What are the actions that school administrators and instructional coaches can take to support the building of a culture of coaching within a school? How does peer coaching embedded in professional growth plans and PLC decisions encourage a coaching culture? How do school leaders model a culture of coaching? Steve explores these questions, setting the stage for your plans for deepening a coaching culture.
Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!
Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:28 Expanding instructional coaching to a culture of coaching. Recently, a school administrative team, including instructional coaches, invited me to a conversation around their desire to deepen a culture of coaching within their school. They wanted to expand coaching from an activity experienced with an instructional coach to coaching being for everyone, including the administrators and instructional coaches. I reinforced their thinking by sharing that the first book I wrote on coaching was titled, “Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching.” And my purpose for that title was that I wanted coaching to be seen not as an isolated activity, but rather something embedded within the culture that described how the school functioned. In other words, how we operate here. I frequently have described that a role for instructional coaches is to be seen as the coach of coaching. In other words, they’re continually driving that coaching culture by the way they cause teachers to be engaged with each other.
Steve: 01:59 I’ve used the visual of a coach operating like a plate spinner at the circus. They get a couple of teachers into a group and begin that group coaching eachother often with the instructional coach being a member of the group. And similar to the way that that plate is spinning on the stick, at some point, the instructional coach can pull out and move over and get another group started. Every now and then they have to check back in in order to keep the coaching spinning and sometimes they’ll get back to late in the coaching’s finished and the plate has fallen, but it just means getting people reconnected into another group. The team that I was meeting with asked me how they might begin the year to best communicate this concept of a culture of coaching. I suggested that the starting point might be seeing coaching being implemented in several different scenarios at the same time.
Steve: 03:15 Here’s some of the examples that we discussed Building coaching into a way of bringing new teachers onto the staff. I worked in an international school where they had a outstanding new teacher element that really caught me by surprised. When you came to the school as a new teacher, you were given the names of two teachers on staff who were extending an invitation to you to coach them. I thought that was really intriguing because the natural process that most people would do would be to go to the new teacher and say, here’s two teachers who have offered to support or assist you. And instead, they went to the new teachers and said, here’s two people that are excited to get your coaching input as someone new to the staff. Another place to look would be to build coaching feedback into the implementation of any new curriculum or instructional practice.
Steve: 04:24 So whether that feedback came from the instructional coaches or whether the instructional coaches and administrators created opportunities for teachers to give each other that feedback, it would communicate that coaching is often a critical element when implementing a change in curriculum or practice. Another option we considered was to look at where coaching fits into teacher’s professional growth plans. In my mind, that should be part of the design of a professional growth plan. So when I’m writing the changes that I’m looking to bring about for students through changes in my practice, actually part of my plan should be at what points would I want to be inviting colleagues, which could be instructional coaches and administrators, but could also be other teachers within the school – at what point do I want to be inviting colleagues into my classroom to collect evidence around the changes that I am implementing myself?
Steve: 05:38 In other words, focused on the teacher. And when would I want colleagues to be in my classroom with a focus on students to see that students are changing in their learning production behaviors because of the changes that I, the teacher implementing from my growth plan. We also discussed building coaching into professional learning communities. How do we create opportunities for members of the PLC to observe and collect evidence in each other’s classrooms? Observing student reactions and engagement to the strategies that the PLC was designing in order to impact student learning, teachers going into each other’s classrooms, seeing and collecting that evidence, bringing that evidence to the next PLC meeting as it would be providing reinforcement for the decisions we’ve made or would cause us to explore other options that we need to be considering. Again, the instructional coach might be the person who covers a class for a teacher as the teacher is making observations in other colleagues classrooms.
Steve: 06:58 And then the teacher could return to his or her own classroom and spend some time observing the coach as he or she is implementing the practice, again, collecting valuable evidence and observations that we’ll use to drive the thinking and learning of the PLC. Lastly, we explored the administrators and coaches coaching each other and doing that publicly as frequently as they can. For an example, when a coach is modeling in a teacher’s classroom, she might invite another coach or an administrator to observe the modeled lesson and then coach the coach, perhaps inviting the teacher whose classroom was used for the modeling to sit in on that coaching session. The principal on this leadership team asked a question about how the communication between coaches, administrators, and teachers should be shared with the staff. In other words, how would we communicate the difference between evaluation, supervision and coaching feedback in order to assist in people understanding what communication would be present in a true culture of coaching?
Steve: 08:31 I described for the team four different models of communication that I’ve often shared when schools are introducing instructional coaching for the first time. In the first model, there’s no communication occurring between the coach and the principal about an observation in a teacher’s classroom. So the principal has back and forth conversation with the teacher, the coach has back and forth conversation with the teacher, but that coach/principal conversation doesn’t occur. In a second model, the principal shares information or concerns with the coach, but the coach doesn’t share any information back as to his or her observations. So the principal might share that on several observations in the teacher’s classroom, the teacher is struggling with the transition from one activity to another. And the principal shares that information with the coach and now it’s off to the coach to find a way to assist and address the issue with the teacher.
Steve: 09:51 Then you can add to that a third model, and you can hear that each of these models is getting deeper into the flow of communication. In the third model, the coach shares good news back with the principal but only good news concerning progress that teacher might be making. And then in the fourth model is where we’re really looking at at full communication between coach principal and teacher. They in effect are a team all with the desired outcome of the teacher being as successful as possible in his or her practice. I’ve often shared that, which of the models get selected at any point is less important than that there’s clear communication of the model being used and the practice to follow the model. And that’s what will then build trust. As trust grows between the principal and the coach, they form a relationship where they make sure that should something be said that shouldn’t have been said, it won’t get fed back to a staff member in any fashion that would distance the building of that trusting relationship.
Steve: 11:27 In other words, I describe it as the coach and principal, both support each other as they focus on building trust with the staff. And that trust is understanding that everyone is focused on the success of the teacher to be successful with students. Important to recognize that at times a sophisticated school administrator and coach would have all four of those models going on at one time. So there would be some teachers on staff where no communication between the coach and principal was going on and then others down through models, two, three, and four. As new people come to the staff as the principal position changes, or the instructional coach changes, it often requires taking a few steps backwards and by backwards, I mean into a more structured model until that trust can again be built. So I’d like to encourage you to have a conversation with your leadership team and instructional coaches around increasing the culture of coaching within your school.
Steve: 13:01 Imagine that you created a continuum of coaching culture, kind of a continuum from one to five, where one was, the coaching culture was missing within the school and a five was a coaching culture was deeply embedded in the school. With rhat being done, what would points two, three, and four on the continuum sound like and look like? With that being laid out, your team could now set some goals to achieve in the next year or two in building the coaching culture of the staff. If you were at a two, what would it look like and sound like as you began to get closer to being a three? What would be the look for’s and listen for’s that would tell you you’re beginning to make progress in moving from two to three on the continuum? Consider that once a month at the leadership team meeting, coaching culture would be on the agenda.
Steve: 14:14 Members of the team might share leadership behaviors, leadership actions that they had taken during the past month to help and support building that culture. The team could share evidence of progress or lack of progress from things that they’ve observed. And then, action plans could be laid out as to what members of the team would do in the coming month. As we deepen a coaching culture within our schools, we can support continuous educator growth that will support continuous student success. Consider contacting me if you would like to discuss next steps that your school leadership team might take to extend the culture of coaching within your school. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 15:23 Thank you 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.