Thursday, May 7, 2015

Coaching - a review of the first year

As we enter the final month of this school year I wanted to write a short blog post to share the impact that tech integration coaching has had in my school division. We recently conducted a feedback survey, the results of which were extremely positive. This year all the coaches were trained in at least the first 4 days of Cognitive Coaching, with some completing Days 5-8. We have focused on planning and reflecting conversations.
At the start of each year, all teachers and teaching assistants set a tech goal.  For the teachers the goal is connected to the ISTE Standards for Teachers - this year we are focusing on Standard 2 designing and developing digital age learning experiences and assessments.  Our teaching assistants based their goal on Standard 3, modelling digital-age work and learning.

According to the survey
  • 73% of teachers indicated that Tech Integration Coaching has supported effective digital age learning environments that maximise the learning of all students
  • 57%  indicated that coaching has had an impact on using technology for assessing student learning
  • 43% said the coaching has helped them provide rigorous and engaging learning experiences for their students, and
  • 32% said it has helped them differentiate instruction
Teachers were also asked about the coaching conversations they had been engaged in with their coach.  These were ranked on a scale of 1-4, with 1 and 2 being low satisfaction and 3-4 being high satisfaction.
  • 81% of teachers gave a 3 or 4 to being engaged in planning conversations
  • 72% of teachers gave a 3 or 4 to being engaged in reflecting conversations
  • 66% of teachers responded with a 3 or 4 when asked about how their coach had engaged them in data collection
  • 86% responded with a 3 or 4 for help they had received from their coach with artefact collection for the Tech Audit, and
  • 80% gave a 3 or 4 for support in problem resolution
The teaching assistants were asked about support they had received when working on their personal tech goals.
  • 64% of assistants indicated coaching had helped them collaborate using digital tools and resources to support student success 
  • 36% said coaching had supported them in using a variety of digital age media and formats, and
  • 50% said they could transfer their knowledge to new technologies and situations.
TAs were also asked to rate their coaching sessions. We had a rating scale of 4, with 1 and 2 being low and 3 and 4 being high. TAs responded in the following way:
  • 73% of TAs gave a score of 3 or 4 based on their engagement in planning and reflecting conversations
  • 59% of TAs gave a score of 3 when asked if tech coaching has helped them with problem resolution.
  • 82% of respondents indicated that tech coaching has helped them learn new tools.
This data will be invaluable to us as we reflect on our first year of tech coaching - and as we build on this to support teachers and assistants next year.

Photo Credit: Ruthven Moonwolf via Compfight cc

Trends and challenges

Following on from a previous post, I do find the trends and challenges sections of the Horizon Reports to be really interesting and useful.  Here, then, is my summary of these trends and challenges that appear in the preview of this year's Horizon Report.

Long-Term Trends
  • Rethinking how schools work.  Keeping schools relevant is something we talk a lot about at ASB and the Horizon Report highlights the movement to reinvent the traditional classroom paradigm and rearrange the whole school experience though student-centred approaches like project- and challenge-based learning where students move fluidly from one learning activity to another instead of working on traditional subjects.  This will also impact on schedules, which will need to become more flexible.  Learning should become more personalized and authentic.
  • A shift to deeper learning - deeper rather than broader seems to be the main idea here, with students being given opportunities to apply their learning.  This brings more real-world application of the curriculum, and often involves devices such as smartphones and tablets.  This trend will see students brainstorming and implementing solutions to both local and global problems, as students immerse themselves deeper into learning that connects with their own lives.
Mid-Term Trends
  • Collaborative learning - among both teachers and students.  Teamwork leads to greater engagement and better performance.  For teachers the trend is towards more collaborative PD, sharing best practices and learning from each other.
  • A shift towards students as creators.  Increasingly students are learning through active hands-on activities that encourage making and creating rather than from the consumption of content.
Short-Term Trends
  • Increasing use of hybrid/blended learning.  Blended learning is on the rise and perceptions of online learning are shifting so it becomes a viable alternative to face-to-face.  Online learning will become more popular still with rapid developments in learning analytics and adaptive learning.
  • STEAM - a growing number of educators are arguing for integrating the humanities and arts into STEM classes.
Solvable Challenges
  • Authentic learning that brings real-life experiences into the classroom is still uncommon in schools.  
  • Teacher education still does not focus on the rising importance of digital media literacy as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
Difficult Challenges
  • Personalized learning and adaptive learning are still seen as being some way from being adopted widely in schools.
  • Rethinking the roles of teachers.  The integration of technology into everyday life is causing many to argue that schools should be providing ways for students to continue to learn beyond the school day.   Teacher PD is changing too - and now involves social media and online tools and resources.
Wicked Challenges
  • Scaling teacher innovations to get them into mainstream practice.  Innovation is rarely rewarded in schools with an aversion to change, and teachers are often discouraged from experimentation.
  • Teaching complex thinking that takes on-board artificial intelligence, big data, modelling technologies and the semantic web at the same time that students are learning communication skills to apply the complex thinking effectively.
Photo Credit: Rantz via Compfight cc

