Using a backwards planning process reinforces that teachers develop their decisions/plans by beginning with the identification of student learning outcome goals. Teachers have a reason to work collaboratively with their colleagues when they are focused on shared desired student outcomes. Those shared outcomes create teams. Teachers are encouraged to be vulnerable and growth focused with their coach when the coach “signs on” to assisting the teacher in reaching learning goals she has set.
With school, PLC, or teacher goals at hand I use the following considerations to support educators in deciding what actions they will take:
First consideration: Is the goal described as a student achievement outcome?
PLC Goal: Develop clear learning goals with assessments using student friendly rubrics. I read this goal as a strategy that this PLC wants to execute. Questioning the PLC members, I would look to identify how they envisioned clear learning goals with student friendly rubrics impacting student learning behaviors and student learning outcomes. Knowing what changes they wanted in learning outcomes leads to identifying what changes are needed in student learning production behaviors. As teachers implement the learning goals and assessments, they can immediately look for changes in what students are doing. These changes provide early feedback on the effectiveness of the learning rubrics. Observing how students work with the rubrics is a natural focus for coaching observations.
PLC Goal: 100% of students will self-assess using the rubric criteria established in each unit.
This PLC’s goal is focused on a change in student learning behaviors. My questions would first center on what changes the teachers felt would be observable in students if the students self-assessed with the rubrics. How do they see those student changes impacting student learning outcomes? At this point the team should be identifying how teachers should design the rubrics (perhaps engaging the students in the design), teach and coach students on self-assessing, and assess impact of the rubric. Observations of students using the rubrics is a natural focus for coaching. The coaches’ observations can assist the PLC in gathering early evidence of the impact of their work.
Teacher Goal: 90% of students will be able to solve two-step word problems, representing the students’ thinking with a visual representation.
Since the teacher’s goal describes a student learning outcome, my initial questions would identify the challenges within this goal. Who are the 90% that the teacher plans to meet this criterion? Are there any students who can already meet the standard? Which students should rather easily meet the standard? Which of the 90% will be most challenged by the standard? If any have already met the standard, what goal does the teacher have for them? What goal does the teacher have for the 10% who should make progress but are unlikely to meet the goal? With those goals now defined, the teacher can identify what the student learning production behaviors are for each group. What is most important for each group to be doing and experiencing:
- Should rather easily meet
- Most challenged by the standard and expected to meet
- Already achieved the standard
- 10% progressing but not meeting the standard
A coach observing in this teacher’s classroom could be noting the student learning behaviors of individual students or groups of students to assist the teacher in identifying if her teacher behaviors/actions are generating the desired student behaviors.
The breaking out of student groups can assist the teacher in believing that her goal is doable. In Switch, Dan and Chip Heath identify the value of people seeing that they are already on the way to reaching their goal (page 126). Heaths cite an example of a car wash promotion where one group of customers was given a card to record eight car washes which would lead to a free carwash. Another group was given a card that required 10 car washes to receive a free one but two of the spaces were already stamped. Both groups needed eight washes to receive a free wash. More of the second group who saw that they were already 20% toward the goal earned the free wash and they earned it faster. “People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one.”
My coaching approach aligns with the Heaths’ reference (page 145) to Dan Allen’s work in Getting Things Done. Allen states that the key question to ask is, “What’s the next action?” When we work backwards from learning outcome goals to needed student production behaviors, we are ready to focus on what a teacher has control over, “What action will I take?” I find that teachers value leaving a coaching session with a decision of what they will do next. While we can’t be sure of the outcome, we can be confident that the teacher can take the action she decided upon.