In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve looks creating effective coaching through professional and personal goals.
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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTAnnouncer : 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]: 00:18 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: 00:46 Coaching toward goals. I recently read a post shared by Doug Reeves titled, “Getting The Most Out of Coaching” that stated that instructional coaching, leadership coaching, and executive coaching can consume extraordinary amounts of time and resources and have often had a wide variation in the results that they achieve. He suggested five guidelines to maximize the return on the investment that people make in both time and resources in coaching. His first suggestion was distinguish coaching from evaluation. The second, coach high performers not just those who are struggling. The third, effective coaching is based on clear, professional and personal goals. The fourth, be clear about confidentiality. And the fifth, make coaching real. I’ve provided a link to Doug Reeves’ article in the lead in to this podcast. It’s his third point, effective coaching is based on clear, professional and personal goals that I’d like to expand on in this podcast.
Steve: 02:24 Here’s what Reeves wrote: “Too many coaching conversations are unfocused with progress. Often depending upon the coaching client’s ability to bring an issue to the table for discussion. That’s a sign of a lazy coach. A more effective practice is to have every conversation focus on the professional and personal goals that were established at the beginning of the coaching relationship with a thoughtful focus on celebrating progress made since the previous conversation, identifying and addressing barriers to achievement of goals and where appropriate, making modifications to those goals. I was lucky enough to have a great coach for more than a decade and when as a client I drifted off to Neverland, whining about the crisis of the moment, my coach would skillfully redirect the conversation toward goals. It occurred to me that I sometimes avoided those conversations because the truth was that I had not made progress toward my goals instead of allowing a thousand urgent details to get in the way of what I knew was most important. Coaches are not here to provide therapy or pleasant conversations. They are here to improve individual and organizational performance.” I strongly support coaching being connected to PLCs and to teacher professional growth plans. And both of these should be tied to goals. If PLCs are to be results oriented as Rick Dufor has promoted, they need to be goal-focused. I’ve been introducing the term for PLC’s, goals before norms.
Steve: 04:21 When my colleagues in a PLC establish a goal that we are passionate to achieve, we are much more likely to commit to the needed time, vulnerability, reflection and perseverance to learn. And that learning usually means change. We learn and we change in order to achieve the student outcome goals that we have set and established. A PLC using a backwards plan, first identifies the student learning outcome goals that are going to drive their work. They then identify the student behaviors, what I call learning production behaviors that are necessary For the student learning outcome to be produced. And then, they’re ready to look at the teacher actions that will be used to generate the student production behaviors.
Steve: 05:35 At this point, there are many opportunities to figure out how coaching can be part of the PLC’s goal focus.
Steve: 05:48 PLC members could be coaching each other or inviting the instructional coach to collect important feedback data for them. We might begin that coaching to gain insights about the learner’s current behaviors. What is currently occurring in the classroom during instruction and learning opportunities.
Steve: 06:17 I frequently spend time taking teachers into each other’s classrooms to study those student production behaviors because it’s a starting point. That feedback might help us identify difference between the learners who are making progress and the learners who aren’t being connected to their current learning production behaviors.
Steve: 06:47 Cooking feedback can assist a teacher in identifying their conscious and unconscious teaching practices. As the PLC’s planning and learning progresses, the focus on coaching can change continuing to support the progress toward the student learning outcome.
Steve: 07:11 So while our initial focus may have been on students’ current learning production behaviors, then having identified where those behaviors need to change, our coaching focus might switch over to the teacher. Collecting feedback on whether or not the teacher is implementing the changes in his or her practice that the plan called for the teacher to do. With assurance that the teacher practices have changed, coaching can now begin to focus on student learning production behaviors again to identify whether or not the teacher changes are bringing about a change in student performance. This ongoing data can add greatly to the reflection, conversation, thinking and insights that are reached in PLC gatherings.
Steve: 08:19 It’s probably critical that most teacher professional growth plans include the feedback gained from peer coaches, instructional coaches, administrators coaching to gain the evidence necessary to validate that the plan was implemented. And if it’s based on a hypothesis, in other words, the teacher believes that by changing this teacher behavior, I’ll change this student behavior which will produce a learning outcome, the teacher really needs the evidence collected by a coach to track the process of the plan’s implementation. Similarly to the tracking of PLC goals, a coach supporting a teacher’s professional growth plan can observe whether or not the changes that the teacher was planning to implement have been implemented. In other words, if a teacher has a hypothesis that by changing the way he responds to students’ questions, having responses that encourage further thinking on the students part rather than assisting the student and quickly moving in the correct direction.
Steve: 09:53 One would really value a coach spending time in your classroom collecting your actual responses so that you can confirm that the change you wanted to make has been made. A coach can assist a teacher in identifying unpredicted implications of the teacher’s change in practice. There can be students who respond negatively while others are responding positively to the teacher change and there’d be value in a coach being able to identify those. I was just recently working with a teacher who was looking to increase students’ perseverance and struggle with math problems, both when they were working individually and when they were working collaboratively. Because her time was continually spent moving from group to group and sometimes to the individuals as she had given students a choice of how they wished to tackle their work, she asked me to collect very specific data on students who were working independently.
Steve: 11:21 How long did they struggle with the problem before they went to the teacher? Were they taking second and third attempts when their first strategy didn’t work? Were they simply skipping the problem and moving on to others? That feedback would be very important to a teacher in making decisions about how the change she had implemented was impacting students. A coach can be looking at student production behaviors and identifying that they are changing since the teacher has changed her behavior. How many of the students are changing production behaviors? Are there similarities and differences among the students who are changing and not changing? The conversations that teachers have with coaches can be very important in reflecting upon the work of their growth plan. A teacher preparing the coach for an observation dramatically increases her consciousness and reflection on teaching and learning. Keeping the teacher learning back into the forefront is critical and important. Too often during jam packed teaching time, the teacher’s professional growth plans kind of slide to the back shelf. Ongoing connection with coaches can keep the teachers learning in the forefront. As Doug Reeves stated, “coaches are here to improve both the individual and the organization’s performance. Coaches should be seeking coaching on their own personal growth plans. And at times, coaches should be working in a leadership or district wide coach’s PLC, again, sharing the same vulnerability that we’re asking teachers to take in their growth so that instructional coaches and administrators can continue in theirs. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 13:59 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 where you can send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.