The Horizon - getting closer or further away?

I've been looking forward to getting the K-12 Horizon Report every year since 2010, but this year was a bit different.  I've had the preview lying on my desk for a while and haven't yet been tempted to read it.  I've become disillusioned with the timeframe.  Let's give an example.  In 2011 predictions for K-12 education were as follows:  cloud computing, mobiles, games based learning and open content. Since this report is now 4 years old, you would have imagined that anything that was on the near horizon back then (1-2 years away from implementation) would already be mainstream by now.  Yet last year cloud computing was still on the "near horizon" while games and gamification were seen as being 2-3 years away.  So I'm interested in a way to read this report to see how quickly we have moved this year - and which predictions that were made in the past are actually moving further and further away.

In the 2015 Horizon Report Preview for K-12 the near horizon includes BYOD and Makerspaces.  In fact BYOD was already on the near horizon in 2012 and again in 2013!  The report notes that BYOD adoption has less to do with a move to reduce technology spending and more to do with the fact that this reflects contemporary lifestyle and ways of working and learning.  Makerspaces are seen as important because of the shift in skill sets needed in our world, making creativity, design and engineering more important for education.

On the medium horizon this year are 3D printers and rapid prototyping, and adaptive learning technologies.  The 2013 Horizon Report mentioned that 3D Printers were about 4-5 years from becoming mainstream, so the timeline for these now being on the medium horizon of 2-3 years is certainly in line with that.  In last year's report adaptive learning was mentioned as a challenge so it's good to see there have been developments in data-driven software and online platforms that adjust to students' needs as they learn, anticipating the type of content and resources that individual learners need at specific points in time to make progress.

This year on the far horizon of 4-5 years away are badges and micro-credits, and wearable technology.  I believe that badges were first mentioned in the Horizon Report in 2013 as a way of giving credentials for online learning, which at that point was seen as being on the near horizon.   In 2013 and 2014 wearable technology was also seen as being on the far horizon.  In fact as far ago as 2012 Google Glass was launched, and it hasn't come a long way since then.  I'm more excited about some of the new wearable technology such as the smart watch and Fitbit, though I think there is still some way to go before these devices will be mainstream in schools.

So while I am still interested to read about what's coming up on the horizon, I'm now starting to take some of the time frames mentioned with a pinch of salt.  Predicting the future is always difficult, but I'm going to read this report with more scepticism than the previous ones.

Photo Credit: Judy ** via Compfight cc

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Coaching teachers in the "refinement" stage

In the past few weeks, as I've been reading the book Building Teachers' Capacity for Success by Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral, I've been trying to relate the various stages of teacher reflection with the 5 states of mind identified in Cognitive Coaching.  This is the final post in this series and deals with teachers who are generally high in all 5 states of mind.  How can a coach effectively work with these teachers?

