Instructional coaches share that teachers often ask them to observe and coach with a focus on student engagement. What should a coach explore before agreeing to the teacher’s request? On this podcast, Steve provides coaching to a coach on how to explore student engagement with an individual teacher and her grade level cohort.
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Announcer : 00:00 Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud is sponsored by the AAIE Institute for International School Leadership. Preparing educators for the unique challenge of international school leadership through online courses led by international school leaders. Learn more at aaieinstitute.org.
Steve [Intro]: 00:19 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:47 Coaching around student engagement. I recently facilitated a lunch and learn virtual session for instructional coaches through Ed Service Center 13 in Texas. They had asked me to explore student engagement as it was a common topic that teachers raised with instructional coaches, especially during the times of virtual and hybrid teaching. For me, any conversation about engagement requires having teachers describe in detail, the desired student learning production behaviors that they are seeking. Those behaviors are the real indicators of student engagement. After sharing several ways that coaches can engage teachers in discussions of desired student learning production behaviors, I held a coaching session with one of the coach participants. As you listen in, can you make connections to the kinds of conversations you are exploring with teachers?
Steve: 02:04 What I really wanted to model Jennifer – I’m so glad you’re joining us, is I want people to get a read here for how we can coach a coach. And so if you’d talk a little bit about your particular scenario and then direct me as to how I might best provide coaching to you. So I can either explore possibilities with you are or we can role play a little bit – perhaps you play the teacher and you’d get a chance to hear how I would respond to things the teacher might say.
Jennifer: 02:38 Okay. So this opportunity that I have to coach a teacher is in a fourth grade at my school and really, the team leader and some of her partner teachers came to me asking to really look at the engagement because we’re in a blended environment. So we are having kids in class and online at the same time. And as they’re doing it, they’re planning together, but they’re also sharing some lesson plans. And they’re giving a lot – some teachers on that team are giving a lot into these lesson plans and it’s high engagement but the teacher that I’ve kind of been charged to work with is her level of engagement in her social studies lessons that she’s planning is to the bored stage on the continuum. And so I’m really looking at seeing how she can help her team and also going about it in a way to help her with planning.
Jennifer: 03:39 And I recognize that it’s a blended environment and it’s new to everyone. And this is a stretch for this teacher. And she probably was pretty average teacher and not doing more than she would typically do. And so I have the issue with the team kind of, you know, in, I guess, trying to help me they want help for her and they know they want help in these lessons. And so, but yet also they are part of her team and so they they need to get along and they need to play nice in the playground. And so that’s pretty much the charge of it. So I did wanna go ahead and go in and watch her for about 30 so minutes in that and we were on the verge of boredom. And even though she knew I was coming in, she didn’t do anything extra to…
Steve: 04:39 Let me back you up because based on the things you’ve said, my thought would be that the starting point for help is with the team. So when they’re co-planning, is there something like student production behaviors being identified even if those aren’t the words that they’re using?
Jennifer: 05:01 Yes, there really are. And that’s during our PLC and really talking about what is going to be asynchronous? What’s going to
be synchronous? How are we going to get those kids talking to each other? What kinds of ways are doing that?
Steve: 05:17 Let me stop right there. So if I was with that team and they described the students talking to each other, what are they listening for in those conversations that say they’re getting the production behaviors they want?
Jennifer: 05:35 They’re really listening for if they are meeting the goal of what the assignment is.
Steve: 05:42 Okay. So now I’ve got to go back to what’s the goal of the assignment. Is the goal of the assignment looking at outcome behaviors or learning production behaviors?
Jennifer: 05:53 Probably outcome behaviors more than production behaviors.
Steve: 05:58 Okay. So you recognize that really what you’re talking about now is an assessment.
Jennifer: 06:06 Or getting ready for learning what you need to do to get to an assessment.
Steve: 06:12 So it’s a pre-assessment?
Jennifer: 06:14 It could be. Exactly. Or working within the outcome that they want to have. So maybe it’s practice.
Steve: 06:25 Okay. So if they can describe in detail what the practice behavior looks like, that’s a learning production behavior.
Jennifer: 06:34 Okay.
