Podcast: Coaching Post Conferencing - Steve Barkley

Podcast: Coaching Post Conferencing

Coaching Post Conferencing

How do coaches increase teacher voice and reflection in post conferencing? Too often the coach’s voice can sound more like a report being given (similar to supervision conferences) rather than a conversation. You’ll gain some mindsets, strategies, and questions in this podcast.

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Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:01.450] – Steve [Intro]

Welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders out loud podcast. As instructional coaches and school leaders, you have a challenge to guide continuous teacher growth that promotes student success. This podcast looks to support you with strategies from our experienced guests and insights that I’ve gathered across many years. I’m thrilled you’re here. Thanks for listening.

[00:00:25.210] – Steve

Coaching post conferences. Several teacher leaders recently asked me for some guidance in structuring their post conference conversations with colleagues. At this point, they are comfortable having pre conferences where the teacher is identifying a specific focus for an observation. The pre conference is creating comfort during the observation as they are rather clear on what information they should be collecting as they observe. They shared with me, however, that they feel uncomfortable in their post conferences because they are sensing that there is too little teacher voice and direction in that post conference. I reinforce their read that teacher voice is important in the post conference. I suggest that a minimum goal is to have a 50/50% coach teacher voice with a goal of getting to a 75% teacher voice in those post conferences. Reflection that leads to conscious future action on the teacher’s part is the desired outcome post conferencing. Teacher voice is key in generating the reflection that leads to a “what’s the next step?” decision. The discomfort that these teacher leaders who are new to coaching were sensing was caused by the post conference feeling more like a report rather than a conversation. A common pattern that I find with new coaches is a tendency to begin the post conference with a general evaluation question, something like, “how do you think that went?”

[00:02:31.140] – Steve

Often, the teacher has had insufficient time to reflect on the observed learning activity and actually hasn’t heard what information the coach has collected and therefore, the teacher tends to give a general response back, “I think okay,” or, “the student seemed engaged” or, “I’m not sure” or, the teacher asked the coach, “what do you think?” And that can push the coach into an evaluative response before having the opportunity to share the observation details. I’ve identified two strategies that can increase the dialog within post conferences. The first item is actually created during the observation. When the observer records details, if they use some of the actual words of the teacher and the students, as well as observable students’ behaviors, the coach is prepared to share these in a post conference, which adds to the reflectiveness of the conversation. Consider a scenario where the teacher wanted the coach to focus on the help that the teacher provided students. Her coach had noted each time that the teacher helped students with a check next to the student’s seat or name with a quick look at the coach’s notes the teacher could decide her comfort with the equity of her assistance and the amount of feedback she felt appropriate developing the student’s independence that she was seeking.

[00:04:25.910] – Steve

The conversation can grow much deeper when the coach can add specific examples of the teacher’s responses next to the students’ names. Imagine the coach in this in assistance being able to say to the teacher, “here are some responses that you gave students. Is there another thing you could try? Does the word on the sheet look the same as the word on the screen? Can you remember where text styles are found? I’m not telling you exactly where, but look in this area. Tell me how you might get rid of this line. Can you make a line? Think about how you make a line and consider how you might unmake one.” Sharing those comments with the teacher, the coach can then ask, “what do you think as you look at these?” The teacher begins talking and reflecting on what thinking was behind her responses. Or the teacher’s reflection raises a consciousness about wanting to respond differently. In the complexity of teaching, many of our responses are made unconsciously, on the spot. The teacher’s reflection on the information that the coach added adds to the increase of a likely conversation over the concept of a report. The teacher’s thinking guides the direction rather than the coach’s thinking guiding the direction.

[00:05:59.930] – Steve

The second item involves the coach asking open ended questions in the post conference that uncover the teacher’s observations before the coach shares her observations. In the case of the previous example where the teacher is interested in the help she provides students, the coach might begin the conference with a statement like this: “Talk about some of the conscious decisions regarding helping that you made during this lesson.” As the teacher shares her recollections, the coach can reinforce those that she noted and add others that she had recorded. Here’s another example: A teacher is interested in having the coach observe the level of comfort that a particular student had in being a participant in the lesson, the coach might begin the post conference with this question – “What did you notice about Carolyn’s participation? How would you describe her level of comfort? How does what you noticed compared to what you expected? How does it compare to what you wanted?” As the teacher shares her thinking on each of these questions, the coach has the opportunity to connect specific observations, thoughts, ideas, and even suggestions, all of which will fit into the conversation because the coach has heard the teacher’s voice.

[00:07:44.200] – Steve

One guideline that I keep in mind when coaching is to always look to uncover what the teacher is thinking before I share what I’m thinking. Consider a teacher who asked me to observe the thinking engagement of her students as they worked on a task in small groups and then reported out on their decisions to the whole class. While observing, I noted consistent thinking engagement in the small groups. Then student focus and engagement decreased as the groups reported out and the teacher worked to facilitate comparisons with other groups’ thinking. As I observed, I wondered if the groups had reported out and responded to one other group rather than to the whole class, if the teacher might gain more engaged thinking than what had happened. With that thought in mind, in a post conference with the teacher, after exploring her observations and mine, I might ask these questions: “Was there a spot where you would have liked more engagement than you received? What would that extra engagement have looked like or sounded like? Are there thoughts that you have on changes you might make to generate that engagement?” The teacher’s responses to those questions would guide me to a decision on whether or not to share my wondering suggestion.

[00:09:29.340] – Steve

As I observed, I wondered if the group’s reporting out and responding to another group rather than to the whole class might extend the thinking engagement further. Here are some other post conference questions I’ve used from time to time: When during the lesson, did you see what you thought you would see when you were planning and what did you see that differed from what you thought while planning? You asked me to record and then you can put in whatever particular situation the teacher gave you. What do you think you’ll find when you look at the data that I’ve collected? So as an example, you asked me to record the questions that you used. What do you think you’ll find as you look at that list of questions? How do you think my presence impacted what happened in the lesson? What questions came to mind as the lesson unfolded? Are there questions that are remaining at the end of this lesson? What would you say you learned while teaching this lesson? How can we go about finding the answer to a question that has arisen? In my post conference, I’m often looking for ideas that the teacher has and then for the teacher to be making predictions on ideas.

[00:10:53.780] – Steve

So here’s two questions that might emerge: You were interested in the questions that you got students to ask during the lesson. What ideas do you have for changes that would increase the number of students’ questions? So you’re thinking about extending the time for students to work on this project. What do you see as the benefits to be gained from extending that time, and what risk are there in extending that time? My approach in coaching is as much as possible, to be a thought partner with the teacher. The more the teacher shares her thinking, the more comfortable I am sharing my thinking. We are both reflecting on how to maximize the teacher’s students’ success. Let me know if you’ve got any questions you’d like to raise about the pre/post conference process as well as observations for coaching. You can always reach me at barkleypd.com. Thanks for listening.

[00:12:03.080] – Steve [Outro]

Thanks for listening, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn at Steve Barkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com

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