Teacher in the refinement stage are very reflective.  Hall and Simeral describe how they reflect before, during and after taking action.  They are aware of problems that occur during lessons and therefore analyze and act on them during the lessons.  This shows they are high in consciousness and also empathy.  They also recognize that there are multiple "right" courses of action and modify lessons and plans to meet students' needs.  This open-mindedness shows that another state of mind that is high is flexibility.  They are also high in craftsmanship, having a vast repertoire of instructional strategies, and frequently engage in action research.  Finally since they pursue opportunities to work with and learn with colleagues, their interdependence is also high.  Teachers in the refinement stage think beyond the classroom and focus on the art of teaching.

In the classrooms of teachers at the refinement stage, assessment drive daily instruction, students are responsible for their own learning and there are multiple strategies in use, as they are aware of the individual abilities of their students and use various strategies to tap into each child's potential. Again, since everything appears to be going well and the teachers are already motivated and reflective, how can a coach impact the learning going on in these classrooms?

Hall and Simeral suggest the following when coaching teachers at the refinement stage:

  • With these teachers it is essential to encourage continued reflection through asking open-ended mediative questions and paraphrasing that can lead to cognitive shift.
  • Provide a wide range of pedagogical resources (blog posts, journal articles, online videos, web pages, professional books)
  • Encourage professional book club facilitation or initiation
  • Analyze group data together
  • Establish a team action research project
  • Encourage participation in conferences, seminars and publications - these teachers have a lot of expertise and experiences to share.
  • Arrange for student-teacher hosting opportunities - giving these teachers the responsibility to mentor and coach student teachers forces the refinement stage teacher to further self-reflect
  • Seek out opportunities for individual talent development
  • Encourage leadership (if this is a strength) - at ASB one of the things we have encouraged is for these teachers to train to be technology integration coaches themselves.
In an upcoming blog post I am going to reflect on the impact that tech integration coaching has had on our elementary school teachers and teaching assistants.  We recently conducted a survey and I'll be sharing some of the results on how coaching has impacted teaching and learning at ASB in it's first year of introduction.  I'll be reflecting on these results with our coaches as we plan on how to move forward next year.

Original artwork by an ASB student

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Coaching action teachers

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post where I started to link what I know about Cognitive Coaching with what I've been reading about the different stages teachers may be at for coaching.  Today I want to think about what Hall and Simeral write about teachers at the action stage.   These teachers have recognized a problem of practice around student learning and have decided to tackle it.  They know they are responsible for their own personal growth and welcome ideas and support from a coach and want to "walk the talk".  They are responsible, motivated, approachable and committed to positive change, but they are unsure of exactly how to move forward.  These teachers can evaluate their classroom situation objectively as they are engaged in formative assessments that are giving them data about student learning.  They are also well aware of research about best-practice and engage in various forms of PD such as attending workshops and reading books.  Hall and Simeral note that these teachers reflect on their teaching only after taking action, which makes them more reactive than proactive.  Often, when they find a strategy that seems to work well, they believe that is only one way of doing things, and reject the idea that different approaches can also be effective (low flexibility).

As well as this, action teachers often struggle with long-term problems and with students who don't respond to the strategies they are trying.  This can indicate a narrow understanding of the big picture. They collaborate with colleagues on a limited basis, as their focus is mostly on improving themselves.   These teachers do accept feedback in a positive way, but Hall and Simeral point out that this can then lead them into a critical loop - as they start to improve they feel others should also be taking these new ideas onboard.  They want to collaborate more, but have difficulty seeing things from others' points of view (low interdependence and flexibility).

Efficacy, craftsmanship and consciousness, however can be reasonably high.  Action teachers are focused on the science of teaching as they want to learn and implement best practices in order to improve student learning.  They regularly assess students and evaluate what they need to change to increase student achievement and make changes in the best interests of their students.  They link their lessons to standards and have objectives and learning targets for each lesson.

