6 Tactics to Getting Teachers Better Faster

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Student success is the crucial end-goal of improving teacher performance. It’s vital to grow teacher performance in the long term, but short-term student outcomes cannot be overlooked. Luckily, with the right tools, school leaders can make drastic improvements in a relatively short amount of time. Here are six actionable ways to help teachers get better, faster.  

1. Get coaching systems in place.

Thorough preparation is crucial to the success of your coaching system. Before launching your program, outline how it will function in the day-to-day. School leaders should select and design observation and meeting forms so that administrators, coaches, and teachers will know how feedback will be structured. It’s also important to set norms for how frequently instructional coaches will observe and meet with teachers.

To make sure your coaching system is collecting the right information, determine what data points you will track for each observation. As influential educator Paul Bambrick-Santoyo notes in his book Leverage Leadership, data-driven instructional coaching allows educators to assess 80% of all instruction. Tracking software with analytical capabilities can help you interpret this data and structure professional development according to each teacher’s individual needs

2. Perform effective observations.

To perform effective observations, keep a tight focus on specific, high-impact practices. Identify one to two successes in the classroom, and prescribe one high-leverage action step that will move the needle on teacher performance in the next week.

To assist the teacher in implementing a change, jot down quotes or take a video of what you observed. Capturing evidence related to your action step will make it easy for the teacher to understand the gap between their current practices and the improved approach that the action step is designed to implement.

Create a rubric to guide your observation, but also be mindful of what the rubric cannot capture.

3. Calendar out observations, debrief meetings, and weekly data meetings.

Incorporate teacher coaching into your schedule. Because school leaders have a vast array of responsibilities that all compete for attention, it’s crucial to be intentional about making time to visit classrooms or hold meetings.

If funding permits, school leaders should consider hiring instructional coaches to share the work. Alternatively, schools can adjust master teacher schedules to allow an additional block of time each day to observe, share feedback, and mentor new teachers.

4. Plan for and lead a strong post-observation feedback meeting.

Script your meeting ahead of time to figure out how you will facilitate growth. To create a trusting dynamic that invites honest dialogue, lead with the positive. Kick off your meeting with a review of what is going well in the classroom.

This will provide encouragement and enhance teacher confidence. Then ask probing questions that will invite reflection and guide the teacher to their action step. Formulate an action step with the teacher, and agree on how it will be tracked. Then focus on how to implement the action step and discuss when the next observation will occur.

5. Create and implement specific, concrete Action Steps.

Effective Action Steps will be bite-sized and high-leverage. This will enable the teacher to master the Action Step in a week or two. A high-leverage action step is the single most important thing the teacher can do to improve classroom outcomes.

6. Overcome objections to coaching by creating a coaching culture.

Glows and grows are an excellent way to introduce a coaching culture to your school. To start out, give each teacher a glow (something they’ve done well) and a grow (something that needs improvement) every week. This will also help integrate feedback into your school’s routine, which will enable a smoother transition into coaching.

Above all, emphasize that feedback is key to progress. As best-selling author Daniel Pink notes in his book Drive, feelings of progress are the biggest motivator in the workplace.

To head off objections to this transition, suggests principal Eric Sheninger, emphasize “shared decision making, consensus, collaboration, and modeling.” In the long run, this will facilitate greater change than trying to single-handedly impose new approaches.  

Whetstone Can Help

At Whetstone, our main motivator is student success. To learn about how we support schools throughout the teacher coaching process, visit our Set-Up, Training, and Support page. To see firsthand how we can help teachers get better faster, schedule a free demo today.