Steve: 06:34 Or if they said students raising questions would be a learning production behavior. Or students comparing and contrasting in their conversation would be a learning production behavior. So for example, if I were to take this back to a classroom and a teacher had kids working in collaborative groups, and I was going to do a coaching observation for the teacher, I’d ask the teacher, what do you want to hear when you’re when you’re listening in on a group?
Steve: 07:08 Then that gives me what I can record. And then when I get back to the teacher, if the teacher behaviors didn’t cause the students to do those desired behaviors that the student that the teacher wanted, then that’s what we can build our coaching around.
Jennifer: 07:29 So as a coach, my questions that I’m going to be asking during this time of planning and talking about what’s happening or how they’re going to get to this outcome is really about what is the student doing –
Steve: 07:45 That’s going to cause the learning that’s going to cause the learning.
Jennifer: 07:48 Okay.
Steve: 07:49 So let me give you another one I would like to use then. If you take the concept, that’s that they’re looking to have students master on a scale of one to five, where five is difficult and one is easy, where would kids place where this activity, this not activity – where would they place this learning outcome for students?
Jennifer: 08:15 Okay. And then is it –
Steve: 08:18 Are there chances that the kids are scattered on that continuum?
Jennifer: 08:22 Yes.
Steve: 08:23 So now, are they looking for different learning production behaviors?
Jennifer: 08:27 Yes. And they’re also probably looking at how they’re going to want to group those students.
Steve: 08:33 Bingo. Okay. So now the purpose of grouping is to engage the kids in the learning production behaviors. So now I might have to group
a stronger student with a weaker student because that’s going to provide the scaffolding so that the weaker student can be engaged in the activity. Or, I’m going to group the higher students, because I’m going to send them off to do the task with no support, providing the scaffolding to the others.
Jennifer: 09:05 Okay. So after like, we are involved in this kind of discussion, is it beneficial then as what I’m thinking is taking that teacher and saying, hey, can we talk a little bit afterwards? Then we can talk about how that discussion went and then in her planning the lessons, is she thinking about the same things that she’s seeing in these other lessons?
Steve: 09:30 Bingo. Bingo. So the group decided these are the most important learning production behaviors. So if I can give you an example, when I’m working with PLCs, I try to get teachers to set goals within their PLC. So who are the advanced kids in our class? What’s our goal for them in this unit? And who are the proficient kids? What’s our goal? And who are the kids who are below what our goal is? And then do we have some kids who are intensive? What’s our goals for those kids? Now that we know the goals for each of those groups, now we can go back and do the learning behaviors. What do advanced kids have to be doing that’s going to cause them to get closer to that goal? Because if the advanced kids are doing the same thing that proficient kids are doing, they’re not likely to get to that higher goal that you set.
Jennifer: 10:20 What it makes me think of is you’re talking about kids right now, but I’m thinking about this team. And I went about it thinking about it as I need to work with this teacher. But really just like you said, I need to work with the team because they don’t realize that they are so much a part of the way they’re planning with high engagement and seeing what’s happening in their math and their science lessons and how that’s just organic for them. This teacher is missing out on it and she’s not listening to that conversation and then being able to have it in a way where she’s thinking about her own lessons that she’s planning.
Steve: 10:55 So would you say that you have teachers on there who are identifying the learning production behaviors in their head and not saying it out loud?
Jennifer: 11:07 Definitely. And just, yeah. And they’re actually, just such strong teachers that they don’t even have to think about it. It just gets on the paper quicker than this teacher could even think about it and see how to do it. And so in me meeting with her more individually, she got to watch my process, but she didn’t get to watch the team’s process. And so I’m alienating her more by just meeting with her one-on-one and not having that team effect. I feel like now, when I’m talking with you that team is really what’s gonna be her people who are going to continue to push her. And those are their kids in the PLC that they’re working on. And some of them, because it’s a fourth grade, they’re going into the other teacher’s classroom. So they’re sharing these students. So it needs to be more of a team approach and not we’re doing it better, and we need her to step up. And the hard thing is that these are newer, I would say, newer to the profession teachers three and four year teachers who are just highly engaged in planning and know strategies that this teacher’s kind of coming from behind. And so I need to level that playing field a little bit more.
