By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This year, tax day was April 18 because Washington, D.C. was celebrating Emancipation Day on April 15. That gave you three extra days to collect all of your paperwork and file your return. Three extra days to either continue scrambling around or relaxing before you mailed your returns at midnight! So, what how is this related to instructional coaching?

The tax season is a time for reflection, gathering not only your receipts but also gathering your thoughts about the receipts you misplaced, accidentally discarded, or decided were not usable.  It’s a time to think about what is owed to you, what you owe, or what deductions you should have thought about making, recording, and submitting.

Okay… so it’s a stretch to connect taxes to coaching but let’s think for a moment… this is the time of year that the statewide testing cycle rears its spring time head and consumes many of our coaches’ daily lives. PSSA test administration began April 11 and finishes with the make-up exams in early May. Keystone Exams begin in May and then are administered again in August. Teachers are worried about their students’ performance and ultimately, their own. They worry if they have “taught” the information that will be included in these statewide student performance assessments.

Time to reflect and time to answer “What have you done as a coach to help teachers change and improve their practice” and “What are you doing as a coach to help teachers increase student engagement and improve student learning”?

Following the before, during, and after (BDA) cycle of consultation provides the structure and focus when reflecting with teachers. Remember, you are on the side of helping teachers become more reflective practitioners and to really think about the instructional decisions they make. Some states have content focused coaches; some states have grade-level coaches; and other states have coaches who focus on technology integration and digital learning. Regardless of the targeted focus, instructional coaches should all follow the BDA cycle and engage their teaching colleagues in coaching conversations that change practice. That means that “pushing in” and working with the adults is what changes practice, not the “pulling out” and working with students who need extra support in understanding a specific content. (I do, however, think tutoring students is very important but that’s not coaching.)

Fidelity, ubiquity, and dosage… stay true to the BDA coaching cycle and engage your teaching colleagues in meaningful dialogue; offer to collaborate with all of your teaching colleagues, differentiated to meet their needs; and provide ample opportunities to work with your colleagues consistently and continuously.

How have your reflections helped you plan strategically and how have the teachers with whom you work reflected with you and become more deliberate in their instructional decisions?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Improving professional development is always a key topic for our nation’s educators. But how do we expand the professional development to become professional learning and why do we need to do that?

A US Department of Education analysis of 49 state equity plans found that improving or expanding professional learning was the most common identified strategy for eliminating equity gaps (U.S. DOE Office of State Support, 2015). Since worker training in the U.S. is a $400 billion industry (Carnevale & Smith, 2013), perhaps now is the appropriate time to look at the planning and designing of professional learning outside of education. That’s exactly what Learning Forward and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders did. They collaborated and co-published a recent report entitled, “Looking Outside Education: What School Leaders Can Learn About Professional Learning from Other Industries. 

Here are the “best” practices from other professions that school leaders can adapt to meet their schools’ needs:
• Growth mindset: Fostering a culture that values continuous improvement;
• Deliberately developmental organizations: Reinforcing the notion that learning from mistakes is valuable;
• Simulations: Crafting scenario-driven practice for “real time” responses;
• Video review, reflection, and coaching: Using virtual and digital communications to blend the approach for ongoing support;
• Ongoing, role-specific training and support: Preparing for changes in future roles and/or positions with proactive thinking and learning;
• Context-relevant training and support: Providing learning that is current, relevant, tied to practice, and data;
• Mentoring and sponsorship: Offering continuous encouragement and time for reflective practice through ongoing support
• Employee resource groups: Creating groups with similar interests/job-alike roles who support each other  

What do you think? Can educators learn how to improve professional learning from those “outside” of the education world? Which of the above are doable in your school or district?