Reflection and Coaching - Steve Barkley

Reflection and Coaching

I recently provided a faculty professional development session at Edgewood High School in the Buckeye Local School District , Ashtabula, Ohio. I have been working with the Learning Improvement Team (LIT) designing professional learning plans around their school goals. (Teachers learning to impact student learning.)

I was asked to provide the entire faculty with a personal experience to demonstate the value of reflection generated by coaching conversations.

Note Dale Vidmar’s (Southern Oregon University) thoughts on reflection and coaching:

As instructors reflect upon their experience in the classroom with a colleague, they discover important information about the intended results in comparison with the actual lesson. They share both accomplishments and frustrations. By making the collegial conversations part of instruction, instructors build upon the everyday classroom experiences, complementing class time with the conversations before and after teaching. They learn to be conscious in the classroom, using the thinking that goes along with performance to manage their actions. They address and self-monitor their teaching practice on a continual basis, ultimately learning not by experience alone, but through critical reflection upon their experiences.
“Reflective Peer Coaching: Crafting Collaborative Self-Assessment in Teaching.” Research Strategies. 20 (3). 2005. 135-148.

In Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching , I outline the value of coaches asking open-ended questions to generate teacher thinking and reflection. Questions that contain no sense of right/wrong…allowing the coach to understand the teacher’s thinking and create and atmosphere of trust. Since this was an initial experience for the staff, I provided a list of questions to guide their conversations. After one model where I conferenced with a member of the LIT team, teacher pairs conferenced with each other about a lesson plan they’d be using the next day. (Teachers were asked to bring plans to the meeting and were assigned partners)

…………Leanne Hartzell and Paul Blum in a coaching session

Here are the questions they used:

How does this learning activity fit into the current unit of study?

What are the most important student actions/behaviors needed in this lesson?

What are the critical teacher actions/behaviors needed in this lesson?

How difficult is the concept/activity for your learners? Groups of learners? Individuals?
Easy ……………………………..Very Difficult

How does the difficulty level effect your instruction?

Describe the assessment you’ll be doing during the learning activity that might modify what you’ve planned? … influence future lessons?

What could I observe and provide feedback on that would have value for you? [Watching teacher, students (all or some) or teacher student interaction, etc]

Is there a question, problem, or opportunity for which you are interested in getting ideas ?

Paul Blum, pictured above, coached by his partner Leanne Hartzell stated, “I don’t recall having a conversation like this in all my years of teaching.”

My further questioning of Paul reveled that the 12 minute conference conversation felt good as it respected the importance of his work and the reflection generated a new idea about the lesson he was going to teach.

I received an email from the Edgewood principal informing me that several teacher pairs from the session did classroom observations or met to conference after they taught their lessons. Others have expressed an interest in more coaching activities.

Teachers do value reflection.

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2 Responses to “ Reflection and Coaching ”

  1. Michael Chirichello Says:

    It’s all about the questions we ask. In my work as a facilitator with principals, the how and why questions in the observation’s post-conversation rather than a directive conversation is a powerful strategy. With most teachers, a collaborative or self-initiated conversation is the way to go. Thanks for sharing these questions.

    Michael Chirichello, Ed.D.
    Consultant, Leadership Matters LLC

  2. Stephen G. Barkley Says:

    Thanks Michael… across my coaching career I continued to uncover the power of questions…. that’s the focus in my latest book Questions for Life

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