So you’ve already decided that you want to improve your school through teacher coaching. Great! Now comes the question: how will you successfully implement teacher coaching? Make your vision a reality by breaking down your preparation into concrete steps.
Step 1: Build A Coaching Culture
Set yourself up for success by creating a school culture that supports the pedagogical shift you plan to implement. In the past, teachers have been afforded the respect and autonomy they deserve to build the best learning environments on their own. Then, toward the end of the year, an administrator may come in to give feedback as part of the evaluation process tied to performance management. Unfortunately, this results in two serious negative outcomes, both of which impact student learning. First, teachers become weary of administrative presence, fearing that they are there only for evaluation that could negatively impact them. Secondly, teachers are robbed of the opportunity to grow incrementally and be motivated by the same small successes we know also motivate students.
You can turn things around and pave the way for successful teacher coaching by initiating a schoolwide cultural shift to a growth mindset for both students AND adults. Educators who operate within this mentality understand that they have room to expand beyond their innate abilities through continual practice and study.
When your school culture operates with a growth mindset, teachers understand that coaching is not an evaluation, but rather an integral component of a continual growth process. Teachers and coaches will mutually understand that instructional coaching will happen on a regular basis for the purpose of improving teacher practice.
How To Get There
Two simple, concrete techniques can help facilitate your school’s transition to a growth mindset.
You can make a big impact with a sticky note using these four steps:
Step 1: Grab a pack of sticky notes and a pen.
Step 2: Enter as many classrooms as you can in less than 20 minutes.
Step 3: Write down one good thing you see happening in each classroom.
Step 4: Leave the note for the instructor.
For best results, structure your feedback around the student. Use evidence to highlight how the teacher’s strengths positively affect student achievement. You can use this tactic to acclimate teachers to receiving feedback.
Glows & Grows
Regularly provide teachers with a glow (something they’ve done well) and a grow (an area in which they can improve). By simultaneously providing praise and suggestions for improvement, you’ll reframe feedback as part of a larger process of holistic, continuous learning.
How To Make These Approaches Effective
These simple approaches will yield results if they are executed properly.
Use your feedback to point out concrete actions that will guide your teachers forward. Provide a manageable action step to implement before your next check-in.
Regular follow ups, in person or via email, emphasize that these check-ins are part of a development process. A shared calendar will help keep everyone prepared and in the loop.
Step 2: Choose a Common Language
Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of rubrics and coaching protocols. And while we’d love to debate the merits of every turn of phrase or choice of focus areas, we believe that such choices are best determined by school and district leaders based on the unique needs of their student and teacher populations. Want to use something from Charlotte Danielson? Great! Want to learn from Paul Bambrick and the folks at Relay Graduate School of Education? Awesome! Prefer resources from Kim Marshall, Jim Knight, or John Saphier? That works!
Any and all of these approaches can work, given a commitment to growth and feedback. Above all, choose one and stick with it. The important step here is to choose a framework and language of excellence that everyone speaks fluently. The brilliance of Doug Lemov’s seminal work, Teach Like a Champion, is that he gave names to everyday moves that highly effective teachers make. With this, an instructional leader could say something like “Great job with positive framing today. Tomorrow, let’s try unbundling concepts to improve ratio,” and both teacher and coach know precisely what this means and how it will impact student learning. In the same way, highly effective schools and districts consistently refer to a framework of excellence and a set of moves or actions that will continually increase instructional proficiency.
Step 3: Enlist Effective Coaches
First, consider your criteria. What makes a qualified coach? According to Shane Safir, a writer, teacher coach, and facilitator who has worked in public education for over 20 years, “high quality coaching lies somewhere at the crossroads of good teaching and educational therapy.”
Outline a job description that identifies specific skills, knowledge, and traits that a qualified coach will have. Effective coaches will be skilled at relationship building and establishing trust. They will also have extensive, in-depth knowledge of resources for teachers.
To ensure that your coaches remain effective, plan for their professional development as well. Consider what training topics will be essential for your coaches, and make sure that those topics will facilitate growth in the areas of skills and knowledge prioritized in your job description.
In planning out training for coaches, lock in follow-through by making a calendar, selecting facilitators for your coach trainings, and deciding how you will evaluate and measure the effectiveness of these trainings.
Step 4: Choose The Right Materials To Track Progress
To ensure that your coaching program provides high-leverage professional development tailored to your teachers’ individual needs, you’ll need systems to track and measure progress.
Teacher performance cannot always be summarized by a number. To make your teacher coaching program as effective as possible, you’ll need tools to collect and measure both qualitative and quantitative data side by side in order to identify trends and build a robust picture of teacher growth. Choose systems that makes this information easy to analyze, share, and use in decision-making.
When looking for the right programs, select for dynamic data analytics that can be constantly refined in order to support the increasing complexity of each school’s reporting needs throughout the year.
Whetstone Can Help
Whetstone offers solutions to all of these questions. To sample our highly effective approach to coaching and observation, request a demo today. See you in class!