Cory Camp, the director of professional development for Sibme, joins Steve in exploring how instructional coaches can use goal setting to guide teachers’ continuous improvement. They explore how evidence and data gathered by the coach can support the teacher’s reflection and persistence. Cory describes a focus on progress rather than perfection.
Contact Cory: https://sibme.com/about-us
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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. I’m thrilled you’re here.
Steve: 00:33 Increasing teacher and student success with goals. I’ve had the opportunity to join today’s guest on her podcast, and today we’re switching roles. Cory Camp is the Director of Professional Development for Sibme and the host of the Sibme Coach Replay show. Cory has been an educator for 16 years, worked as a teacher and an instructional coach. She’s had leadership roles at the campus, district, regional, and state level. Her work today with Sibme provides opportunities for her to be on the cutting edge of technology while working with innovative educators all over the globe. Welcome, Cory.
Cory: 01:19 Hi, Steve. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be in the other seat this time around. It’s kinda fun.
Cory: 01:42 Yeah, so the ultimate experience, Steve, I am a former special educator. So, our work with the students that we support and special education is all about goals. We create those individualized goals for their IEPs, they are measurable and time-bound and objective and all of those pieces. I realized though, pretty quickly, that even though I could craft a great goal that met all of the parameters for an IEP goal expectations, standards-based, and all of those pieces, that I really still struggled with making progress towards those goals because it wasn’t me, it was the students’ goal. It wasn’t my goal, it was the students’ goal. And so, the biggest aha for me came when I started involving my middle schoolers. I taught middle school at the time in their own goal setting and progress monitoring. And so with my students, they would have a chart.
Cory: 02:56 We’d find a way to, how are we going to measure our progress? What evidence are we going to see? And then we together kept track of their goals. The year I began doing that, I was teaching resource, which was a pullout class for ELA for my students. Over half of the students in my classroom shifted from needing to pull out resource service to inclusion the next year because they made such tremendous progress on their goals. So goals have been a huge part of my life, not only in my profession, but in my life. As I think about, you know, making progress, the change I wanna make as an individual, as a professional, and in the individuals I support as well.
Steve: 03:46 I want to go back to the success that your students had and the statement that you made that they no longer needed to be in, in the program. And as I heard you say those words, I’m wondering to what extent that was the academic learning outcomes that they made, but I’m wondering if it was also an element of what they learned about goal setting, what they learned about tracking their own behaviors, if there’s not a connection there, that they actually took those skills forward with them.
Cory: 04:20 Yeah, I think they were still in special education, but they, they required a less intensive level of special design instruction. But I think absolutely Steve. I think it was very much this kind of snowball effect of they’re able to have more agency. My students learned self-advocacy. We talked about the particular disabilities that they had been identified with and what that means for how their brain functions and what they identified, how that’s manifesting with themselves. My background is in psychology, so I’ve always been tremendously interested in the brain and how it works and what motivates us. And I brought that into my classroom as a way to help my students find interest or understand why Mrs. Camp Is repeating that same thing again and again and again. Because the more times we hear it, the more opportunity it has to make deep neural pathways.
Cory: 05:26 And I do think that was a big part of my student’s success, is it wasn’t just me and a team who meets after hours or over our conference period to talk about that student and what we think they need to be able to do based off of what we’ve seen. But it was involving the student in their own learning, but we started connecting that to their behaviors, to the specific things. So before, I would do weekly progress monitoring with some of my students, for example, on fluency. And so before we would take that fluency assessment, we would look at, okay, how did you perform last week? What are some things you need to remember, right? To breathe, to pause, to take a second to look at the word if you’re not sure. Whatever it was that that particular student needed based off of their patterns of behavior. And then they would do the assessment. And that just like little bit of, let’s pause and think about where we left off last time and what we wanna accomplish today, breaking it into smaller chunks, really did seem to be the kind of secret sauce that worked for a lot of my students.
Steve: 06:35 So I’m wondering then, when you moved from a classroom teacher to working as an instructional coach, how did you carry the goal setting and use of goals into that role?
Cory: 06:50 So coaching is such an interesting role to take on and I’m still learning so much as a coach, I definitely made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. I wasn’t formally trained as a coach. I had a lot of misconceptions as to what a coach is or is supposed to do. But I did catch on pretty early that just like my middle school students, my teachers needed a level of agency in the work that we were doing. It wasn’t a great fruitful experience for me to come in and observe whether that was planned or not planned, and then say, here are some things that I saw that you know, you might do differently. Which of these do you wanna pick? And let’s work on it. I didn’t get a lot of engagement that way. But when I was able to sit down with my teachers and talk about the things that they wanted to work on, and then how do we get them to that point, it was all about goal setting.
