By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Compliance vs. engagement… so what does that mean? I actually think of these terms in similar ways as I do about cooperation vs. collaboration. Sure, compliance is agreement but is that all we want from our work with teachers? Is that all they want when working with their students? 

I don’t think so… I think instructional coaches want to engage the teachers with whom they work in productive, analytical, and thought-provoking conversations that yield changes in practice. I think they want more than teachers who just cooperate; I think they want to work with teachers in ways that promote questioning, quiet disruption, and inquiry.

The coaches that I’ve met want to ensure that their work with teachers is relevant, tied to practice, demanding, and at the same time, culturally sensitive, differentiated according to need, and creates a culture of learning for all students. They want to take ownership and be the architects of their own learning; they want to help build their students’ capacity as learners as well.

So, is that compliance or is that engagement? How do I help teachers move from compliance to engagement so that their students can move from simple obedience to premediated, purposeful learning? How do coaches navigate their coaching roles when they are forced to use a checklist and be the “enforcer” or compliance “police”?

I think compliance means that the group goes along with the “flavor of the day” and hope that “this, too, shall pass.” I think engagement means that each stakeholder has an integral part in creating a shared understanding, learning, and support system because the collective and individual responsibilities are recognized.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

In a recent Learning Deeply Education Week blog entitled, “What’s Behind the Plateau in Test Scores?” Robert Rothman comments on the reasons why test scores have remained stagnant despite the multitude of instructional practices implemented at all levels. Of course, trends are identified over a period of time and practices can be adjusted to address those trends. We just have to collect the appropriate data that gives us the information we need. Then, we must identify ways to appropriately apply the data that we collect.

So, test scores plateau… what about teacher practices?

According to Jane Hannaway, an Urban Institute researcher, teacher performance plateaus at four years. “Teachers work in isolation. They learn what they learn and then they plateau. They get no valid input.”

In the same opinion piece, the director of PISA for OECD said what is needed to sustain a steady pattern of growth “… is a greater investment in improving teaching.”

Mr. Rothman further states that “To improve performance overall, schools need to enable more students to demonstrate deeper levels of learning--to be able to apply their knowledge to think critically and solve complex problems. That takes a different kind of instruction--one that provides students with opportunities to reflect on their learning, to take part in extended projects, and to produce real products for real audiences.”

Instructional coaching provides multiple opportunities for teaching colleagues to collaborate and talk about promising practices that help teachers focus on continuous improvement. Coaches encourage their colleagues to continuously reflect and engage in conversations that focus on teaching and learning, not just on one activity or one tool that is a means to an end. “Attaining high levels of learning for all students is not a matter of doing more of the same. It will take a different kind of teaching.” I believe that it takes instructional coaching working with colleagues and reflecting in, on, and about practice that will make a difference in classrooms.

So, how can instructional coaches and mentors be proactive and prevent the plateaus that impact both student and teacher performance?