Steve: 12:30 You’re doing – I always love it when the coach gets the credit, but you’re the one doing all the work here.
Jennifer: 12:39 You’re helping me. [laughter].
Steve: 12:41 I love listening to you. So in my head, if you can get the group to talk about what the learning production behaviors are, and then when you go off to work with her individually, which of these behaviors do you think may be most difficult to identify? Or most difficult to generate?
Jennifer: 13:02 Generate. Exactly.
Steve: 13:03 How would you look at generating those? You know, I share this story that I like to get instructional coaches to get teachers to come up with a list of student production behaviors that they want more of in their classrooms. And then I talk about the coaches wearing those like a sandwich board sign. You start knocking on doors, and when teachers on the door, you say, “hi, here’s what I sell.” So, as a coach, you sell changing student behaviors.
Jennifer: 13:32 Yeah. Definitely.
Steve: 13:33 The teacher picks the student behaviors that she wants to get, now you can assist her in brainstorming, look at possibilities for getting that.
Jennifer: 13:42 I like it. I’m going to make my sandwich for tomorrow with reflective questions.
Steve: 13:45 [laughter]
Speaker: 13:47 There’s a wondering in the chat if this teacher has had a chance to observe her peers or if they observe each other teaching at all.
Jennifer: 14:00 You know, honestly, I don’t really feel like she has had that opportunity. I think that we are so, you know, stretched with having in-person kids and people online that we have to keep going with the teaching. That’s what’s difficult is the PLC time that, we get a half day almost every Wednesday our district gives us, which is awesome. So that’s where the time is that they talk about it, but they don’t necessarily talk about – I would say they talk about more, the things that are not going well, instead of the things that are going well. And to me, I feel like what I’ve heard today is about really highlighting those production, you know, behaviors and talking about those, instead of talking about the things that aren’t working as well.
Steve: 14:52 I want push Jennifer – if you do observations, build all of the initial observations around watching the kids.
Jennifer: 14:59 Perfect.
Steve: 15:00 So if you had four teachers who planned a learning activity together and they identified the learning production behaviors together, and if you, as a coach covered covered one of their classes while they got to look at the other, what you’d ask them to record are what they’re seeing in the learning production behaviors. Then, if this teacher identifies that other teachers are getting learning production behaviors that she’s not getting, then that’s what opens the door.
Jennifer: 15:32 Perfect. I like it.
Steve: 15:35 So whenever I start observations in each other’s classrooms, I always start with observations of student behaviors rather than
Jennifer: 15:45 Well, and I’d love it to be based on our planning of what we were looking at. So then they’re going to be pretty successful if they’ve talked about that and dialogued about that.
Steve: 15:58 And then your followup conversations are where did we struggle the most to get those behaviors? And where were we most successful getting those behaviors? So maybe we found our bilingual students struggled with the behaviors. So we realized we need to make a modification and an extra scaffolding in order for those students to get engaged in the behavior. I just did a piece on engagement with secondary schools, a high school, where I interviewed the kids and the teachers and interesting with virtual learning, some kids say their teachers teach too much and some kids say their teachers don’t teach enough. And part of what we really worked out is we need to empower the kids so that to get the right learning production behaviors, the teacher does 10 minutes of her lesson and then says, anybody who’s ready to go off and work on the activity, feel free to go, but I’m going to do three more examples for anybody who wants to stick around. And then those kids go, and then I start checking in with the student who needs one-on-one help. That’s how you get kids engaged in the right learning production behavior. Everybody staying for the three extra examples you lost the appropriate production behaviors for some kids.
Jennifer: 17:21 Well, and I think that what we’re struggling in that in general right now is our virtual students, because the time is, you know, all of these times that we’re spending in these structures that are in place to be able to get the learning delivered, it’s spending time more in their breakout rooms or where you’re seeing authentic conversations happening and planning for that.
Steve: 17:51 Thank you for listening. I’d be pleased to respond to any of your coaching questions. You can always connect with me at barkleypd.com. You see answering your questions, that’s what makes my learning production behaviors. Thanks again.
Steve [Outro]: 18:10 Thanks again for listening, you can subscribe to Steve Barkley, ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.