Coaching an action teacher calls on the coach being able to help teachers build on their positive experiences.  A coach might start out validating the teacher's ideas and decisions by asking questions about craftsmanship or consciousness, for example  "What are some of the things you did that made it go so well?", "What were some of the criteria you used to ..."or "How did you make decisions about ....?"  Hall and Simeral write that action teachers are "eager for new ideas and will readily try what you suggest.  But at the same time it is essential that you gradually release responsibility for the learning and focus the majority of your coaching on building necessary critical thinking and discernment skills ... Engage them in the process of diagnosing problems, researching solutions and creating action plans to develop competence and discernment, which are essential reflective characteristics."  Other ideas for coaching the action teacher include:

  • Small group discussions, professional book clubs and PLCs - teachers at the action stage will benefit the most from learning teams (strengthening interdependence).
  • Using the apprenticeship model - working along side a teacher using a coteaching structure.
  • Classroom observations - and feedback that supports thinking - this is the only stage so far that Hall and Simeral recommend observations and there is always the danger that these might be seen as stepping out of the coaching role and into that of an evaluator.  
  • Video and analyze performance together (strengthening craftsmanship)
  • Collegial observations (strengthening interdependence)
  • Reflective questioning - open ended questions will promote critical thinking and nurture independence. (strengthening craftsmanship and efficacy)
  • Attending workshops with the teacher and sharing learning - it's best to attend together as reflection is more effective when 2 people share the same experience.  
  • Analyzing student data
  • Recognizing emerging expertise as often as possible. It's also important to create opportunities for the teacher to share his/her learning with others at school (strengthening efficacy).  At ASB we have encouraged teachers and teaching assistants to present at tech training sessions after school to share their learning from the Google Summits, for example, and have involved teachers in PlayDates and SpeedGeeking sessions.
In my experience action teachers are a delight to work with, and a coach can really quickly feel that there is an impact on student learning.

Ideas in this blog post are from the book Building Teachers' Capacity for Success by Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral

Original artwork by an ASB student

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The oak and the willow

In my last post I wrote about the final activity at our New Teacher Institute.  In this one I want to briefly mention our first activity.  The first ice-breaker we did was to each choose a photo that said something about us.  We stood in a circle and introduced ourselves and why we had chosen that photo.  Coming late into the circle there were few photos for me to choose, so I quickly picked one up.  It was a photo of someone looking through a pair of glasses - you could see similar but slightly different images of the person in the lenses.

This reminded me of something that one of our new teachers said to me last year, after she'd been in Mumbai for around a month.  She said there are times when you have to be like an oak.  You have to have deep and strong roots, which are your values.  You have to ensure that you stay true to these as they support you through the storms.  Oaks live for hundreds of years and survive a lot.  At other times you need to be like a willow.  A willow is flexible and bends with the winds.  Bending also allows the willow to survive.  Her point was that at times you need to be like a willow too. Sometimes things are very different in Mumbai than where you came from.  You need to be flexible and to go with the flow.

The secret to making a success out of life in India is simply this:  you need know when you need to be an oak and when you need to be a willow.

3 quotes for 3 cohorts of newbies

This week I've been involved in what is one of my favourite tasks of the year - the New Teacher Institute.  Each year in April we bring all our new teachers to Mumbai for 3-4 days to introduce them to ASB and to India.  We always start off our institute with photos on the floor - a variety of different photos and people are asked to pick up the one that most speaks to them.  We stand around in a circle, introduce ourselves and talk about why the photo has meaning.  It's a great ice-breaker.  It introduces the rest of the cohort to who we all are as individuals.

At the end of the institute we do something similar - this time we have all bonded and we want our new teachers to feel part of something bigger than just themselves.  We start this activity with quotes on the floor and again each person gets to pick one that means something to him or her.  They can talk about this in small groups but eventually it gets whittled down to a small number of quotes and collectively the group votes on which one they want to take forward as their quote for the upcoming year.

This is the one that was chosen this year:

This quote really speaks to me too.  I love the way it ties in with our mission statement, where students are empowered to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.

Just for the record here are the quotations from the last 2 years.
2014 - this cohort focused on the idea of collaboration and togetherness:

2013 - this cohort were keen to throw themselves into their new life in India - to learn, to grow, to change:

We have a fabulous group of new teachers joining us in July.  I'm looking forward to next year already!