Cory: 07:49 So not all of my coaching involves goal setting. Some of the lighter coaching activities where I’m just needed for a quick moment, or they’re reaching out for a resource, when I’m diving into those coaching cycles, that is the driving force. That’s kind of our roadmap for the entire cycle. It identifies what stages of the cycle we’re in, where we’re moving forward where we need to step back just a little bit and reevaluate. It’s definitely a big part of that. And I am big, just the same way that I taught my students to think about their behaviors and to help identify how we’re gonna know we’re making progress, how we’re gonna know we’re getting there? I do the same thing with the teachers that I work with as well.
Steve: 08:32 So it really clicks that the students owned the goal, not you, the teacher. So now in your coaching role, the teacher owns the goal and not you, the coach.
Cory: 08:45 Yeah, absolutely. And then the other part of it is again, remembering from my special education work, goals need to be measurable, challenging, but attainable. So thinking about, alright, is this a manageable goal? And maybe the end goal isn’t manageable, but there’s a small step towards progress that we could make that is more manageable. Helping the teacher kind of break it down as well is a big part of that kind of goal setting process.
Steve: 09:18 Yeah, I’m real big on that progress word. If I can get the teacher to define what progress would look like and sound like – I know where you wanna go, now what will progress look like and sound like? So that rewards us just the way it rewards the kids when they see their making their progress.
Cory: 09:37 And you and I have talked about progress before in kind of the idea of how we think about goals in that they aren’t just kind of this hard fast thing. Like, you’re gonna do this and we’re gonna identify the next best thing that you can do to get there, and it’s gonna work. But really thinking about goals as a hypothesis. What is our hypothesis? What do we think if we introduce this variable, what impact do we think that will have? And that is a whole mindset shift. I mean, you and I have talked about that before in our previous conversations and how that just kind of helps, one, make it feel more manageable. But two, it also helps us think about it as an iterative process. The path towards a goal. There’s many pathways, and some are going to work, some are gonna be the right path, some are gonna be more treacherous, some are gonna not feel as good. And while we’ve set a goal, how we get to that goal might take some thinking and rethinking and iteration along the way.
Steve: 10:46 That’s part of my description of why I’m big on pushing defining teaching as a profession. Because when you work in professions, you work in an area that is in effect, partly experimental. So a doctor’s experimenting with patients, an attorney is experimenting with a case, and a teacher’s experimenting with learners. Knowing all the best practice research is where you want to start. But it actually is partly a hypothesis until I see what happens with it.
Cory: 11:21 In this profession of ours, it’s so high stakes. There’s so much urgency there that it’s difficult sometimes for our educators to accept that, to give themselves permission to experiment. And so I think that kind of progress over perfection, the idea of the hypothesis and that we’re gonna try some things and some of them may not be the right thing. Maybe they’re the right thing, but not right now for us. I think that’s huge.
Steve: 11:58 Yeah. So in the past, I found this this piece of writing by Reggie Rivers, and he was a a previous NFL player, and now he’s a motivational speaker. And he was on a YouTube, and it caught my eye because the title of his piece was, “If You Want to Achieve Your Goal, Don’t Pay Attention To It.” And that kind of rocked me from what you’re usually used to seeing. And he went on to to explain what he meant by that. And that was that, if you focus on the goal, you may not be carrying out the behaviors you need to achieve the goal. But if you focus on the behaviors that you need, it’s very likely that you will reach the goal. So his terms are that goals can be outside of our control, but the behaviors are inside of our control. And I’m wondering as I lay that out, if you see connections there to a coach working with a teacher.
Cory: 13:09 Absolutely. I’ll take your Reggie quote and give you James Clear, who’s one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite books, “Atomic Habits,” and he says, “you don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” The goals is your desired outcome but the system, your daily habits, is how you get there. And he kind of points that much of the failure people find in their goal setting, like this time of this time of year, it’s January, we’ve got all these New Year’s resolutions once again, here we go.
