Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 7: Developing a Work Plan: How Do I Determine What to Do?)

I've never blogged my notes and thoughts through a book, but I figure there's never a better time than NOW!

My goal is to create a reference & reflective place for me as I continue growing as a coach.

See my notes from all book chapters on my Coaching Page.

Direct quotes from the book are in blue.

How is Coaching different from other kinds of PD?  According to Aguilar, "coaching is an ongoing effort focused on developing a specific and agreed-on set of skills or practices" (page 119).  A fellow may experience coaching as "a series of meaningful conversations" (page 119), but the coach is "consciously working within a structure and toward an end" (page 119).  I think this is an important definition to include when recruiting fellows and at the first couple of meetings.  I think I mentioned before that sometimes it doesn't seem like many of the fellows can articulate goals beyond "get better at technology" or "have my students use their laptops twice a week".  I have tried to facilitate goal-setting conversations but have struggled with them identifying things they want to develop.  I want to help my fellows develop more specific skills/practices to focus on than just "technology".  I also want to help them see the pedagogical connection to everything we are doing, as each tool has a purpose beyond just "using it for the sake of using it".  How can I help my fellows to articulate their desires better?  What questions can I help that would probe to the level I am looking for?

Being in my second year, I can see the "big picture" much more clearly.  I have seen eight fellows through an entire school year and have a much better sense of the end goal, as well as the growth that can / will happen over time (and remind myself that every journey is different and most start out slowly!).  I want to continue to get better at being very intentional in those "meaningful conversations" and make sure I plan them well and then reflect on them afterwards.  That is an area I am weak in currently.

Having a specific and agreed-on set of skills or practices is also important because "when coaching is unfocused, or when the purpose for coaching is unclear, both the coach and client can feel unsatisfied" (page 120).  Sometimes I have felt like we have done a lot of talking and planning but no implementation with follow-through.  I also feel like with many fellows our focus is so broad - "any technology" - that we don't have a specific focus we can measure growth in because it's just whatever lesson is coming up rather than consistently focusing on tools that will help improve _____ (classroom management, student thinking, collaboration, etc).   I don't want my fellows to feel like they every lesson they do with technology has to be planned with me.  Most of mine don't, but there are always a few that fall into that category.  I want a non-technological goal, an upcoming lesson, and then a question - "What technology can be used to support our non-technological goal in this upcoming lesson?"

Looks like I've found even more areas of focus ;)

Aguilar talks about making a formal plan - an "external entity to which they are both accountable" (page 120). It made me think of my work in my admin program (which I'm almost done with!!!) in terms of developing a shared vision.  Why are we here?  Why are we working together?  What does success and accomplishment look like at the end of the year?  Part of the struggle I have seen is that the fellows don't necessarily have an idea of what could be, so I need to help them envision the possibilities and help them to buy-in to something that is foreign and unknown.  Sounds scary, huh?

Three of the lenses are referenced as useful considerations during this stage.  Change management must be considered to remind us that goals we set must be realistic and attainable, and we don't want our fellows trying to bite off too much at once and then get frustrated, overwhelmed, or disappointment.  The lens of inquiry can help in identifying goals.  The lens of adult learning will help us to make sure we are within the fellow's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (the difference between what he can do without help and what he can do with help).

Aguilar sure likes 10 steps... here are the 10 steps to developing a Work Plan :)  She mentions that the ten steps are not necessarily a sequential process.

1. Identify areas for coaching: what's the big picture?
Start with broad areas.  For my fellows, I'd like them to pick one area that deals with technology integration and one that deals with something else.  The suggestions Aguilar makes are for lesson/unit design, teaching CCSS, classroom management, academic language, checking for understanding, classroom culture, and routines and procedures.  The narrower we can get, the better, but I think starting with something more general may actually work better. I will brainstorm some ways to expand that list. However, I must make sure that my list doesn't "push" something on a fellow - his/her needs and desires need to drive our work so they own it.   Even if that means they pick something that we don't think is the most important for them personally, if they are excited about it we need to go with it.  We can coach some of the other areas along the way.
We need to find areas that are high-leverage, meaning it "has great potential for improving the experience and outcomes of students, particularly those who are struggling the most...[and] would positively spill over into other areas" (page 123).  I really like the question she posed: "And what would that mean for students if your work improves in that area?" (page 123).  Perhaps if I frame the conversation with a focus on a broad area and then ask that question, it would help us to narrow it down to something more specific that we can focus on.

