This episode continues the exploration of the early authors, presenters, researchers, and experiences that have influenced my work in coaching across the last 40 years. Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers’ exploration of the impact of coaching on the transfer of workshop skills to embedded classroom success was an early footing for me. I explore that impact here.
Read Bruce Joyce & Beverly Showers’, “The Coaching of Teaching:” https://files.ascd.org/staticfiles/ascd/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el_198210_joyce.pdf
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[00:00:01.210] – 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
Foundations for Instructional Coaching: Episode Two – Coaching to Extend Professional Development. This is the second episode, exploring the early foundations, authors, presenters, and experiences that have influenced my work in the field of coaching across the last 40 years. Since I’ve been at this for so long, I realized that newer coaches might appreciate some background of the early foundations. In episode one, I examined Joellen Killian’s work with the concept of heavy coaching. In this episode, I’ll look back on the work of Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, beginning with a 1982 article in ASCD titled, “The Coaching of Teaching.” I was just beginning my work as a professional learning trainer and presenter at that time, and I was captured by the concept of coaching that appeared in this article. You’ll find a link to that original article in this podcast lead-in.
[00:01:40.590] – Steve
In the article, Joyce and Showers presented the importance of technical coaching to support teachers transfer of skills learned in a workshop into their classroom practices. Here’s a few quotes from that article. Consider how these comments fit into your experiences, both as a teacher and as a support person, a school leader guiding teachers in their continuous growth. “Unfortunately, the development of skill by itself does not ensure transfer. Relatively few teachers, having obtained a skill and a new approach, will transfer that skill into their active repertoire and use the new approach regularly and sensibly unless they receive additional support.” “Essentially, once a teaching skill has been obtained, it needs to be transformed when it is transferred into active repertoire. The conditions of the classroom are different from the training situations. One cannot simply walk from the training session into the classroom with the skill completely ready for use. It has to be changed to fit classroom conditions.” And one last quote. “The provision of technical feedback helps keep the mind of the teacher on the business of perfecting skills, polishing them, and working through problem areas.” Here are some of my experiences around technical coaching that I recorded earlier.
[00:03:36.870] – Steve
These experiences occurred both as a teacher learning a skill, as a teacher practicing to internalize a skill and as a coach supporting teachers.
[00:03:51.850] – Steve
Very early in my career, I had been teaching a few years and was wrapping up a master’s degree program when I enrolled in a course called Project Teach, which stood for Teacher Effectiveness and Classroom Handling. The course focused on twelve verbal communication skills, four that related to uncovering agenda. These were questioning and paraphrasing skills, another four that dealt with responding to resistance. So they were things like positive phrasing and empathy, support and approval. And then lastly, a set of four skills that dealt with decision making in the classroom and they ran a continuum from teacher being a power keeper, to a power sharer, to a power giver. I had an awareness as I was working in this program that it was the first time in my teacher education, both undergraduate and graduate, where the focus was specifically on a set of skills that were related to being an effective teacher. I think prior to that, most of my work was built around an understanding or knowledge that teachers had. But this was the first time that I specifically, in the learning setting, practiced and got feedback on a set of skills. In that learning situation, we frequently practiced in role plays using a group of three where one of us played the teacher, one a student, and the third the observer.
[00:05:50.930] – Steve
In those settings, I learned the importance of conscious practice in order to learn a skill. Interesting that as teachers we were always focused on creating conscious practice opportunities for our students, but this was the first time that I was zeroing in on that conscious practice for myself. In those roleplay scenarios when a person was the teacher, we had to label for the observer what skill it was that we were going to practice and then the observer listened and reinforced that we used the skill we said we were going to use or interrupted and had us modify and try the practice activity. Again, those experiences strongly connect to the early research done by Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, dating back to the repeated many times since regarding the value of coaching on professional development’s ability to impact student learning. The coaching creates the continuous conscious practice on the part of the teachers and getting needed feedback in order for the teacher to internalize a skill that was identified in the professional development setting. Another interesting outcome from those experiences with those role plays was how much one learned when you were in the observer’s seat. We used to jokingly laugh that when I was the observer, I knew exactly what the teacher should say and do.
