Friday, September 26, 2014

Efficacy and goal setting

Earlier this week I was in a coaching session with a parent volunteer and we were talking about efficacy and how sometimes you can be in a situation that appears to be overwhelming because you feel that events or people outside of yourself are in control and that you can have very little power to make changes.  I started to think about a situation in the past when this had been true for me, and realized that at the time the problem was that I was completely focused on this weakness, and that I was trying to do something about combatting this weakness, when in fact I should probably have focused instead on my strengths and building those up.

Then I started to think about this in relation to a blog post I wrote last month about the difference between competency and capability - and how as a coach I want to help teachers to develop their capability, because capable people are those who can "operate in unknown contexts and with new problems".  This is particularly important when coaching for tech integration because you are working in a situation of rapid change, with new tools appearing all the time.

Phelps and Graham in their book Whole School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence write extensively about capability and point out that if a teacher is simply trying to develop his/her competency (usually around a tool or skill) then they will need a very different approach from a teacher who is trying to develop capability.  Teachers who want to become competent are wanting an expert to novice flow with PD that is highly structured and planned. Interestingly, these teachers are more likely to feel overwhelmed by the range of skills they need to learn.

On the other hand a teacher who is aiming for capability is more likely to want just-in-time or an "un-conference" type of professional learning experience.  These teachers see technology knowledge as something that is more flexible and that they can discover the answers themselves and often solve their own problems.

This week I have started goal setting with our teaching assistants.  Over and over again I have heard that 2 years ago these TAs were lacking in confidence and could only do the very basics with technology (such as print out something that was sent to them by the teachers).  Now they are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, and are motivated to take charge of their own learning.
Here are some more differences:
Competency-based learning can lead to quick progress - but has limited outcomes.
Capability-based learning takes longer but has greater outcomes.

Competency-based learning requires training by another person.
Capability-based learning relies on a two-way interaction between people - a dialogue or conversation - which is why coaching is so important.

In order to build capacity, then, efficacy needs also to be high.  You have to believe that you have the knowledge and skills to do or learn something.  If teachers lack confidence and think they cannot use technology, that it is too complicated, then they will not be motivated to try something new.  It's important, therefore, for coaches to build efficacy and this can often be done by setting small, achievable goals and for the coach to recognize and celebrate their successes as they move towards building technological capability.

During my goal setting meetings with teachers and TAs, I have started out by pointing out what I noticed about their learning last year and asking them to reflect on their growth and previous achievements and the things that they do well with technology now.  The thing that I'm hearing most is the huge growth in confidence in using technology.  From that it is an easy step to talk about the things they want to get better at or learn more about.  We can talk about the strategies that they have used before that were effective and some of their choices this year for professional learning.  We always get back to talking about how this will enhance student learning.

Efficacy therefore relies on teachers and TAs taking responsibility for their own learning.  It means they have choices about what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and how they want to learn it.  It means that they are going to become problem solvers and that, most important of all, knowing that we are supporting them, they are going to be motivated to take action.

Photo Credit: ouyea... via Compfight cc

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