In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve takes a deep dive into his coaching model.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:17 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: 00:45 What is the Barkley coaching model? I’ve been asked that question sometimes by new clients who have had some coaching program going on in their district and then looked at having me work with their instructional coaches or administrators or perhaps even introducing peer coaching to a entire staff. That question, what is the Barkley coaching model? They want to know how it compares to other coaching programs that they’ve read about or studied. I’m sometimes asked that question in a podcast interview and the purpose being that they are looking to do an analysis of similarities and differences among programs. My usual answer to that question, what is the Barkley model of coaching, is that there isn’t a model. But I’ve kind of realized now that if I keep giving that answer it in and of itself turns out to describe a model.
Steve: 02:10 My initial work with coaching was in the area of peer coaching. And I had entered teaching and spent all of my years as a teacher working in various team co-teaching settings so that coaching had always been a natural, informal part of my relationships with colleagues. It wasn’t until I became a teacher, trainer and then consultant and realized the difference in my background and entry into teaching for most other people and realized most of the teachers I met weren’t having those collegial relationships. That I began to look at how to create peer coaching programs within a school. The first book that I wrote on coaching was titled “Quality Teaching In a Culture of Coaching.” And the title was very purposeful, that I wanted people to see coaching as a culture rather than as an isolated activity that was was conducted. That it was just a way of describing how we do business in the school when issues arise, when needs arise, coaching is a tool that one would turn to, to respond to the issue.
Steve: 03:54 My focus was on preparing people in the coaching, conferencing skills in the questioning skills that allowed them to be effective in working with colleagues. I did talk in my early training programs about types of coaching and pulling some work from a article that Robert Garmston had written. I took the terms of technical coaching, collegial coaching and challenge coaching to describe ways that teachers might work with each other using the coaching skills that I had trained. I pointed to technical coaching as the type of coaching that frequently was connected to professional development and in a professional development, a learning activity, a teacher would be taught have a model of an instructional strategy. And then when the teacher went back to the classroom and worked to implement that strategy, a colleague could observe and provide the teacher with feedback as to the degree to which the teacher’s practices were matching with the training that had been provided.
Steve: 05:44 A model that came from those early days of my work was a a program called TESA. T-E-S-A – teacher expectation and student achievement. That program identified specific teacher behaviors that aligned with teachers having high expectations for learners. Examples where proximity to the student, the teacher more frequently moved close to students that the teacher had a higher expectation for. The teacher might actually physically touch that student more often. The pause time that a teacher provided to a student, the types of praise and feedback and the kinds of questions that teachers ask students had connections to teacher expectations. Often when that training was done, it included a technical coaching component so that as an example, a coach might observe in a teacher’s classroom and do – record the teacher’s physical movements throughout a class period. Laying that over the teacher’s seating chart, the teacher could identify whether or not there was a conscious or unconscious behavior on the teacher’s part.
Steve: 07:16 Similarly, an another example would be actually writing the praise statements or the questions that a teacher asks right on the seating chart. I often used that to describe what technical coaching looked like. In collegial coaching, the relationship that developed between the teachers, the teachers getting to know each other was more critical of an element than what it was that the teachers chose to build their coaching activities around. So, for example, I often recommended collegial coaching for middle school teachers with the common grade level, perhaps who were working with the same students. And so creating those coaching activities, peer coaching activities, would increase their understanding and knowing each other better and increase their ability to work effectively as a team. Similarly, I suggested some of those programs to be used between a middle school and an elementary school and a middle school and a high school simply to introduce the teachers to each other to begin to get an understanding of common beliefs and values.
Steve: 08:52 And the big word that that I like to use with that was respect. A third type of coaching that I discussed was labeled as challenge coaching. And in challenge coaching, teachers work together in pairs or larger groups where their focus was to solve a problem. Hence that term, challenge. So again, a group of middle school teachers might identify a group of students that were struggling in several content areas and the teachers observing in each other’s classrooms, strategizing, working together to come up with a plan to increase that student success would be labeled as challenge coaching. I later began to talk to people who had completed training in cognitive coaching. And in cognitive coaching, it focused on a high reflective model where most of the coach’s role was to provide questions and to provide specific observations that the coach had made by allowing all of the thinking and strategizing to be done by the coachee.