Cory: 14:09 What behaviors need to change or stop or start in order for us to do that? And that’s exactly what a coach is there to help a teacher do. They’re there to help them not just provide resources and co-teaching model, but also to kind of help them think systematically about for their students and for them as an individual in this profession, what’s your system and what changes to that system can we begin to make as we move forward? I like to use a Likert scale a lot for when we’re kind of thinking about how we’re feeling about student engagement. I like to look at evidence with teachers, but I also know that there’s very much this kind of sense of, well, here’s how I feel it’s going. I’ve got this gut feeling. So I like to put a number to that with the teacher.
Cory: 15:02 And then in addition to the evidence that we collect, we’re also going back to this overall number. So I do a lot of video-based coaching in my line of work, and so we watch a video and so, alright, on a scale of one to seven, how engaged do you feel the students were? And what evidence do we have to support this number you’re about to give? And so let’s say they identify it as a four. It was pretty good. Seven is the most ideal, best lesson, most engaged students ever. One is not at all close. But now we’ve got something that we can start to look at, alright, we know seven is ideal, but how do we get from a four to a five? What’s one thing we can change in our system to get from a four to a five?
Cory: 15:51 Again, taking the hypothesis approach to that, what might make a difference? And then we try it, we record it, we look back to that scale and say, on that scale, did we make a change or not? Why or why not? What evidence do we have for that? I think breaking it down with that teacher and helping them identify what behaviors or strategies are making a difference and which ones aren’t, which ones have the potential, but maybe just need more consistency and which ones aren’t kinda worthwhile for that particular group of students, or that individual, it’s a really helpful process and not one that an individual often has the time or the cognitive space to do on their own. And I think, again, that’s where the the coach’s job is really – we really shine in that messy middle with our teachers where they’re trying to get from point A to point B. Not necessarily that we help them set the goal, but it’s that we help them get to that goal along the way.
Steve: 16:54 Give me more of a description of the messy middle.
Cory: 16:57 The messy middle. Yeah. It’s that part where we see, let’s just use, for example, a partner first strategy, a think, pair, share strategy. I’m gonna show you an example. I’m gonna show you this great video from teaching channel. I used to pull a video from the teaching channel all the time whenever I was talking about partner first activity. We’re gonna talk about how it’s gonna go. We got a great plan, plan A, the teacher does it and it does not feel right. It feels like they’re a fish out of water. Their students are kind of all over the place. It was messy, it was chaotic because the teacher’s trying it for the first time, but also they’re leading all these students in it, right? And they’ve gotta try and try again and that’s the messy part. I think about the holidays. I host a lot of our family holiday gatherings, and I’m very in particular about when family can arrive because it’s gonna look beautiful when they get here. I love to host, so it’s gonna taste great, look great, but if you show up an
hour early, you’re gonna find me and your food looking pretty rough in that kitchen.
Cory: 18:11 That’s the messy middle. Yeah.
Steve: 18:41 As as I listen to that, it really pushes the need for coaching because the likelihood of when you are focused on consciously carrying out a teaching strategy, to have the space to do all the observation about what’s happening is like next impossible. So whether it goes well or it didn’t go well, you end up not having the the evidence or the data or the feedback to help you figure out why. And so that value of the coach who’s just observing and it’s on video now, you’ve made it even easier for the teacher to watch and see it him or he herself as well. That’s critical to the learning process.
Cory: 19:38 So two things with that. Video, I would say more so than a coach, video first, because as you said, it allows the teacher to then go back and reflect and see it. So many times, thinking about that messy middle, at the early stages of the messy middle, I have a teacher who tried something, they’re like, no, that’s not for me. It’s not gonna work. That it was rough. I didn’t like it, it didn’t feel good. But if we have the video of that rough example, I can then, as a coach, help them see, okay, yeah, I know that didn’t feel great. It didn’t look at like, that teaching channel example from earlier, that teacher who, that camera’s always in her classroom and she’s been the teacher of the year for eight years in a row. But let’s think about how it looked different from the first time.
Cory: 20:30 Like, do we still feel like students were more engaged? Helping them kind of identify like, no, it’s okay. It’s gonna work out. Let’s maybe try it again. Big part of professional development, I think about Tom Guskey. He had a research that came out around coaching, and he talked about kind of this chain of sequence of events that needs to happen for a behavior to change from the start of a professional development and the value of coaching all the way along that cycle. We have to have the professional development, whether that’s, I see an article, I watch a video, I notice something’s different, and I’m looking for something different. Or my principal or someone in my district says, we’re gonna start doing this, this new practice. And so here we are, I have to change something in my practice, I have to make a change, a change in the behavior, and then I have to see student outcomes in that. And honestly, for many of our teachers, if the effort to change the practice the first time is greater than the perceived student outcome, they’re not likely to go forward in changing their behavior. And so that’s again, that messy middle, where the coach can go, okay, wait a second. Like, I know that didn’t feel manageable or sustainable, but as we move forward, if we practice, or if we change this, or if we do this differently, maybe that would work. Or, you’re right. That’s not gonna be sustainable. Let’s look for another strategy
Steve: 22:05 That reinforces for me, back to the importance of the goal.
