is given by the coach and the teacher on where we both think they are and how growth can occur in a specific area(s). Within this POP coaching cycle, the rubric related to the TIM is provided and various levels as assessed and provided to teachers. Additionally, the goal is to also use it for goal setting, which gives teachers examples of what they can strive for and project towards for the end of this coaching cycle. Once the coaching cycle is established, various observations using the rubric and qualitative feedback are given and it continues for a given time period.
- Learner Variability – The Digital Promise Learner Variability resource provides teachers with classroom practices and strategies to amplify student learning. From Kindergarteners to Learners, they provide a series of strategies and resources to help support them in their learning based on a number of variables that affect how we learn. Additionally, they give a series of strategies that are research-driven that demonstrate their effectiveness. They illustrate examples of how to incorporate these strategies within the classroom with videos, resources, and more. Please feel free to explore these strategies. You are likely doing many of them in your classroom! Below are a number of steps you can take to utilize the tool. In this previous post, we go further in-depth as to how you use the Learner Variability tool and how it be utilized to support teacher instruction and student learning.
- Technology Integration Matrix – The TIM is a research-based matrix that allows teachers to see where specific strategies and technology integrations fall in regard to the learning environment and the levels of technology integration. Each level represents various ways you integrate strategies and technology to amplify student learning. You can see examples, research, videos, and activities that demonstrate each of these levels. In this previous post, we go further in-depth as to what the Technology Integration Matrix is and how we can utilize it to support teacher instruction and student learning.
One on one coaching sessions relate to having meetings about lesson design, incorporating lesson design and strategies within a variety of EdTech tools, including our LMS, and co-planning. Within our coaching meetings, we focus on the lesson itself, the instructional strategies utilized, and then the EdTech once the foundation of the lesson and instructional strategies are determined. There are times we also focus on co-planning and backward planning. Last, when introducing a new strategy and/or EdTech tool, we plan on co-teaching together to introduce the new strategy, EdTech tool, or integrating them together within a lesson sequence. This helps model what this looks like for teachers as well as help them build confidence in something new they are trying in their classrooms.
Collecting Coaching Data – Connecthub.io
To collect data on coaching experiences, we use Connecthub.io. We collect data on coaching cycles, professional development sessions, instructional tech support, course design, co-teaching for strategy and tool integration adoption, and observations. Each of these opportunities provides qualitative data to be inputted as well as quantitative when it comes down to assigning various metrics to teaching performance (i.e., utilizing the TIM). Various tags and themes can be denoted for each opportunity to collect data, which over time helps the coach, as well as orthe ganization, to determine instructional trends. To see how Connectub in action, take a look at this video here demonstrating the tool.
Throughout the year, I analyze the data collected through coaching. Trends are aggregated based on department and school. Then, professional development and further coaching goals are developed. The analysis takes place quarterly where the data is transformed into reports, which illustrate the instructional trends that can be broken down to be very specific nuances in what’s happening. For example, within a department and group of educators, we can segment which strategies are being utilized the most and then review through the qualitative observations how they are looking across multiple classrooms.
Coaching cycles are then evaluated in segments of however long they have been determined. For example, if a coaching cycle is 12 weeks long, it is evaluated every 12 weeks and then reassessed. The data collected across coaching cycles are analyzed to see growth from multiple teachers across the instructional capacity that is being built. This allows us to see our strengths and gaps as well as where we are at in relation to our instructional goals at the school and consortia.
Aligning Professional Development to Coaching
Based on the coaching data, professional development themes are developed and old ones are reassessed. Additionally, professional development is also reassessed to determine the means by which how it was delivered and if it had any visible effect on the instructional capacity we see across departments and schools. After this is analyzed, professional development is developed for asynchronous and synchronous participation, and themes to take into coaching are also developed. For example, if we wanted to focus on creating more Universal Design for Learning lessons and tasks for students, we would look at incorporating more professional learning in creating these tasks on our LMS, through active learning strategies, and how these opportunities can be developed throughout the sequence of a lesson.
Conclusion – Systems Thinking is the Key to Instructional Coaching and Organizational Capacity Building
When we think of coaching as a system and a sequence that we utilized to analyze what’s going on in classrooms, we can see large instructional trends that we can then use to support our schools in building capacity and reinforcing already solid practices. This helps us deliver the coaching and supports that can help teachers immediately as well as over time. Additionally, it helps us pivot what we provide in our professional development and coaching as well as reinforce instructional practices. Over time, we continue to re-evaluate systems and most importantly ask our teachers how they can be best supported through the coaching we provide. This ultimately helps us make important changes as things evolve within our consortia as well as in education so we can best support our teachers.
I hope this helps coaches and instructional leaders think about their systems and make parallels with what we do and what they do. Feel free to leave your thoughts and let us know what your coaching systems look like in your school and organization.