As Jim Knight (2018) describes in his book The Impact Cycle, coaching is one of the most effective ways to improve teaching and learning in ANY instructional setting. Coaching involves the reciprocal relationship of giving and receiving feedback, discussion and reflection, and it benefits both experienced and novice teachers alike. Like most divisions, we believe that all teachers can and will improve their practices if they have clear goals and receive consistent coaching. Our blended coaching process allows teachers to receive personalized job embedded coaching, group collaboration coaching sessions and virtual coaching.
In today’s high tech and demanding world, teachers are in search of training that is respectful of their time and not an addition to the time many of them already spend outside of the classroom planning and self-studying. Dian Schaffhauser (2018) in her article “Teachers Too Busy to Collaborate” explains that while collaboration is a 21st century skill for students, teachers are not often modeling the same behavior. While teachers understand and accept the importance of coaching and collaboration, most feel that the time involved in reporting to coaching or training after or before school is not worth time away from other duties and family responsibilities. We implemented blended coaching as a response to many of these time constraints and the value we place on personalized learning.
Blended coaching combines the best elements of personalized, online, collaborative and face-to-face learning. While our teachers can offer a laundry list of reasons they support blended coaching, four appear to resonate with almost all of them. Our teachers have reported that blended coaching is flexible, immediate, engaging and collaborative.
Because blended coaching is flexible, teachers have the opportunity to decide what they learn, when they learn, where they learn and how they learn. Our virtual coaching allows teachers to participate on any device from their school, home or in my case in the parking lot during my daughter’s soccer practice. Virtual coaching can be personalized for a teacher’s individual needs or collaborative with a school or grade level team. Blended coaching also provides immediate, real-time feedback through job-embedded coaching. Job-embedded coaching allows teachers to receive immediate feedback on a portion of their instruction, watch a modeled lesson, or discuss and create lesson plans. Because all forms of the blended coaching model are designed to meet the specific needs of the participants, the levels of engagement are high and teachers are allowed to participate as well as dialogue in ways that go well beyond phone calls and emails. This blended approach engages teachers and we are finding that they want to share, think differently, and are more intentional with decisions. Finally, blended learning allows for collaboration among teachers and administrators. Teachers who want the opportunity to collaborate with others can attend our afternoon face-to-face collaborative sessions and share best practices or seek advice from others. However, even this approach can be flexible and approached in a virtual setting to meet the needs of schedules.
REFLECTION AND REGROUPING
Although the blended model of coaching has been a successful way of improving planning, direct and small group instruction, and classroom engagement in our READ 180 classrooms, it did not begin without frequent reflection and regrouping. Our first hurdle was scheduling the face-to-face collaboration sessions. We are a rather large division with schools spread throughout the city. We quickly learned that teachers would not come if the trainings were out of their way or at an inconvenient time. Our attendance at these sessions had been on a steady decline. I asked a few teachers what kept them from attending if they did not have other obligations. The resounding response was location. Teachers wanted to meet at a central location near or close to dining (especially a Starbucks) and a place accessible to a main street or highway. Moving our location and serving a small snack slowly increased our participation. The second hurdle came in the form of fear. Teachers were apprehensive about the virtual coaching. They loved the idea of receiving the training from any location, but feared the unknown of web cameras and technology. Initially the coaches had the same fears of faulty cameras and microphones. We regrouped and solved this problem by hosting a face-to-face training on virtual learning. Teachers logged on to the session together on their cell phones or computers with the guidance and support of the coaches in the room. It was a great learning experience.
Through flexible, immediate, engaging and collaborative blended coaching, we continue to build a very successful intervention program.
Knight, J. (2018). The impact cycle: What instructional coaches should do to foster powerful improvements in teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, A Sage Company.
Schaffhauser, D. (2018, April 26). Teachers too busy to collaborate. The Journal. doi:https://thejournal.com/articles/2018/04/26/teachers-too-busy-to-collaborate.aspx
Dr. Monica Robinson has passionately served as a teacher, school administrator, and division administrator. She currently serves as the coordinator of academic support programs for K-12 students in Virginia Beach, where she also supports acceleration programs such as Advanced Placement and intervention programs such as READ 180 Universal and System 44. Monica believes educators have the moral obligation to forsake self and do what is in the best interest of the students they serve.