A Reflection on Peer Coaching

The overarching definition of ISTE’s Visionary Leadership Coaches Standard is that
“Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.” We’ve been working this quarter on the use of Peer Coaching as a methodology for that type of leadership and the coaching project I’ve been working on has brought a number of interesting issues up for me.

Shared Vision

I’ve been working with a group of three teachers who have taken over leadership of our Future Ready Teacher User Group. Approximately 20 teachers (who were part of the past two year’s Tech Cohorts) get together each month to share and learn together about current district tools and new ideas as well as being introduced to new tools. The past two years they’ve worked with me as the instructor and the focus has been on learning about the SAMR model (Puentedura 2006), skill building around available tools and developing a culture of trust and innovative thinking. My goal was to develop Human Capacity in our buildings around technology integration. I need more leaders at the building level who can serve in an unofficial coaching capacity and who can model tech enriched lessons and progressive thinking.

I came across an article called “How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning” (Saphier, West 2010) that suggested that coaches should work with the strongest teachers first to build a “tacit farm team” for future coaches. In future years they could be matched with new teachers to become mentors or collaborative partners and would in turn help strengthen the skills and capacity of a a new group of teachers. The three teachers I’m working with are the heart of my farm team and it puts me in the role of having to step back and allow them to develop their own vision for the group.

The experience reinforced the idea for me that it is important that we share a vision, either as a district or a group and also have a plan for reaching that vision. As suggested in Foltos’ (2013) book Peer Coaching, we developed a written Peer Coaching plan to define our roles and set our goals for our group. The difficult part has been that we don’t yet have a clear vision for technology use as a district so some of the things we would have liked to do as part of our professional development for this group wouldn’t have been supported. The vision we were able to work toward was that we wanted more sharing, more collaboration and continued relevance to the daily use of technology in classrooms. I think we are beginning to do that.

Integration of Technology to Promote Transformational Change

This has been a more challenging aspect of working with this group. My instructors are models for their fellow teachers but they are not in an acknowledged coaching role with them. A lot of what they are doing is facilitating and coaching by example. The instructors and I have talked a lot about using the SAMR model to help move teachers move from using technology as simply a substitution for traditional pen and paper activities toward redefining teaching and learning with technology as a tool to make that possible. Even after three years with the first group we are still talking about it and very few teachers have tried anything terribly transformational with technology. It does take time but it feels like there are pieces missing that will move us forward with technology integration. In the same article referenced above (Saphier, West 2010) the authors define coaching in schools as a “strategic, systematic approach to improving student learning”. They go further to list these purposes and practices, which are meant for content areas, but I think have some interesting tie ins to our Users Group.

  • Coaches and teachers engage in public teaching in front of one another, with the expectation and practice of giving and receiving rigorous feedback aimed at student learning.
    • My instructors have been demonstrating new skills and leading discussions but what if they also taught a model lesson and/or we used some of release time funds they have access to get subs for people in the group to come in and watch them teach? Could I leverage them as model teachers as well as for the ability to facilitate the users group?
  • Staff members regularly consult and ask each other for help.
    • The instructors wanted to shift more of our meeting time to sharing and collaborating so each meeting has time dedicated to both. We are seeing more open sharing of ideas but I’d really like to see if we can leverage social media to allow people to share even outside the meetings and develop more of a collaborative online community.
  • Staff meet in regular groups to discuss how to improve instruction of specific concepts and skills related to student learning.
    • It’s not always easy to do this with technology because in many cases, it’s meant as a tool to support learning in other content areas, not as a stand alone topic. However, we could spend more time focusing on technology practices that we could measure things like engagement. Liz Kolb’s Triple E Framework might be a good tool to introduce to my instructors to see if we can use it to reframe some of our discussions with the larger group on how technology can be integrated and support their content areas.
  • Questions related to practice permeate adult discourse, and they are authentic questions centering on the most tenacious and ubiquitous issues of teaching and learning.
    • When I read this it dawned on me that we don’t ask enough questions in our User Group meetings. I ask questions of my coaches to help guide them to thinking about good practices for running the meetings and choosing topics but we aren’t translating that to discourse we could be having with the larger group about how technology is impacting their students, how they can measure the effectiveness of their tech integrated lessons or on how they can improve them. It might be time to bring that up with my instructors.

Coaching teachers is challenging but coaching coaches has made me have to stop and think about the approaches I take, the questions I ask and the other things I do to coach others and try to articulate those for my coaches. I have a ways to go but becoming more conscious of the skills I’m using successfully and the ones I need to work on will help me be able to help them as well.

