Notes from ‘Differentiated Coaching’
I read this book about six months ago and have just got round to typing up my notes; I found it less to be about coaching per say; and more how to use coaching and the pre-conditions needed for coaching to succeed.
Six key steps for using coaching for effective staff development:
- Use a common framework for unbiased reflection on education.
- Understanding the strengths and beliefs of the teachers, instead of relying on our own ingrained beliefs of why teachers resist change.
- Provide information and evidence to influence teacher’s beliefs about how students learn.
- Meet the needs of individual teachers, often through coaching; however not all teachers would want a coach in their classroom for a significant amount of time.
- Focus on the problems teachers want to solve.
- Encourage deep, reflective collaboration.
A quote from Michael Fullan summarises what school reformers have learnt over past decades:
“The hardest core to crack is the learning core – changes in instructional practices and in the culture of teaching towards greater collaborative relationships among students, teachers and other potential partners. Stated differently, to restructure is not to reculture – a lesson increasingly echoed in other attempts at reform. Changing formal structures is not the same as changing norms, habits, skills and beliefs.”
Pre-observation conferences are necessary to discuss:
- Build trust.
- Clarify the lesson goals and objectives.
- Seek the coached input on what should be observed.
- Help the coached clarify how they think the lesson would work.
Coaches often help teachers understand the benefits of practitioner research. Many teachers seem to suffer from “research anxiety” stemming from several causes such as:
- It will be too time consuming – a coach can help reframe action research as a part of a normal part of looking at student work.
- I won’t discover anything useful – a coach can help a teacher identify the questions he or she wants answered and why other teachers might be interested as well.
- I ‘m not a researcher – a coach can help tailor a research effort to match a teacher’s strength.
- I don’t know what to measure or how to measure. – A coach can point out useful data besides assessment data.
Coaches can take on several roles, including:
- Helping teachers select and define a problem that (a) interests them, (b) is within their realm of influence, and (c) involves measurable outcomes.
- Brainstorm solution sets.
- Providing guidance in selecting options.
- Working with teachers, and helping teachers get beyond their habitual beliefs.
What gets in the way of teacher collaboration:
- A culture of silence – that discourages teachers from talking about their classrooms; teachers are afraid of being viewed as incompetent, or of being censured for questioning conventional wisdom.
- Teachers as individual entrepreneurs or executives. Executives do not take kindly to others’ critique of their methods, decisions, or demeanour. Teachers reign in there individual classrooms and therefore take on executive characteristics.
- Teaching as creative expression – a common theme is teaching can’t be taught; each teacher discovers his or her own norm of practice.
- Bias towards noninterference.
- Lack of common goals and meaning.
- Intensifying work.
What is required for collaboration:
- Time for reflective discussion.
- A common framework for discussion teaching and learning.
- Trust, respect, and honesty.
- A willingness to probe one’s own beliefs and acknowledge boundaries of one’s experience.
- Articulated goals to measure effectiveness.
- If these are not present, a coach’s role is to help a team develop them.
A framework for authentic school change:
- A deep understanding of teachers’ strengths and beliefs.
- Concrete evidence that influence beliefs and shows that change will be worth the effort.
- Communication and assistance (coaching) in ways that meet each teacher’s learning style and needs.
- A focus on problems that concern the teachers.
- Deep collaboration.
- A common framework for unbiased discussion of education.
“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.- Buckminster Fuller