This week, Emma Ahmed is a guest blogger. Emma is a an instructional coach leader who I have had the privilege to work with as she provided support following my skyped-in training and coaching sessions. You can contact her with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you Emma.
Where on the continuum of professional growth does your organisation lie? At International Schools Group (ISG), a district of six not-for-profit schools in Saudi Arabia, we have strived to shift the teacher evaluation process from traditional teacher goal-setting, with administrative observations, to a Professional Growth Plan, or PGP, which has continued to evolve. Teachers, Assistant Teachers and Support Staff choose an area they would like to focus on, either as an individual or as a team, based on our mission: “We inspire innovation and compassionate action.” Selecting a focus from our district goals of learner agency, compassionate action and growing literacy are key components of this growth process.
At the ISG school in Jubail, we have been developing a programme to support our department leaders in their role. In line with this, we relaunched the coaching program system-wide. Coaching was initiated five years ago, but it did not reach its potential to support student and teacher growth because there was a lack of widespread understanding of this form of professional learning. This aligns with the literature, which highlights the salience of administrative buy-in and common understanding as foundational to a successful program.
“Principals have been almost entirely overlooked with regard to coaching, yet without their leadership, coaching will fail to show the results we are hoping for.” (Source: Sweeney, D. R. 2011. Student-Centered Coaching, page 1)
This year, with Steve’s guidance, ISG administrators are revitalizing the concept of coaching as a form of professional development. ISG Jubail’s sessions so far have focused on Steve’s continuous improvement model and student production behaviors, with the intention of preparing our department leaders to peer coach their teams on the development of their PGP. Following the online session, the Head of School and I felt that our leaders would appreciate additional support and in-the-moment guidance. I created a Coaching a PGP with suggested questions, based on Steve’s model, that would support the PGP goal-setting process — the “what” of the learning. Beside each question are additional notes to highlight the importance of language choice, provide guidance for stretching their coachee’s thinking, and encourage a deeper, more reflective conversation — the “how”.
At the bottom of the document is a feedback bar with several tenets of effective coaching practice:
- Body language
- Questions that support thinking
- Plural forms / tentative language
- Listening isn’t: judgmental, inquisitive, autobiographical, or solution-based
- Coachee leaves with a clearer idea for action
Leaders will identify one of these areas as a focus during coaching; by sharing this with the coachee they can seek and receive feedback to improve their skills and simultaneously foster a trusting, collaborative environment. As reflective practitioners, we are encouraging our leaders to think about their own learning whilst supporting their team.
Here at ISG Jubail, we are so excited to continue this coaching journey and I personally cannot wait to see where it takes our teachers and leaders, and ultimately our students, as their learning continues to be the cornerstone that drives our learning.