 

References

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E FrameworkTriple E Framework. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

SAMR. (2017). Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Saphier, J., & West, L. (2010). How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning. Phi Delta Kappan91(4), 46-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/003172171009100410

Evaluating Tech Integration

Part of the ISTE coaching standard 1:Visionary Leadership states that coaches need to “inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment. “ There are a few parts of that statement that stuck out to me this week. First, in order to implement a shared vision we need to share the same language and vocabulary. Tech integration models can serve as a common way to talk to staff about the purpose and uses of technology in their classrooms. It can be valuable for an organization to have a common model, not only to assist in implementing technology but using one that is widely used by professionals in other districts can open up opportunities for local and global PLNs and access to resources that have been vetted by others.  

The other part that stuck out to me was the idea of “supporting transformational change”. I know what the vision in my head is but it’s not always easy to guide teachers who are new to integrating technology through the process that I’ve spent years learning and experimenting with. It would be easier if we had a tool that 1) was related to our tech model, 2) would make it easier for teachers and coaches to work with and that 3)  would be, in part, a self guided way of analyzing a lesson or project to determine the presence and transformative power of technology but also it’s appropriateness and impact on students.

My district has been using the SAMR model for the last few years because it was widely used and seemed fairly easy for teachers to access. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “What is Redefinition?”, I don’t find the model as useful as I used to.  It’s possible that it’s a good starter model for teachers who are just being introduced to technology integration but as a global model I’ve seen as many definitions of what constitutes modification and redefinition as I’ve seen presenters give examples to teachers. Honestly, I don’t know that we’ll ever really be able to redefine teaching with technology until we redefine teaching. If you start with a teacher who is unwilling to think differently about their instruction the best you’ll get is substitution and augmentation. Add it to a willing teacher’s classroom and you’ll often get modification but the only teachers I’ve seen truly start to redefine their teaching and learning using technology are the ones who are willing to rethink “normal” and “traditional” and take the risk to change instructional practices and use technology to support that change.

In Peer Coaching, Les Foltos states (Foltos, 2013) that improving learning requires two things:

  1. Helping prospective Peer Coaches develop insight into the characteristics of learning that will prepare students with 21st century skills.
  2. Using these insights and research from the learning sciences to come to agreement on a norm for effective 21st century learning.

I’m a big picture person. If my vision is to start moving those willing teachers towards rethinking instructional practice, I need a model that includes thinking about instructional practice as well as technology and 21st century skills and, I need a formative assessment tool to help teachers, coaches and principals reflect on the learning tasks they are asking students to do and also decide how technology can help that task be transformative.

Here are some possibilities:

The Lesson Improvement Process

Foltos’ chapter on the Lesson Improvement Process includes the following areas of emphasis:

  1. Create a Task – Relevant, real-world tasks that hook the learner and stimulate interest and an essential question(s). The use of the Learning Activity Checklist can help teachers look at levels of engagement, problem based tasks.
  2. Define Standards – A lesson’s purpose should be aimed at teaching to standards but it’s important to keep the focus on a small number of standards, including the technology based ones.
  3. Learning Context – helping teachers understand the depth of learning needed to master the standard and how to scaffold the learning in order to achieve that depth of learning, including assessing the learning and understanding of the students.
  4. Student Directions – “a road map (for the student) to solve the task their teacher outlined”. Choice, engagement and clarity are important to this process.
  5. Reflection & Feedback – using collaborative communication to pre-assess whether the lesson has the potential to meet the purpose of the learning
  6. Assessment – both summative and formative assessments to track learning and provide ongoing feedback for both the teacher and the student.
  7. Resources & Information – The tools and sources of information that will be used in the lesson. This is one of the areas technology can be integrated.

I like this approach for helping teachers rethink a learning target. It puts the standards and the intended learning first before considering the technology tool. It does include a template for developing a lesson, although the intention is more for the teacher and the coach to work together on the lesson design. This does give the coach the opportunity to guide the discussion by asking questions or prodding thinking in the four areas of standards, engagement, problem based and technology. This is a good model for lesson planning and a coach using it as a tool would be able to help teachers integrate more technology into their lesson.

TRUDACOT (Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template)

TRUDACOT is another tool that is meant to be a discussion protocol between teachers or with coaches to rethink lesson design that includes the integration of technology. I like the potential of this tool to give teachers entry points into redesigning a lesson. Version 2 gives teachers and coaches a way to formatively assess a lesson, either before it’s taught or as part of an observation and then use the questions to pick one or two areas to redesign. Not all of the sections are centered around technology so it does get at some of the rethinking of instructional strategies that I want to get at as well as the technology pieces. The downside is that it is fairly long, 9 sections with 3-4 questions. It would be easy for a teacher to feel overwhelmed at first if there were a lot of “nos” so it would be important to focus small and pick one area at first to make changes in and work on improvement over time. I think I’d start by having teachers use it as a way to evaluate and improve sample lessons from videos or other sources until they see how it could be used effectively.

