By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Last week, our instructional mentors engaged in their own professional development sessions for two days and collaborated, collectively problem-solved, and created ongoing professional learning opportunities for the coaches with whom they work.

As we discussed a variety of ways to help coaches work more regularly one-on-one with their teachers and to refine their work, what stood out for me were the questions and ensuing discussions about reflecting on their practice as mentors and on their reflections about the coaches reaching their goals. Everyone agreed that the coaches are poised to help teachers set appropriate goals and make time to reflect with teachers to determine if those goals were met. So, the question I have is, “Do coaches set goals and write reflections about their work with teachers?”

Reflection and learning from experience are critical for staying accountable and maintaining and developing skills and knowledge. As Donald Schon writes, “Reflective practice is the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” (The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think in Action, 1983).

Coaches may not have much time to think about their thinking, their actions, and their interactions with their colleagues. However, that's the only way reflection works; coaches really need to think about their own goals and how they work with teachers, the kinds of work they do with teachers, and why they are establishing non-evaluative relationships with the teachers they coach. At the same time, coaches must be great listeners and resist the temptation to “tell teachers what to do.” They need to reflect on their own work as coaches with their colleagues and help their colleagues reflect on their own practice as well.

Although we support the notion of non-evaluative consultation, a coach must look at one’s own practice and identify ways to improve it, usually by having an internal monologue about the work. It’s a self-assessment that is essential for change to take place. Then, coaches must look at his/her work with colleagues and think about how to help those colleagues improve their practice as well. Our mentors ask themselves when reflecting: “What, So What, and Now What?” Perhaps answering these questions about your work as a coach will help make the process of reflection less cumbersome!

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