By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In a recent Educational Leadership discussion forum, the discussion thread focused on teacher evaluation. The initial article, “Overcome Obstacles to Teacher Evaluation: High-Reliability Practices,” addressed the issue by proposing ways to defeat everyday challenges in implementing teacher evaluation systems along with some recommendations to avoid implementation snags. We know this topic is ever-present and ever-challenging.

Here are the common obstacles that need to be tackled and resolved in some way in order for implementation to be successful: develop a consistent definition of educator effectiveness; create a district-wide approach to instruction; provide adequate training for evaluators; and set and monitor standards for system implementation. So, what does Tony Davis, Consulting Director, The Center for Educator Effectiveness (McREL), suggest?

1. Fidelity, intensity, and consistency are critical. Effectiveness cannot be measured until we know
    what it looks like; everyone has to be evaluated using the same definition and objectives;
2. A district-wide approach to instruction ensures consistency in language and practice; this is
    necessary both within and across schools. (According to OECD in 2008, there was a 2.6 times
    great variation in student achievement across classrooms in the same schools than from school
    to school);
3. All evaluators must be properly trained to use the evaluation system and provide the appropriate
    feedback to educators; they must offer ways to strengthen practice;
4. Successful implementation of an evaluation system is a process and requires ongoing support
    and consistency to make it valuable.

As instructional coaches, you are in the position to help provide consistency, ubiquity, and fidelity to an instructional coaching process that builds teacher capacity, increases student engagement and improves student learning, all pieces of an effective evaluation system.

What are some of the strategies you implement to ensure consistency in practice and language in your coaching work?

Monday, March 2, 2015

So, I continue to reflect about how coaches can begin the BDA cycle of consultation. I know it sounds simple but it is far from simplistic. It’s a great framework to help begin the process of ongoing support. With the BDA cycle, the process is not just about the implementation of a specific concept or chapter analysis; it’s more about talking with colleagues and discussing instructional practices that are effective and make sense. That cannot occur in a quick hallway conversation although the start of it can certainly occur there. You know the song, “It’s all about the bass”… this time “It’s all about the conversation!”

There are several ways to start the process. For starters, I might do the following to build awareness about the BDA cycle of consultation:
  1. At a faculty/grade level/department meeting, reiterate your role as a non-evaluative classroom supporter and are on the side of helping teachers implement effective instructional practices. Share the BDA cycle of consultation, collaboration, and collective problem solving, all in a confidential setting; build awareness of why each part of the process is so important for achieving goals; (Coaches for athletes, performers, artists, even for weight control must “see” what happens and offer feedback about the practice.) If you don’t “see” what is practiced, you can’t offer valuable feedback;
  2.  Go around to your friends and ask what they think needs to happen for school wide improvement; this is a needs assessment kind of activity; once you get some ideas, go around again and see who will work with you to implement some of the ideas; as soon as you see something about classroom implementation, ask if you can co-plan with the teacher (before) and generate the “look fors,” model or co-teach (during) in the class using one of those ideas as the content, and then meet to debrief (after);
  3. Offer to model a “piece” of the lesson; in this case, the coach and teacher still co-construct the “look fors” (before) and the teacher watches how the coach teaches (during); and the conversation that follows is the debriefing (after).

Implementing the BDA cycle of consultation is much like planning an event. All the elements of the event are critical to the overall success of that event. The planning is essential so the “content” is carefully crafted and the event runs smoothly; participating in the event gives a clear picture of what worked well and what needs attention in real time; and the final stage is to reflect on the event to see if the initial goal and purpose of the event were accomplished, especially when the event is recurrent.

Just remember, coaching is situational. Not every teaching colleague is ready to pursue all three stages of this process. A coach’s role, however, is to make the process visible, inviting, and collaborative so that all participants are beneficiaries.

What are some of the successes as an instructional coach you have experienced around the BDA cycle of consultation?