By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two weeks ago, PIIC provided a wonderful three-day professional learning experience to coaches, mentors, administrators and other school/IU staff members. After great discussions about practice and the evolution of instructional coaching in their respective buildings, participants were asked to reflect and think about how coaching has helped move teachers from “information sharing” to “professional learning.”  You know the song, “It’s all about the bass?” Our PLO was “all about the practice!”

One coach remarked, “I have seen a shift from teachers just talking to each other to a major change in conversation being about strategies and ideas to use in the classroom.  This is a welcomed change in my building.” 

Professional development refers to the “staff development” that is typically offered to teachers. Been there; done that… we all know what happens when professional development in isolation is offered.  That’s not enough; providing PD means just sharing information and if the information is not relevant, that’s another issue.

The content offered in professional development may inform practice but it doesn’t change the practice. Practice changes when teachers talk together, plan together, and debrief together about what works well in classrooms; change occurs when the professional development is followed up with coaches and becomes professional learning that is consistent, ongoing, tied to teacher practice, standards, and research.

When coaches create a culture of collaboration and conversation, change occurs. And it is the coaches who are the first practitioners to notice those changes.

In what ways have you seen teachers move from information sharing to implementation of new information?

Friday, May 1, 2015

When talking about instructional coaching, very often the first thing mentioned is the cost to the district to hire a coach, especially in districts where the student population is plummeting and teachers may be furloughed. After all, how can a district justify hiring a coach who isn’t teaching his/her own students when the teaching staff is reduced and class size might increase as a result?

That’s a tough question and takes some very deliberate time to think about the needs of the school, talk through some options, and discuss the existing programs that are supported by the school and district leadership.

Instructional coaching is not an intervention or an “add-on.” Implemented well and effectively, it’s one of the only ways to ensure that “collaboration, inquiry, and reflection” (JSD, Apr 2015 vol. 36, No. 2.) are regularly integrated into the fabric of the school culture. Where else can teachers be honored for what they know and encouraged to work together for the purpose of improved learning for each other and their students? Where else can teachers’ learning be visible, meditative, and non-evaluative?

How to do coaching, however, is always the question.

Restructuring a school day and revising teachers’ schedules are ways to offer opportunities for schools to have instructional coaches on staff. The teachers are already there. Looking at schedules and a variety of responsibilities may yield some options. Yes, this is peer coaching… every instructional coaching model is a peer coaching model because colleagues work together and share their learning. A critical difference in coaching models, however, is the training, preparation, and support. Many peer coaches are not trained to be coaches; they offer to participate in a “peer coaching” initiative because they understand the benefits of working with their teacher partners. They want to support their colleagues as much as they want to be supported by them.

And, as we know, making time to meet with colleagues is critical for any coaching to be successful. That is one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome for colleagues working together without having daily release time devoted to working with each other. Without the identified time to do so, life intervenes and collaboration is not a priority.

What does your coaching schedule look like in your school?