To plan appropriate support that maximizes teachers’ continuous growth in guiding student success, instructional leaders should identify teachers’ current (individual) development stage or skill level. School leaders are well aware that teachers need to diagnosis student levels of skill and understanding before being able to design the most impactful learning options. Yet, professional learning and coaching activities are often planned “one-size-fits -all.”
In Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success….. A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders, authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral present four developmental stages through which teachers generally progress as they become skilled in the art of self- reflection. Identifying a teacher’s stage suggests strategies for the coach and principal to provide support.
Unaware Stage-Teachers tend to focus on routines, have no differentiation of instruction, define problems inaccurately and collaborate with colleagues on a superficial level.
Conscious Stage-Teachers make excuses for problems, have little student engagement in active/ meaningful learning, occasionally differentiate, and collaborate inconsistently with colleagues.
Action Stage-Teachers accept responsibility for the success of all students, have lessons linked to standards, make regular use of assessment to monitor student progress and collaborate on a limited basis with colleagues.
Refinement Stage-Teachers reflect before, during, and after taking action, use assessment to drive daily instruction, modify lessons and plans to meet students’ needs and pursue opportunities to work and learn with colleagues.
Pete Hall describes the Continuum of Self- reflection in this video.
Here is a strategy I have offered coaches and principals for developing a differentiated plan for supporting staff.
Apply the process for each focus area of your school improvement plan, as teachers will be located at different levels in different areas. (Examples: students engaged in critical thinking, providing students with feedback, supporting students in advisory, etc.)
#1 Identify classrooms in your school that are closest to full implementation of your vision for learning in regard to this focus. What student and teacher behaviors are observable?
#2 Identify classrooms in your school that must change the most to reach full implementation of your vision for learning regarding this focus. What student and teacher behaviors are observable?
#3 Rank your classrooms along this continuum. How many teachers fall in each section?
#4 How would you label teachers’ current status in moving toward internalization and implementation of the desired skill set? What actions can principals and coaches take to guide progress?
- Getting Ready
Teachers who are unaware of their missing skills need “awareness”. This could come from sharing data, observing in other classrooms, examining student work from other classrooms, modeling by the coach.
Teachers who are getting ready (called “fixing to” in some states) are aware of the need to change but may need a polite push if they aren’t ready to jump. Setting a date for initial implementation and then providing support and permission to fail are coaching actions.
Teachers who are started need empathy as things are likely not going well. These teachers are in the learning dip. They need approval for implementing the new behaviors even if it’s not working well.
Teachers who are developing (coming out of the learning dip) need someone to focus their attention on how their progress is impacting students. In other words, observe and report changes in student behavior or outcomes that are occurring because of the teacher’s changes.
The unwilling teacher is aware of the reason for changing practice but is unwilling to invest in making the change. If an instructional coach (IC) is going to work with an unwilling teacher, I believe there are two questions the IC needs to raise at the beginning:
#1 “Do you know what the principal wants you to do?” If the unwilling teacher is unsure, clarity needs to be gained. The teacher needs to confer with the principal or teacher and IC can jointly meet with the principal. When the teacher is clear on expectations, the second question needs to be asked.
#2 “Are you planning to do it?” A yes here, even grudgingly, and the coach begins working. If the response is no, the coach withdraws. I believe the coach’s time is too valuable to be spent in a situation where the unwilling teacher has no intent to change. An administrator’s role as an evaluator needs to be present in the case of unwilling teachers.
Having identified specific skill areas for teachers’ growth and teachers’ development stages, instructional leaders can provide the feedback and support for continuous progress.