By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



One of the most valuable practices an instructional coach can help teachers implement is the process of reflection. It’s really not just reporting about action, ideas, or plans; it’s all about making thinking and actions visible and then discussing why and how those actions, ideas, and plans worked. It’s all about the deliberate and intentional conversations that must occur when talking about teaching and learning.

The difference between reporting and reflecting is easy to understand: reporting means to give an account, write a summary, or provide an explanation for some transaction that has taken place. Most reports repeat what happened in some detail or make some announcement; there is no analysis, only the details without any interpretation. On the other hand, a reflection is a thought provoking, meditative process that involves serious thinking, introspection, immersion, and engagement in some action. It is an analysis and commentary of an encounter with the primary purpose of interpreting what happened, determining if the action was appropriate, and making necessary adjustments to make the next encounter more successful.

Making time to sit quietly and think about your actions and then discussing those actions with an instructional coach is liberating and cathartic. It gives an individual the “permission” to talk about practice and discuss ways to make that practice even more effective. It is an internal monologue at first followed by a deliberate conversation with like-minded practitioners who can give focused advice. It’s an authentic way for practitioners to practice with each other without the anxiety of an evaluation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In the March 27, 2014 issue of EdWeek, bloggers Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers talk about the usefulness of the observation process schools use to ostensibly improve teacher practice. They state what I think we all know, “There is little evidence that the observation methods we currently employ improve student achievement.”
 
This is another one of the “no brainer” kind of common sense approach… how can an observation without pre-planning or debriefing be effective? What makes us think that just because an administrator observes what is going on in a classroom, at a given moment, is anything more than a snapshot in time? Why do we think that a momentary (or class period) observation will naturally yield a dialogue between two people which will then result in changes in classroom instruction, climate, or content?

Berkowicz and Myers offer a great alternative… “a purposeful coaching model” whereby a process for communication and collective problem solving is intentionally planned, deliberately executed, and determinedly reflective. They realize that the coaching process is ongoing, specific, descriptive, and timely and uses the co-constructivist approach and collaborative thinking to identify areas of strength and areas of need. They understand that coaching is a non-evaluative practice that depends on open communication and the willingness to explore thinking in ways that may be alien at first but welcomed when implemented regularly. When teachers recognize that their voices are honored, their practice becomes much different. 

Instructional coaching holds the key to great change…it is one of the most effective ways to talk about practice and make changes to that practice. Coaches are on the side of helping teachers identify effective instructional practices and then implement those practices in ways that stimulate thinking, raise expectations, and acknowledge the potential for learning.