Thursday, December 4, 2014

The 3 maps of cognitive coaching

Yesterday morning I had a skype conversation with Edna and Jocelyn, 2 members of my PLN in Australia.  They are moving towards a coaching model for their next school year and wanted to chat about our experiences.  We talked a little about different sorts of coaching, and about the 3 coaching maps in cognitive coaching.  My brain was thinking about maps all day after this, so I decided to read a bit more about this and read a chapter in the book Coaching Approaches and Perspectives by Jane Ellison and Carolee Hayes.

Jane and Carolee wrote about a road map as a guide for territory we want to explore.  A map keeps us on course so that we get to where we want to go.  The 3 maps in cognitive coaching are, in a similar way, templates for conversations around planning, reflecting and problem solving.

The Planning Conversation map is to help teachers prepare for an upcoming event.  This year I've also used it for tech integration goal setting and during PYP planning meetings.  Jane and Carolee explain that this map has 2 focuses - the first is on the event and the second is on the person.  The first 3 areas of the map are concerned with the event and the coach will ask questions that will bring more clarity and craftsmanship to the desired outcomes of the event and the ways a teacher can assess these outcomes.  The teacher is asked about effective strategies that will help him or her move towards these desired outcomes.  The conversation then shifts to the fourth area of the map which is a personal learning/growth focus on the part of the teacher - in fact this leads to the teacher considering goals for his/her own learning and professional growth.  The final stage of the Planning Conversation map is to reflect on the conversation.

The Reflecting Conversation map takes place after an event or perhaps a unit of learning for his/her class.  This map helps the teacher to analyze and learn from the experiences.  I find this fits really well with the PYP since it is a requirement for teachers to reflect after each unit in order to transfer new learning into the future.  The aim is this map is to move teachers from focusing on the event, to focusing on the key learnings and generalizations that have emerged from the experience.  The Reflecting Conversation is not simply a recount, but calls upon data to support the impressions the teacher has about the learning that took place.  The focus of this map is to analyze the factors that have led to the learning.  The coach therefore helps the teacher to think about the decisions that made up the experience, so that the teacher can construct new knowledge about what factors contributed to the outcomes and the success or failure of the experience.   Cognitive coaching is therefore a constructivist model of learning - it's the job of the coach to help the teacher to analyze his or her work so that he or she can become more effective, but it's also non-judgemental since it is the teacher who makes his or her own judgements based on the data.

The Problem Resolving map is the final map and I have to admit this is the one I know the least about.  In this map the teacher needs to acknowledge the current reality and the emotions that surround it.  The map then leads the coach to refocus the coachee's energy towards a desired state.

As I'm still very new to coaching I'm very much following the maps in the Planning and Reflecting Conversations.  However Jane and Carolee write that skilled coaches become more flexible in using the maps and in fact sometimes only use some of the regions of the map, or change the sequence of the steps of the map to better meet the needs of the teacher.

How effective is cognitive coaching?  Research points to the following:
  • an increase in student test scores
  • greater efficacy among teachers
  • teachers become more reflective and think in more complex ways
  • teachers become more satisfied with their work 
  • school cultures become more professional
  • teachers collaborate more
  • teachers benefit both professionally and personally from cognitive coaching.
Photo Credit: Frabuleuse via Compfight cc

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