Friday, February 5, 2016

Evaluating the impact of tech coaching on teaching, learning and assessment

This is our second year of tech integration coaching at ASB, and currently we have 10 teachers who have taken on the additional responsibilities of coaching their colleagues.  To be clear about this:  all our tech integration coaches (TICs) are full time teachers, who have applied for this additional role. They are not given time off to do this, as most of them are coaching the teams they are actually a part of, but they do get an extra PD stipend to enable them to grow into the role.  Many of our TICs have used this stipend for the Foundation Training in Cognitive Coaching and for attending the annual ISTE Conference.

The ISTE-Cs contains a number of coaching rubrics that we used at the start of the year as part of a calibrating coaching conversation.  Do our coaches see themselves as approaching, meeting or exceeding the standards?  Since some of our coaches were new this year (and did not yet have any PD in coaching at that point) we expected that some would be approaching the standards and others would be meeting them.  Approaching the standards, in essence, is being able to identify and explain strategies and tools for tech integration. The new coaches are already applying what they know when using technology in their own classrooms, which is what we would expect as a prerequisite to becoming a tech coach, but probably at this point have not yet actively started modelling this for other teachers.

A coach who is meeting the ISTE-C standards is likely to be applying their knowledge and classroom experiences and modelling and coaching others.  To exceed the standards, a tech coach would need to analyze and evaluate the support they have given in order to provide evidence of helping colleagues achieve new skills and be able to show the impact that this has had on student learning.

The standard that I would encourage most of our coaches to focus on in their first year as a coach is Standard 2:  Teaching, Learning and Assessment.  To do this our TICs need to help their colleagues to use technology effectively - which is why we have found it vital to have coaches that are already part of teams and who are knowledgable and skillful in both their curriculum and in technology.  In Standard 2 the emphasis is on coaching and modelling to address both the content standards and technology literacy, while at the same time transforming the classroom into a  student-centred environment that meets the diverse needs and interests of all students.  During the 18 months since we have had tech coaches, I've observed the TICs trying out new ideas and tools in their own classrooms and then introducing them to their colleagues (for example using blogs as ePortfolios in Kindergarten, and using different formative assessment tools such as Kahoot, Padlet, Socrative and TodaysMeet in Grade 5), and I've seen several of them reaching out with their classes to other schools and experts around the world to collaborate in new ways, for example publishing their students' work to a wider audience (using Book Creator in Grade 5).

Much of what our TICs have been involved in is moving learning engagements and assessments away from a repackaging of facts, to tap into more higher-order thinking that support creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.  A good example of this was the recent unit our 5th Graders did where students first used online simulations to build an understanding of running a small business, then moved on to another simulation about world trade, and finally set up and ran their own small business for a morning.

At ASB we are really good at grouping and regrouping to differentiate and pesonalize the learning. We use many strategies that meet students' readiness and learning styles.  We also use a number of electronic resources for this such as Khan Academy, IXL and Mathletics in math, and Tumble Books, RazKids and Quizlet in literacy.  In Kindergarten and Grade 1 the students have "Dailies" where they move to different stations such as Listen to Reading, Read to Self and so on, where they are working independently and at their own level using some of these online resources.

Our TICs also work with teachers to create resources that can be used with students.  This could be a resource website or something as simple as a Google Form to collect in feedback.  We expect our TICs to have a strong knowledge of instructional design so that they can give good help and advice when coaching their colleagues to create learning engagements and evaluate student work.

Assessment and data analysis is becoming increasingly important for our TICs.  I've seen an increase in tools being used for formative assessments that have given feedback to teachers and allowed them to adjust their instruction.  As well as this I've seen technology being used to construct online forms and surveys, make rubrics for self and peer evaluation, and to give feedback directly onto the students' products.  Over the past 4 years, we have had an annual tech audit where we have collected and analyzed student artefacts, both by ISTE-S Standard and according to Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  The TICs have assisted teachers in adding their artefacts onto the Google Site where the evidence has been visualized, analyzed and interpreted, and then used by the TICs as part of their initial coaching conversations with teachers to help them set their goals for the year. The data collected has been used to determine teachers' strengths and areas for growth, and we have been able to target the growth with personalized PD.  Evidence from the tech audits in the elementary school shows a change in the way technology has been used over the past 3 years. In 2013 the majority of artefacts collected indicated that technology was being used for tasks that involved lower-order thinking (62% of artefacts collected in 2013 were characterized as remembering and understanding). By 2015 the number of artefacts showing lower-order thinking had dropped to 27%. Conversely, artefacts characterized as applying, analyzing and evaluating, which accounted for 20% of the total number collected in 2013, are now in the majority: in 2015, 51% of artefacts submitted were tagged by teachers as applying analyzing and evaluating. There has also been a small increase in the number of artefacts categorized as creating - from 18% in 2013 to 22% in 2015.

To meet the requirements of the ISTE-C our TICs have had to becoming knowledgeable about more than just technology - as you can see they need to develop their expertise in teaching, learning and assessment.  They need to be able to help their colleagues to use technology for effective teaching, and they need to be able to provide evidence that they have brought about positive changes that have led to improved student achievement.   Looking at the evidence from our Tech Audits, it would seem that our "full-time teachers, part-time coaches" have exceeded expectations.

Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc

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