[00:07:46.440] – Steve
And as soon as the roles shifted and I moved from observer to teacher, I found I didn’t have near the clarity I did when I was in the observer role. Again, this reinforces for me the value of connecting peer coaching to professional development. So as a teacher, when I’m observing and giving feedback to another teacher who is focused on learning a skill, perhaps the same skill that I’m focused on learning in my own classroom, that observation time increases my understanding and has an impact on my practice when I go back into my own classroom. The term, “technical coaching” can be applied to this type of coaching, that is, coaching that is specifically designed to focus on a skill that the teacher is practicing. As an example, if a teacher was examining how her use of pause time when questioning students can have an important impact on student critical thinking, she might invite a coach to come into her classroom and observe the length of pauses after her question, before she called on a student, as well as after a student’s response before she gave feedback or moved on. Frequently when teachers are engaged in this type of coaching, they’ll suggest that the coach changed my behavior.
[00:09:22.550] – Steve
Of course, my pauses were better because the coach was present, and sometimes teachers initial response to that is that the coaching time was wasted, instead of recognizing that what the coaching time did was to cause the teacher to consciously practice the skill. And that conscious practice is critical to the teacher’s internalization of that skill. When designing professional development that is focused on specific teacher skills to generate identified student learning production behaviors, consider providing the teachers with a coaching observation tool that they can use to request technical coaching feedback from instructional coaches, administrators, or peers. I think teachers actually leaving the professional development activity with that tool in hand and with an expectation that they will be requesting that technical coaching is an important part of the professional development learning activity. Here’s some examples where teachers could request that technical coaching: A teacher is looking at how she responds in a reading group to encourage beginning readers to use their word attack skills. A teacher is examining the questions that probe students initial answers to drive them to deeper thinking. A teacher is looking at the facilitative skills he’s using in conducting a Socratic seminar. A teacher is examining how she checks for understanding during instruction.
[00:11:21.530] – Steve
A teacher is focused on the use of a think aloud during a modeling activity. And a teacher might focus on how she responds to students’ questions that engage further student struggle rather than giving the student a solution. In each of these cases, the coach can clearly collect specific data that reinforces for the teacher his or her use of that skill. And again, just knowing that the coach is there collecting the data increases the teacher’s conscious practice.
[00:12:10.170] – Steve
In 2002, Joyce and Showers in their book, “Student Achievement Through Staff Development,” identified the impact of adding peer coaching into the developmental process for teachers gaining new instructional skills. When adding classroom observation with coaching feedback, following teachers opportunities to study a skill in theory, to observe it being modeled and to practice it in the workshop setting, by adding peer coaching at that point, the transfer to classroom practices at a level that impacted student learning rose from 5% of the teachers to 95% of the teachers. It’s hard to imagine that we are still investing staff development dollars into staff skills workshops that don’t have a plan for coaching feedback to follow them. Remember that coaching can come from peers, from colleagues who were in the same workshop. In that 1982 article, Joyce and Showers include an interview with a college football coach. Their concluding comments have impacted my thinking from the first time that I read them. See what you think. “Changing what we do, even slightly, can unbalance the rest of our game. Whether switching from quarterback to tight end, adjusting the grip on a golf club, or initiating an inquiry procedure for science teaching, the new skill does not fit smoothly with existing practice.
[00:14:03.630] – Steve
The fact that the new skill may have been perfected in parts and practiced thoroughly in simulated conditions does not prevent the transfer problem. Our behaviors must adjust to the presence of a different approach, and the discomfort of this new awkwardness is often enough to ensure return to the former smooth, if less efficient, performance. Perhaps the most striking difference in training athletes and teachers is in their initial assumptions. Athletes do not believe mastery will be achieved quickly or easily. They understand that enormous effort results in small increments of change. We, on the other hand, have often behaved as though teaching skills were so easily acquired that a simple presentation, one day workshop, or a single videotape demonstration were sufficient to ensure successful classroom performance. To the extent that we have communicated this message to teachers, we have probably misled them. Learning to use an inductive strategy for learning of concepts is probably at least as difficult as learning to throw a block properly.” I’d be pleased to explore this concept of technical coaching element further with any of you, especially with those of you new to your coaching roles. You can always find me at barkleypd.com. And thanks for listening.
[00:15:54.450] – Steve [Outro]
Thanks for listening, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.