"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, October 15, 2012

Coaching Teachers

"Implementing a new curriculum requires strong leadership at the school level. The success of a school depends a lot on the principal. A significant fraction of public schools in the Philippines currently do not have a principal or a head teacher. This clearly needs to be addressed first before any reform in curriculum is initiated. Otherwise, a new curriculum has no hope of being implemented successfully."
What happens exactly inside the classroom depends largely on the teacher. There are several factors that influence learning. True enough, there are factors outside the control of a teacher but there are still ways by which a teacher can direct learning both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers.net believes that a teacher can still make a huge difference. Its mission statement is as follows:

At Teachers.Net, we recognize that education is a fundamental factor in an individual's prosperity, happiness, contribution to society, and impact on the future. Teachers.Net recognizes the vital role teachers play in education and the betterment of our culture. We also appreciate that teachers are rarely recognized or compensated adequately for their contribution and dedication. 
In support of the calling, Teachers.Net was founded on four principles:
  • To allow our teacher-users to contribute the content and direct site development  
  • To utilize the Internet to harness the collective intellect and wisdom of the worldwide teaching community
  • To minimize costs to the greatest extent possible through automation, and 
  • To never charge teachers for using our resources
One recent article by Harry and Rosemary Wong from this website deals with instructional coaching:

Downloaded from http://teachers.net/wong/OCT12/
The article begins with reminding us of the work of Jacob Kounin. The following are taken from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Classroom_Management_Theorists_and_Theories/Jacob_Kounin:

These are the main theories and history of Jacob Kounin.

I. "With-it-ness"

The teacher is responsible for inhibiting poor behavior. The teacher can maintain this strategy by making eye contact to all students at all times. The teacher should know each student on a personal basis (i.e. name, interests, strength, weaknesses, etc.)The teacher can use other non-verbal techniques to show students that they are alert and care about the well-being of all students. The teacher may also want to make a respectable suggestion to inform the student that their behavior is unacceptable. The teacher should have communicated to all students the expectations and can have these displayed so everyone can be "with-it".

II. Overlapping

The teacher can have procedures that will allow the teacher to be effective when two situations occur at the same time. For example, if a student is done with an assessment or an assignment early have something for them to do such as moving on to another assignment, reading a book, or a quiet enrichment exercise. While the early-finishers are staying busy the teacher is allowed to move around the room to answer question or assist struggling students. Another example, if the teacher is in the middle of a lecture and a student enters the room the teacher should make eye contact with the student, have an area for the student to turn in work, and continue with the lesson. Once the students are doing their work the teacher can go to the tardy student and tell them what they missed or answer any questions from the homework assigned the night before.

III. Momentum

The teacher should make lectures short to allow students to group together and move around to gain more knowledge of the content. The teacher should make sure that these exercises remain short so students do not get bored. A teacher can keep a timer and assign roles to students to keep the students moving and on a time deadline. If students are struggling the teacher can reflect on what they can do to make the lesson more meaningful and easier to understand for their students.

IV. Smoothness

The teacher can have students make hand gestures that will tell the teacher whether the student has a comment or question concerning the lesson. This technique allows the teacher to have an idea of which students may cause an unwanted tangent and which students may have a good question that could pertain to utilizing the time effectively. When placing students in group-work the teacher can walk around facilitating and listening to discussions of other students. The teacher can then intervene or take the group to a different track if the teacher feels it is necessary.

V. Group Focus

The teacher can implement this strategy with several techniques:
A. Encourage Accountability: Make students aware that they will be graded for their participation and contributions to the group. 
B. The teacher can have a canister of popsicle sticks that have each students name on them. The teacher can pick the popsicle stick at random to keep students on track and out of their seats with anticipation for question/answer time, board problems, etc. 
C. The students can facilitate a discussion. Once they have finished a task they can turn to each other or they could pair up with those who are already done and compare answers.
In order for implementation to be effective the teacher must be well organized, communicate their expectations to their students, and hold them responsible for their actions to encourage motivation and attention.


In other words, Kounin believes that the behavior of a teacher is one important factor that determines student's learning. From this perspective it is straightforward to see how important it is for a teacher to be aware of what he or she does that may significantly influence learning inside the classroom. David Ginsburg, whose work is the subject of the Teachers.Net article states:
“School leaders and teachers must always examine how their actions or inactions may be creating barriers or creating enhancements to learning. My work is practical. What matters most is what happens in the classroom. I show them how they can be effective and successful and that is what my coaching is all about."
Coaching is different from mentoring. And to elucidate this clearly, a specific example is given by Harry and Rosemary Wong. The example is the story of Emily McGinley, a second grade teacher in Philadelphia. 

Teacher Actions
Student Reactions
Emily provided directions orally only and passed out materials before assessing whether students understood the directions.Students played with materials and did not begin the activity until the teacher restated directions to them at their seats.Provide directions visually in addition to orally; assess students' understanding of directions before passing out materials.
Emily spent extended time assisting a few students without ever assessing or assisting other students.Some students raised their hands for several minutes, while others socialized.Assign students to collaborative groups with the expectation that they ask each other for help before asking the teacher for help.
Emily failed to let students know what to do if they finished the activity early.Students who finished early disrupted those who were still working on the activity.Include in directions for each activity a constructive activity for students to move on to after they finish the first activity.

This example illustrates the philosophy of looking at what happens inside a classroom as a cause-effect pairs of events. The behavior of the teacher, what a teacher does is regarded as the cause, and what students do are taken as the effect. The solutions offered by the coach are then direct responses on how a teacher may change his or her strategy to get a better outcome. 

In this example, it is pretty clear what coaching really entails. It requires direct observation of the classroom through the eyes of both teacher and students. This is what school leaders do. A school without a head teacher or a principal cannot provide coaching to its teachers. In team sports and even individual ones, an athlete needs an additional pair of eyes for guidance and assessment. This guidance can not come from a remote air conditioned office far removed from where the action is taking place. 

“Teachers make countless decisions each day that affect children academically, socially, and emotionally,” says David.  “This is why coaches must observe classrooms through the lenses of students.

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