Learning is generated by the actions that learners engage in. I can’t teach you how to play an instrument, I can teach you how to learn to play. You need to do the learning actions to reach the results. Parents as learning coaches are empowering their children for future learning. Learning how to learn is a critical life skill.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, and even sometimes conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:35 I started this podcast series for parents early into the COVID quarantine as students were schooling from home. My initial purpose was to untangle a message that I was hearing that suggested parents needed to become teachers. In most cases, teachers were providing learning content and activities for students. The role that I envisioned parents taking was that of a learning coach. I saw a learning coach being a person who provided guidance, encouragement, and feedback around the learning process while the teacher at school provided the content and the learning tasks. Years back, my work with teachers took a new focus when I zeroed in on the learning process as the key element of teaching. I realized that teachers didn’t cause student learning, but rather students cause student learning. Performing arts teachers and sports coaches created a great example for me. I realized that as a teacher, I can’t teach you how to play an instrument, I can teach you how to learn to play an instrument.
Steve: 01:54 But if the student doesn’t engage in the learning tasks that are provided, the learning won’t be reached. I can’t teach you how to play soccer, I can teach you how to learn. You need to do the work of learning. I label that as learning production behaviors, the things that one does that cause the learning outcome to be reached. Consider that if you went to a trainer at the gym and shared a goal that you wanted to reach, perhaps in stamina or weight loss or strength, the task of the trainer is to identify the behaviors, actions, and task that you need to engage in in order to achieve your goal. Successful performing arts and sports trainers know what the learning production behaviors are that will generate the successful outcome and they provide the motivation and feedback that keep the learner engaged in the learning production behaviors.
Steve: 03:09 My realization was that the same concept of learning existed in content areas. I don’t teach you math, science or reading, I teach you how to learn the knowledge and skills through the learning production behaviors. This changed my work with teachers when observing in their classrooms, I now spend less focus on what the teacher is doing and more on what the students are doing. My conversations with teachers are about what they need to get students to do – learning production behaviors, and what the teaching strategies are to gain those behaviors. The performing arts and sports example fits well for most parents in identifying our learning coach role. Few of us are teaching our child how to do the skill. We’re learning coaches. We keep the learner engaged in the learning task that the instructor has designed to cause the learning. I just spent several days with my grandchildren and provided some learning coaching for their behaviors.
Steve: 04:19 I was at the swim meet where my granddaughter performed extremely well in one event and not so well in another. Just being at the meet, which meant two hours in the stands before her event was scheduled, sent a message to her that her goals around swimming are important. On the ride home, we discussed the input that she received from her coach and what were the next learning production behaviors on tap for her. When my daughter gets up at 6:00 AM on a summer morning to drive a teenager to the long-course swim training, she is an effect being a learning coach. After my grandson shared his art journal from comic drawing camp with me, I was full of questions about how he created certain effects. And as he shared the information, he was reviewing the critical learning production behaviors. As this school year begins, consider how you can identify with your children, what learning production behaviors are critical in order to reach their desired learning outcomes.
Steve: 05:31 As the year progresses, you might check with your child’s teacher if you’re unsure of the most important learning production behaviors for your learner to engage in. When I was visiting a school with a focus on improving student writing performance, I met a young writer who taught me and reinforce this need to know what the learning production behaviors are. As he was showing me his writing portfolio, I asked him if he had a writing goal and he said he did, it was to raise his writing score from a 2.5 to a 3.0. And I said, “terrific, what will that take?” And he said “I need to have fewer punctuation mistakes and a greater variety in my words.” And I said, “oh, that’s great. What will you do to make that happen?” And he looked straight at me and said, “I have no idea.”
Steve: 06:33 My response was, “you need a learning production behavior. What is it that you engage in while writing that would cause that to happen?” So I shared with him that he should request from his teacher, a list of all the places he should be using a comma and that he put that in his writing folder and that when he finishes writing drafts, he pulls out that list looks at places where commas are used and checks to see if he has any of those in his most recent writing. And I suggested to him that if he did that for a month, he would begin to find that he used commas in the right place. That was the learning production behavior. Here’s another learning production strategy that you can share with any of your learners who struggle from time to time procrastinating or avoiding getting started on a task. It’s shared by Deborah Farmer Khris, from an earlier podcast I recorded with her.
Steve: 07:42 Talk a little bit about why do we find getting started to be so challenging both for young people. And I, I think for adults too,
Deborah: 07:53 Yeah. The way I talk about it with students, they know it intuitively, is that the hardest part of any job is the first step because often we imagine in our brains that it is harder than it is. And that is where anxiety comes is when we have in our brains, oh my goodness, this paper I have to write this phone call I need to make is so big. And so what our brains try to do to protect us is avoid it. We avoid the the thing that might give us psychological pain because our brains try to help us. And so, we get distracted, we suddenly discover there are dishes we need to do. We go on and get distracted by social media, anything but getting started on the task. But once we actually get started on the task one, it kind of helps us reset and realize it’s not as hard as we thought usually.
Deborah: 08:44 But also, we often are driven to finish a task that we started. And so if you can actually kind of hijack the system and just get started, it’s much easier to complete the task. But for kids, this is where it’s so painful for parents and students is the parents trying to get the kid to sit down and start. And that’s where the power struggle comes in. And so the technique that I have found is transformational. I have taught this to thousands of students and parents and it is by far the technique that they come back and say, this is the thing that’s helped me is something called the Pomodoro Technique. And the Pomodoro Technique really is pulling on this system that our brain needs to focus, but also needs to relax and that we can’t focus for two hours straight usually unless we’re really in the zone and that this kind of breaking up focusing and relaxing time is really good for the brain.
Deborah: 09:38 So basically the Pomodoro Technique is simple. You set a timer for 25 minutes and you get started on a task. Any task. You don’t think you have to finish it, you just have to start. And something about having the timer next to you or the app, which I can talk about a little later, having that near you for some reason, tends to be motivating. Also because it’s only 25 minutes. And frankly, if you have a seven year old, set it for 10, like they need to practice piano. It feels overwhelming. Scale it down, set it for five. We are gonna work on cleaning your room for five minutes or when my kids are young, I’d say for two songs, we’re gonna put on two songs and when it’s done, we’re done. And then when you’re done, you take a break, the timer goes off, you stand up, you stretch.And what students so often discover is that once they get started, then they get into the zone after about 15 or 20 minutes. And then they take that break, but it’s much easier to get back into it after the break because they’ve already gotten into the zone. And this is one of those techniques that seems so simple that a lot of people resist trying it. And when they do, they have this “aha” moment.
Steve: 10:54 You can find the link to the Deborah Farmer Kris podcast in the lead-in to this podcast. As you coach your learners in learning production behaviors, you are empowering them for future learning. Learning how to learn is an important life skill, which like other skills, is developed through experience, practice, and feedback. Let me know any questions that you have about being a learning coach. You can always reach me at barkleypd.com. I’d be happy to respond to any questions that you left there. Good luck coaching. Be sure to enjoy the learning process. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 11:47 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.