Podcast: You've Got to Believe and They Need to Know That You Do - Steve Barkley

Podcast: You’ve Got to Believe and They Need to Know That You Do

You've Got to Believe and They Need to Know That You Do

Research reinforces that teachers providing feedback to students that demonstrates the teacher’s belief in the students’ abilities (high expectations) can generate student learning behaviors that positively impact student’s success. Additional teacher actions such as active listening, knowing them individually, celebrating, and being accessible are additional teacher actions that support high expectations. In many ways those coaching teachers need to communicate very similar beliefs and teachers need to know that the coach believes in the teacher’s abilities.
Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00.330] – 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.

[00:00:26.560] – Steve

You have to believe, and they need to know that you do. A recent post in Edweek from Ron Berger reminded me of our need to communicate our belief in those we teach and coach. Links to his post and all those mentioned in this podcast are available in the podcast lead-in. Berger pointed to the research study of Daniel Yeager and his colleagues, who looked at teachers’ feedback to 7th grade students on the first draft of a five paragraph essay about personal heroes. Teachers wrote their comments on the students’ papers, but before the students received the comments, the research team attached a handwritten note from the teacher to the essays, either a treatment note or a control note. Both notes were in the teacher’s handwriting. The treatment note, known as “wise feedback,” said, “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high standards and I know that you can meet them.” Half the students were in a control group that got a nonspecific control note that said, “I’m sharing these comments so you have feedback on your essay.” Teachers handed back the essays in sealed folders so the teachers couldn’t see which students received which note.

[00:02:04.630] – Steve

Then the students had a week to revise their essays. The study showed that students who got the wise feedback note were twice as likely to revise their essays as those who didn’t. 40% revised their essays in the control group, but 80% revised them in the treatment group. The next year, they ran the study again, and now new students in the same teachers classrooms were all required to revise their essays. They found that students made more than twice as many of the teachers suggested corrections when they got the wise feedback treatment note. Although all students benefited overall from wise feedback, those belonging to minority groups benefited the most. The feedback eliminated racial disparities in students’ revisions. Jo Boaler, the author of Mathematical Mindsets, reinforces this power of the teacher’s belief in learners – “Teachers can communicate positive expectations to students by using encouraging words, and it’s easy to do this with students who are motivated, who learn easily, or are quick. But it’s even more important to communicate positive beliefs and expectations to students who are slower, appear unmotivated, or struggle. It’s also important to realize that the speed at which students appear to grasp concepts is not indicative of their mathematics potential.

[00:03:52.000] – Steve

As hard as it is, it’s important to not have any preconceptions about who will work well on a math task in advance of the students getting the task. We must be open at all times to any students working really well. Some students give the impression that math is a constant struggle for them, and they may ask a lot of questions or keep saying that they’re stuck, but they’re just hiding their mathematics potential and are likely to be suffering from a fixed mindset. Some students have bad math experiences and messages from a young age, or they’ve not received the opportunities for brain growth and learning that other students have, so they are at lower levels than other students. But this does not mean they cannot take off with good mathematics teaching, positive messages and perhaps most importantly, high expectations from their teacher. You can be the person who turns things around for them and liberates their learning path. It usually just takes one person, a person whom the student will never forget.” Wow. Pretty powerful to think about having the potential to be that person. In addition to high expectations and encouraging feedback, consider what other teacher behaviors communicate our beliefs in learners.

[00:05:28.640] – Steve

I turned to Chat GPT for a quick list. What do you think of these: Personalized support – offering additional support like tutoring or resources shows students that the teacher is invested in their success. Active listening – showing genuine interest in students thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Celebrating – both small and big successes reinforces positive behaviors and achievement. Allowing students to make choices in their learning process empowers them and demonstrates trust in their decision making abilities. Fostering independence – gradually increasing the level of responsibility given to students shows trust in their capabilities. Of course, developing relationships is critical. When we take the time to know students individually and we understand their interest and acknowledge their challenges, that builds a supportive and trusting environment. Being accessible to students is big. Being available for their questions, concerns, or just to talk to makes students feel valued and supported. Advocating for students – standing up for students needs and rights in the broader school context shows that a teacher is on their side. And encouraging peer support and creating that learning community in a classroom is another way to show students our belief in their capabilities. As I considered that list as to the ways we communicate our belief in students, it struck me that it’s a pretty similar list for how coaches communicate a belief in teachers.

[00:07:31.380] – Steve

So I turned the question and those responses back to Chat GPT to see if I could find agreement. When I asked how coaches can communicate their belief in teachers, I got this list back. See what you think. Active listening – demonstrates a genuine interest in teachers thoughts, concerns, and ideas. I know that I’ve always made that a big part of my coaching and coaching training. Just recently I had a teacher share how good she felt having had a pre-conference with a colleague, knowing that that colleague was genuinely interested in what the teacher was planning to do in her classroom. Specific and positive feedback – feedback that highlights strengths and acknowledges successes. Positive feedback reinforces a teacher’s confidence in their abilities. I think it’s a key problem the amount of time that teachers spend in classrooms alone not being able to get that kind of feedback. Building collaborative problem solving – when coaches work with teachers to identify challenges and then collaboratively develop solutions, it builds and fosters a sense of shared responsibility for the outcomes. That really aligns with coaches holding back from being experts who solve problems for people and instead are collaborators dealing with challenges with teachers.

[00:09:12.600] – Steve

Personalizing professional development opportunities is another way that we demonstrate our commitments to teachers unique approach to teaching and unique next steps for their success. Maintaining open communication – communication that’s honest and respectful. Transparency builds trust and is critical to communicating our beliefs in someone else’s capabilities. Coaches being visible and accessible available to teachers – that availability that accessibility communicates to teachers your belief in their success. Celebrating those successes – both small and significant. And for me, I find the small successes are the ones that teachers often overlook and many coaching conversations. Assisting teachers in seeing small successes that will build is critical to building teachers belief in themselves as well as belief in their students. And lastly, encouraging reflection – when coaches facilitate reflective practices with our questions and our active listening, reflection encourages self awareness and personal professional growth. And that growth is what empowers teachers to believe in themselves. And they know that the support for that belief in themselves was aided by their coach. As I was digging through beliefs that coaches could have, I came across a piece written by Diane Sweeney and Leanna Harris. They provide an initial list of coaching beliefs that I thought puts us on pretty good footing.

[00:11:16.800] – Steve

Do you agree? Here’s their list: Increased student achievement for all students every day is why we’re here. It’s not our job to fix teachers or to be the expert on all things. Everyone brings varied experience and expertise to the table. The goals of others drive our work. We can’t tell people what to care about. Our work is ongoing. It doesn’t happen in single conversations. Relationship is an important factor, but not our goal. We are smarter together and collaboration is critical. Everyone is a learner and our work is never done. We assume best intent. Everyone cares about kids and is doing the best job that they can. Reading that list, I’ve kind of come full circle. I started with considering how focusing on building students’ beliefs in themselves by showing that we believe was applicable to coaching. As I read that list about coaches’ beliefs, I realized that the list for teacher beliefs is quite similar. As teachers and coaches, we need to be checking our conscious and unconscious actions that communicate the message, “I believe in you.” Thanks for listening to the message. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can always reach me at barkley.com. Have a great day.

[00:13:05.200] – Steve [Outro]

Thanks for listening, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn at Steve Barkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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