Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top 11 Key Takeaways and Lessons from the ISTE Coaching Academy:

The  ISTE Coaching Academy Series has been one of the best uses of my time over the last couple of months.  I have a stack of more books and resources to continue to learn from that I only found because of what was referenced in the course.  Yay for reading and learning time!

I wanted to take some time to actually look back at the last six course reflection posts and pull together some very practical applications and changes that have been made (or will be made as I start back next week) in my coaching practices.  If my thoughts refer to a specific article, resource, or course, I've put those in parentheses after the comment.
Top 11 Key Takeaways and Lessons from the ISTE Coaching Academy:

  • A reminder of how truly important the job of a Digital Learning Coach is.  It is needed, it is necessary, it is important.  We have a huge role in transforming what professional development looks like on our campuses.  Teachers need training, but more than that they need the practice time and the follow-up support if true transformation is going to happen. Effective professional development is "PD that actually changes the way teachers teach". (ISTE Coaching Whitepaper)
  • Characteristics of a Good Coach (Course 1). It has been very helpful to find articles and descriptions of what makes a good coach.  No matter what position you are in, you want to know what it is that would make you do well in your position.  Have key attributes clearly explained (as well as why) has given me some encouragement (with the attributes I have already) as well as ideas for growth (with the attributes I need to continue to build).  One of the key attributes I always want to focus on, with both my fellows and staff in general, is "Providing a safe, risk-taking environment that is non-threatening, non-judgmental, and accepting". 
  • Clarification and development of the coaching cycle (Course 1).  I was able to develop a more clear Coaching Cycle Journal template that will help both me and my fellows to stay focused in our journey.  I am definitely a person that likes organization, so being able to finally wrap my head around this and put together an organized, descriptive flow chart makes me feel like I have a much clearer picture of where I am going.  One of the hard things about starting this position was feeling like there wasn't a clear road map.  I had to figure out a lot of things on my own through reaching out to others and researching online.  They helped me get started, but now I have the tools to pave my own path and see the road more clearly.
  • Coaching Norms (Course 1).  Norms is not a new topic, but honestly it was not one that I addressed with my fellows at the beginning of the year.  I think I was just overwhelmed with all this other stuff and in one of our trainings we learned about the "forming, storming, norming, performing" stages of group development (Tuckman Model).  That made me think to NOT develop norms at the beginning and just go through the forming and storming phases.  Now, I feel like it is important we define the norms.  Probably a little late, but better late than never, right?
  • The purpose of using technology (Course 2).  Does the tool improve, deepen, or enhance student learning?  If not, then why are we using it?  I really thought through a lot during this course about not just having technology be an add-on, but something that really impacts the learning environment.  It is now a question on the pre-brief section of our Coaching Cycle Journal so we actually consider it each and every time.
  • Effective Learning Norms (Course 3 and Course 5).  We had to go through the process that I am going to (hopefully) work through with my fellows throughout this semester.  What are the traits of effective learning?  What skills do students need to develop to be successful in college and career that can be emphasized and practiced within the context of your curriculum?  What type of activities must we develop to help meet those expectations?  All of this led me to really analyzing the four areas on the "Learning Activity Checklist" developed by Les Foltos and thinking through how I am going to use it with my fellows.  My plan is to not just present that to them, but to start conversations about what skills and competencies they are looking for their students to develop, how to relate those to the school's goals as well as college/career readiness.  As necessary and as we move through it, we can start referring to the four areas on the Learning Activity Checklist and using those to probe our thinking and help us find ways to improve the lessons.
  • Course 3 Six Key Takeaways... Rather than re-phrasing, I'm just going to copy paste them here:
    • Focus on the classroom and learning. Rethink the roles of student and teacher. Teacher must be coach/collaborator, not the dispenser of knowledge.
    • Look beyond "were they engaged" and focus on "did the technology help us meet the learning objectives?" and "did the students deepen their understanding because of the technology?"
    • Use technology to continually gather formative assessment data that then drives instruction and changes the way you approach the next day in class!
    • Technology is not a magic bullet that is always going to enhance student learning/achievement - it all depends on how it is being used!
    • Technology is not a goal in itself, it's a tool to help us achieve and support our goals.
    • We must adequately train the teachers to use the technology. This is not just familiarity with equipment but also seeing how it can be used effectively and then practicing how it can be used effectively!
  • Communication Skills (Course 3 and Course 5). This was a huge section for me that was repeated throughout the next several courses. I heard about it before I started coaching but it really didn't mean much to me at that point because I had no experience and no context. Now I feel like I can really begin intentionally building and developing the communication skills of active listening, paraphrasing, clarifying, and probing. I did a lot of research of sample probing questions and am hoping to really grow in that area this semester.
  • Lesson Improvement Process (Course 4). I basically redesigned my entire Coaching Cycle based on this course and what I learned from it. There was a focus on designing the learning task... and I found five amazing resources (specifically for math) that are going to be huge in the curriculum development we are working on with the transition to Common Core.
  • Key Attributes of Effective School Professional Development (Course 6). This really made me think "bigger picture" and "school culture" and what impact I can have on the culture of the school I am at. I set some key goals for helping improve professional development at my site (within my control) for next semester.
  • Problem Analysis to Coaching Roadblocks (Course 6). It helped that the sample we worked through was basically the problem I had to work through a few weeks ago. I can definitely see this process being used with future roadblocks.

Great resources I found throughout my time:

    Books on my To-Read List 
    (I haven't read them so can't summarize or vouch for them yet...)

    Bought and ready for my reading:

    Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation at a Time Paperback – March 30, 2010

    Differentiated Coaching: A Framework for Helping Teachers Change Paperback – February 1, 2006

    Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, 2nd Edition Paperback – August 6, 2012

    Mentoring Matters: A Practical Guide To Learning Focused Relationships Paperback – July 30, 2003

    Building Teachers' Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders Paperback – December 31, 2008

    Coaching Classroom Instruction (Classroom Strategies)Perfect Paperback – August 22, 2012

    On my Amazon List:

    Have any to add? Please comment below.

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