Cory: 22:09 Yeah.
Steve: 22:10 If this is messy, why would I stay with messy. The reason I’d stay with messy is the goal is important enough.
Cory: 22:19 And that’s why it’s so important that the teachers own that goal and they’re part of creating that goal, because if it’s my goal, if it’s the coach’s goal, why am I gonna do all this work for you, for your goal? It has to be a part of what they value. And for some teachers, depending on where they are in their profession or in their life, depending on the circumstances, sometimes that goal needs to be – I mean, we all know absolutely it should be about the students. But there are times in our lives as individuals that I need to protect my sanity. I need to protect myself, or I can’t be there for my students. So that might be part of our motivation for our goal. It doesn’t always go back to the student immediately. And as a coach, that’s one thing that we can also help do is make sure that the goal that we have that might be more teacher-centered, also has fruits towards our students.
Steve: 23:22 Well Cory, I know that at at Sibme you’ve developed some tools to help teachers with with goals. So let me give you a chance to kind of talk about that a little bit.
Cory: 23:34 Yeah. So Sibme, the wonderful company I work for, I found them – I was a customer of theirs when I was an instructional coach and a specialist at a regional level in Texas. And then when I moved here to Central Ohio, we got to become a part of their team. Sibme stands for “seeing is believing me.” And that’s at the core of what we believe. We want to really change the way people learn at work. And so the heart of the application that we have, we have a mobile and web-based platform that teachers can use to record instruction, collect different types of artifacts for reflection, is the kind of heart of what we do, but also to share that with a coach, a peer, a team, another individual to receive feedback, have collegial conversations.
Cory: 24:35 We try to make all of that easier. But in that work we know that there’s a lot of power that comes with video enhanced reflection. There’s so much power that comes from collaboration, but often there needs to be kind of this north star, this guiding light for those individuals to continue to make progress. And so goal setting is an important part of the profession. And so we have some amazing new tools. We’ve come out with them first about a year and a half, maybe two years ago. I feel like the world keeps spinning faster the older I get but we’ve made some exciting new developments along the way, listening to our customers and our goals module is really a powerful tool. It’s evidence-based. So it’s more than just kind of this checklist, but we really do fall on, okay, you’ve got a goal, but what’s the evidence gonna be that might support where you are in making progress towards that goal? Whether that’s a reflection, a measurement, or actual artifacts.
Cory: 25:41 So it makes it really easy for teachers or coaches who are guiding teachers through the process to be able to set those, make them kind of time bound so we can say, okay, by next week we’re gonna try this and it’ll send a reminder to the teacher, which is huge for me as a coach who’s not tied to a specific campus. I work virtually with everyone. It really has been a powerful, powerful process. And I’ll tell you, it’s right where people are. We had a new release with our goals on January 1st of this year, and I just need to look at my notes – we were looking yesterday in our system, and we’ve already had, I think, 219 goals created, which is a lot in just 12 days where we are right now. So it’s been really powerful. It’s also a really good way for me as a coach to kind of see where all of my teachers are as I’m working with many individuals in their goal setting process or in their goal work, how far along they’ve moved.
Steve: 26:48 Well, Cory, I appreciate you taking the time to have the conversation with me and you want tell listeners the easiest way they can follow up to get more information from you?
Cory: 27:00 Yeah. I would send you straight to Sibme. So again, it’s “seeing is believing me,” Sibme.com. That’s where you’re gonna be able to find my information as well as more about the fabulous platform, or if you’re looking for instructional coaches to help your teachers through the messy middle, we have an amazing team of virtual coaches as well that can work with teachers, coach the coach, work with your administrators. We
really are kind of a full service solution for many, many schools. So yeah, that’s how you can find us.
Steve: 27:39 Well, thanks. Have a great start on your new year with the teachers with those those new goals.
Cory: 27:49 Yeah they’ve it got a lot of them.
Steve: 27:50 Take care.
Cory: 27:51 Thanks, you too.
Steve [Outro]: 27:55 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.