Distance Instructional Coaching (Part 3) | Steve Barkley

How is Distance Coaching Different from in the Classroom Coaching? (Part 3)

Girl Browsing on LaptopI shared in part 1 and part 2 that when I was asked this question in an interview my first response was to change the question. I’m convinced that how coaching is the same is a much more important question. The critical components and elements of coaching that have been developed across the last twenty-five years are increasingly important during this time of rapid change in teaching. In part 1 I explored coaches building relationships and trust within this instant change for most teachers, students, and parents.

In part two I labeled the need for coaches to keep the focus on learning (as compared to a focus on teaching) and suggested five coaching questions:

  1. What do you want students to learn? (Explored in part 2)
  2. What do students need to do to cause the learning outcome? (What are the learning production behaviors?)
  3. What can you design to cause those learning production behaviors?
  4. What evidence will you look for that suggests the activity/tasks/assignments/questions are generating the behaviors
  5. How/when will you want to gather evidence that the learning outcomes are happening?

Teachers don’t cause student learning. Students cause student learning.

It is students’ engagement in student learning production behaviors that produce the learning outcomes. I can’t teach you how to play lacrosse or to play an instrument. I can teach you how to learn. The student needs to do the learning behaviors to produce learning outcomes. The role of the teacher is to know what the learning production behaviors are and to generate the tasks, activities, and motivation that lead to the student engaging in the learning production behaviors. Providing feedback that supports, corrects, aligns, and perhaps challenges the learner is also a critical teacher behavior.

I believe that instructional coaches can assist teachers individually and in PLCs by exploring with them what the student learning production behaviors are that their distance/online tasks should create. When possible, those learning production behaviors should be shared with students and parents:

  • These activities are designed to have you practice this skill repeatedly. Repeated repetition (at times feels boring) will provide you quick recall and make more difficult tasks, later, doable.
  • These problems are ones we haven’t studied yet. Their purpose is to have you practice recalling things you do know and generating understand or possible solutions (feeling a struggle/frustration is likely)
  • These questions ask you for a supported opinion. You need to share your response with two classmates and get their feedback on how strongly your opinion is supported in your writing. Their input could reinforce or challenge your opinion as well as the way you supported it. Consider any changes you want to make before submitting to me. Seeking input from others is a common practice for improving quality. (You might choose to seek a second round of input)

Many teachers, understandably, pressed into working in a distance fashion overnight, sought out available materials or moved to put their existing plans online. As coaches work with teachers, they can support gathering evidence of student learning production behaviors that reinforce the design decisions or to push redesign of the instructional strategy. “Sitting” in on an online class, a coach can be focused on what the students’ actions and reactions are as the teachers focused on their facilitation. Coach and teacher might design a few survey questions for students to provide feedback on how they engaged in different learning activities. Or a parent survey for younger students.

Student learning production behaviors precede student learning outcomes. It is too early to be measuring learning outcomes. We shouldn’t wait until then to initially assess our instructional strategies. Identifying students’ learning production behaviors can guide coach and teacher conversations around continuous educator learning to impact student learning.

I have always suggested that coaching is more about asking questions than it is about telling. Coaches cause teachers’ reflection and critical thinking that drives greater teacher learning from teachers’ experiences. In this time of rapid change in teaching which is impacted by changes in students’, parents’, and teachers’ lives, reflection to learn quickly from our experiences is a must.

Here a strategy a coach might use to start a conversation.

In this seven minute video, Larry Ferlazzo presents 7 tips for teaching online. Ask teachers what questions the tips raise for them. Their questions can guide your coaching conversations.

  • No grading
  • Emphasize Social Emotional Learning
  • Minimize synchronous online meetings
  • Not a one size fits all
  • Spend time in individual conversations
  • Keep things simple
  • Offer Grace

“Let’s make sure our questions to staff start with WHO WE TAUGHT before we get into WHAT WE TAUGHT.”
— Joe Sanfelippo (Superintendent)

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