Steve: 10:26 The coach in a cognitive model made no suggestions to the teacher and also provided no approval, feedback to the teacher. Again, an opportunity for the teacher to reflect upon his or her own practices. So looking across all four of those models, my focus was on providing the coach with the questioning, paraphrasing, listening strategies that would allow them to work effectively with the teacher in any one of those areas. And one of my encouragements that I gave folks was to identify the kind of coaching that your partner wanted to engage in and be willing to step into that role. I recall a time where after having done several workshop sessions for a school staff on coaching, it was about the third or fourth session where I introduced the concept of those different types of coaching. And a person looked up at me and said, boy, Steve, you just you just prevented a divorce.
Steve: 11:54 And I said, you know, with your husband? And she said, no, with my coaching partner. We’ve just now figured out that I wanted technical coaching and she wanted collegial coaching and we were both giving the other person what we wanted. And now we know that we can play a different role than the role we’re asking the person play for me. We just need to be clear on being able to describe what it is that a person wants from their engagement in coaching. And my process was to train the coach to be able to step in and play any one of those roles. So for example, I at times showed a video of my coaching with a first year teacher who actually joined me on a live teacher workshop broadcast. And she had met me for the first time and we pre-conferenced and watched her video and I post-conferenced with her and I just gave her a ton of approval feedback. And I remember showing that video clip and having a teacher in the session say, “God, I’d puke if you ever talked to me like that.”
Steve: 13:20 And I looked at the woman, I said, “ma’am, I don’t think I talk to you like that.” My decision about how I was handling myself was based on reading that uncertainty of the new teacher. And building her confidence up, she then began to get engaged in the reflective critical thinking part of coaching. I similarly had another video clip where the teacher and I together watched a video clip of her classroom and at times, I pointed out things that I saw happening and the teacher’s feedback to me was, “that’s really great.” There was no need for me to give that teacher approval feedback. She was capable of giving it to herself. The key here is the coach being prepared to step in and be effective in providing what the coachee is seeking as an outcome.
Steve: 14:32 When instructional coaching appeared on the scenes and I began to do that work, I again realized that very often, instructional coaches play different roles. So at times they’re invited by the teacher to work with the teacher as a peer coach. At another time, they’re asked to work in a role that I frequently describe more like a mentor role. In that peer coach role, the coach is only providing feedback and information that the teacher requested. When they step into that mentor role, now the coach may be providing information about a district-wide topic that’s being explored. It could be information from data that the coach has been given. That’s a different role now than that peer coaching role. And at times, instructional coaches find themselves pushed very close to a supervisory model. When a administrator makes a “strong” recommendation to a teacher that the teacher worked with the coach, the instructional coach needs to adapt their verbal communication skills to function in each of those settings.
Steve: 16:10 And again, that’s what I looked to focus on as I developed coaches skills. The piece that I would say is common across all of those areas of coaching is the concept of working with student production behaviors and connecting that the teacher’s role is to generate the student behaviors and it’s the student learning production behaviors that produce the learner outcome. I would say that that is a component in all of the coaching elements that I work with. Lastly, the component that is embedded in all my work is the concept of creating that culture of coaching. It’s a task that belongs to an instructional coach. It belongs to an administrative team. It belongs to teachers, especially teachers who see themselves in any element of a leadership role. Now, at times when I’ve worked with instructional coaches and I’ve spoken to them about creating the coaching skills of all the teachers so that people are able to provide that coaching to each other, I am sometimes asked “Steve, are you asking us to work ourselves out of a job?”
Steve: 17:51 If we prepare all the teachers to work as coaches, what becomes the role of the coach? The role of instructional coach? And I suggest that the only fear of working oneself out of a job would be if you weren’t planning on continuing your own learning. As teachers develop skills, they are prepared to go to a new level of coaching, of collaboration, of facilitation, and a coach who is engaged in his or her own continuous learning will always have an audience for their work. Just as there is no mountaintop to teaching, there is no mountaintop to being an effective coach. With each skill, with each element of knowledge about teaching and learning that you add to your repertoire, you create opportunities for new learning. Enjoy coaching and being coached. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 19:21 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 or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.