Triple E framework

Kolb’s Triple E Framework is an interesting way to look at technology and provides both a model and a tool for reviewing a lesson and considering how technology is used as a tool. It doesn’t focus as strongly overall on lesson design or standards but as a tool to review how technology is used to support instruction it’s simple and easily understood. Level 1 is about Engaged Learning. She’s especially interested in not only how students engage with the technology but how they engage with each other to co-create learning.  She still gets at the issue of “redesigning” instructional practice in Level 2: Enhanced Learning although she uses the term “value added” and defines it as “when the tool is somehow aiding, assisting, or scaffolding learning in a way that could not easily be done with traditional methods.” In Level 3: Extended Learning the focus is on audience. I’ve always felt that truly redefined learning has to somehow include a wider audience than just the teacher so this resonates with me. I’m going to introduce this model to a group of teachers I work with and see what they think.  We’ll try using the rubrics she’s developed for lessons and for apps to practice looking at sample lessons through this lens. I’m interested to hear what my teachers think.

TPACK

I do like the TPACK model because it brings together technology, pedagogical practice and the content area being taught. It is the trifecta. My frustration with it is that it’s fairly complicated for teachers who are just getting started. There has been a lot of research done on using the TPACK model to evaluate technology integrated lessons and there are rubrics available that could be used with teachers but there would be a longer learning curve with this model than with some of the others. I want to do some more work with it involving some more experienced teachers to see how they might use it.

I haven’t truly found one model and tool that gets at everything I’m looking for but it may be possible to use multiples ones. In the long run, they are all asking for the same things. How can we effectively use technology as a tool to help create relevant, real world learning for students that can’t be done in any other way?

References

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Koehler, M. (2017). TPACK.ORG. Tpack.org. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://tpack.org/

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Triple E Framework. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. trudacot v2 annotated. Google Docs. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/147Pqvr32qwnPXUBmUM1r8p10unZ-pID_cgLjkGwwAus/edit

What is Redefinition?

I’m not entirely sure I find the SAMR model as useful as I used to. I used it at first with teachers because it seemed simple to grasp and easy to start with. Unfortunately, that simplicity leaves many things open to interpretation that has made it more of a challenge for teachers who get hung up on the details of the differences between augmentation, modification and redefinition. I also personally believe, no personal research to back up this one yet, that audience is a vital piece of what truly redefines a student’s learning experience and it’s not clearly defined in the SAMR model.

SAMR Ladder graphic
Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

Technology allows our students the opportunity to write, collaborate, create and publish for much bigger audiences than their teacher or class. Part of the redefinition process needs to be teaching our students the skills of putting their thinking out to the universe is safe, productive, meaningful ways. They need to learn to take criticism and feedback from complete strangers on the web and use what’s helpful, respond with dignity, or ignore it and move on. We need to give them the opportunities to share their passions, interests and expertise with others without giving away their privacy or sacrificing their digital reputation. And most of all, as good citizens, we want them to contribute to the world in positive ways, from being thoughtful before they post in social media to contributing to the larger bank of knowledge in their chosen area of expertise someday. It all starts with the experiences they have in the classroom.

We can’t do any of that without also changing the expectation of redefinition so that they are learning skills transfer to their lives outside the classroom.  We should want our students to be asking questions that are too big or complicated to answer alone, or with a simple Google search,  and need collaboration with others or an expert to help answer. We want students thinking carefully, and editing often, because they know their work will be seen, and possibly commented on, by people outside their peer group. We should want them using multiple tools to collect data, research for answers, create models and presentations and to share their learning with others.

True redefinition is not about technology at all. Its about changing our teaching practices to give agency to students to make their own meaning and share it with others. The technology just broadens the playing field and gives them more opportunities and more resources to do the learning with.

My lesson plan was about teaching my teachers about what SAMR means and begin to nudge their thinking towards new ways they can think about the technology in their classroom. As a first step, this lesson wasn’t a bad place to start. It gave them some examples to work with and some time to start making meaning of it in the context of their classroom. I can’t help but think that I am not really modeling redefinition by the way I’m teaching the SAMR model though. A “sit and get” no matter how much they get up and move around, is really not redefining this type of professional development. I will be following up this spring with the teachers to see where they might need help getting started so I still don’t have much feedback about how effective this lesson was yet but I am going to try to rethink how we are offering this PD and see if there are some ways I can start practicing what I preach a bit more!

Here’s a link to the whole lesson: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1f4wCxnUYjmuN_Wda1P-H_psTzFgIltIRjsGOrePMHFk/edit https://docs.google.com/document/d/1f4wCxnUYjmuN_Wda1P-H_psTzFgIltIRjsGOrePMHFk/edit