2. Identify standards and criteria
When I read this section, I thought of the ISTE Standards.  We have the content standards that the teachers are familiar with, but we actually haven't touched on the ISTE Standards... I'm wondering if that would be a helpful resource to frame the conversations around - expose them to the standards and possibly that would help them set some goals as well.  They would probably help more with the technological focus than the pedagogical one, but it could help narrow it donw.

3. Determine a SMARTE goal
When setting goals, we need to be clear about how they will be used, how often we'll reflect on them., and what their purpose is since teachers are used to "setting goals" that really don't mean much and rarely get followed up on.

The goal should NOT be an improvement in student learning, even though we hope that is what will result as well.  It needs to be focused on something that is within the teacher's sphere of influence - how do THEY want to improve?

What Aguilar wrote about being results-based struck a cord with me as well.  Instead of a goal being "I will use a collaborative Google Doc assignment", a more results-based goal would be "I will give at least once comment with feedback to all students before the final due date".

--Ok, so what I'm seeing so far is the fellow picking two broad-ish areas of focus.  One technological, which could be driven by one of the ISTE standards, and one pedagogical, which could be chosen from a list, or maybe even chosen from the CSTPs.  Once those are chosen, we need to narrow the focus down to actually determine some goals.  What would it look like if you _____? How would ____ affect students?  How would  _____ affect their learning?  I'm thinking that my list of "Coaching Focus" ideas that I gave my fellows to choose from at the beginning of the year were more like goals and we should have started with broad categories instead.  And those need to be written at the top of our agenda document once they are chosen to continually remind ourselves what our focus is.  The goals will change throughout the year as we  go through different lesson cycles, but they will all tie back in to the broad area of focus.  I need to use probing and clarifying questions to really help my fellows narrow down their area of focus and pinpoint something that would be high-leverage and that they would "own" as their own. --

4. Identify high-leverage activities
These are "the activities that will guide a client toward his goal" (page 130).  I am thinking these are mainly through the lesson cycles that we plan together - consisting of the prebrief, implementation, and debrief.  Ask the fellow what other activities would help them to meet their goal - model lessons? co-teaching? specific training? observing other teachers? Write these down!
Observations focused on the areas chosen can lead to growth as well - it's important to ask for permission to observe and give feedback on a specific point.  When you have a goal set, it's a lot easier to observe with a purpose and something that the fellow chose, not just what you notice that day.
Rather than asking disjointedly, "What would you like me to focus on today?" or "What would you like feedback on today?", that can be focused around one of the two areas of focus and thus stay connected to the large picture of growth.

5. Break down the learning
This step is done alone.  We think about the fellow's ZPD, what type of scaffolding the fellow would need to accomplish the goals, and plan how we will work on steering the conversations towards the goals.  This is an area I need to work on - letting the fellow lead the conversation based on their current needs, but always connecting it and steering it towards the areas of focus and goals we have chosen.  I think that will be a tad easier once we actually have those areas of focus and goals ;)

6. Determine indicators of progress
If the goals are objective, these will be easier to set.  Have the fellow tell you what the indicators should be and what you should look for - then you won't come across as judgmental or evaluative... you are simply giving the fellow the information they asked for!

7. Develop coaching theories of action
This is also done alone, it's like lesson planning for a coach.  What do I need to for my fellow to meet his/her goals?  What are MY action steps?

8. Determine coach's goals
Use the Transformational Coaching Rubric to choose a few areas of focus that I need to work on to be able to support this fellow in his/her goals.

9. Compile resources
What do I still need to learn more about? Who can I learn from that can help me with an area that is not my strength?

10. Present and celebrate the plan
Showing them the plan put together (1-4,6 written up) is "an opportunity for [the coach] to express confidence in the teacher's ability to learn and grow, to communicate excitement about the journey you are both embarking on, and to recall the connection between the client's gal and how children will be affected" (page 137).

Aguilar makes a comment near the end of the chapter that really resonated with me: "If we think about everyone as being on a continuum of openness to coaching and improving their practice, a coach shouldn't be used to work with those at the low end of that range. If someone is really closed down to being reflective or making change, it's a waste of a coach's energy to work there" (page 139-140).  The unique thing about my coaching position is that fellows apply to be coached.  That, oddly enough, does not mean that every fellow is open to being coached, being reflective, being committed to the process, or changing their practice.  I think it's part of the coach's job to help them become ready for change (through relationship and trust-building), but I would agree it's completely exhausting to work with teachers who refuse to try anything new or change anything about their practice.

In summary, a work plan is the road map to the end goal.  They should be flexible and will change over the course of the year  A more important goal may come up, or we may realize something more about the ZPD that changes our plan.  They are simply a tool that will help us on the journey.

*See sample Coaching Work Plan on pages 141-144

...Until Chapter 8...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...