I was scheduled to facilitate a workshop on coaching and coachability over four days last April for the Near East South Asia Office of Overseas Schools at their conference in Bangkok. As the pandemic built, the conference was cancelled, and I was rescheduled to join their fall conference. Within a few weeks, that conference was cancelled. I was then asked to develop a program that could be offered to individuals in quarantine in different countries in different time zones.
In response, I designed Personalized Coaching, which is built around three one-on-one coaching calls with participants and myself, online facilitated asynchronous learning modules and blogs, podcasts, articles, and videos selected to align with each participant’s personal study plan. Participants begin by viewing a thirty-minute video that highlights elements of instructional coaching and includes links to blogs and podcasts that examine each element in more detail.
After an introductory video, an initial coaching conference with participants provides me with their background and current role at their school. (In some cases, it is the upcoming role at the school or in a new school). We identify a focus for their study and select one of five facilitated online modules that best aligns to their desired outcome. The call is followed with an email that provides links to selected resources to support and expand the online module.
A second call is scheduled three to four weeks later where questions from participants are explored. Sometimes, scenarios from their experiences or predicted possibilities are role played. Additional resources are provided following the outcome of this call. As the study in the online module continues, feedback is provided by a facilitator. About 3-4 weeks later a third coaching call is scheduled as a wrap-up and includes a next step, application, and implementation of new learning. In some cases, several participants are from the same school, so an additional group conference for planning was included. An option is available for participants to extend their study, completing a different online module with additional coaching calls.
As the course progressed, another element of personalization emerged: flexible timing. While we initially announced start and end dates, participants’ schedule conflicts emerged, and discussions highlighted that flexibility would generate deeper and richer learning. A participant shared, “I appreciate that during this COVID 19 that Steve and his staff were flexible and willing to work within the time that I had.” We have now established the course as a rolling enrollment allowing starting and ending times flexed for each participant.
“…. the real question at the heart of a truly personalized system: what works, for which students, in what circumstances?” Julia Freeland Fisher
Throughout this experience, I have been continually impressed with the engagement of the participants. Their questions illustrated the thoroughness of their study with the online modules and their reflection produced insights. The facilitators of the online modules have commented on the quality of the submissions from participants in response to summary and application questions.
Participants’ evaluation responses reinforced the learning outcomes:
“I feel like I am entering the coaching profession with a TON of useful ideas and practices I can utilize regardless of context or how I am serving. I have a better understanding of the spectrum of coaching and appreciation for how multi-faceted it truly is.”
“This professional learning greatly developed my understanding about coaching. Based on this learning and my engagement in conversations with Steve Barkley, I have clear next steps for implementation in my division.”
“I took the module focused on communication and benefitted greatly from the varied resources and conversations with Steve. I’m ready to try some new techniques and have some focused strategies to use with individuals and groups.”
“I like that I have way more to read and learn even though the course is over. I found myself keeping track of the resources that I can use with my colleagues in the near future.”
So, here is my initial assessment. I am quite sure that the participants in Personalized Coaching learned more than had they spent the time at my sessions at the conference. I have spent my career providing training in workshops, facilitated and coached sessions with teachers and administrators. In the last few years, I developed the capabilities to provide similar opportunities using skype and having a person onsite working with me as a facilitator to direct small group conversations and question and answer components. Most recently I am learning how to plan zoom sessions with chat box responses and breakout rooms for the important learning engagement activities. Now my new insight is the impact of personalization.
Critical to personalization is KNOWING. How do I get to know the participants and individuals and how do the learners get to know that I know them? Critical is the learner knowing that my actions, my instruction, is influenced by my knowing.
A participant’s comment: “Steve was able to share a wealth of resources as a follow up to each 1:1 conversation. They were more personalized based on our needs as learners.”
I have shared with many, that this is an important time to reflect on what we have been forced to learn in the past months that can advance our capabilities as school doors open. As I travel again to conferences and workshops, I will be planning how pre and post learning opportunities can increase personalization and enhance the learner outcomes.