A video on the key components needed to effectively coach K12 teachers
Hear from Taylor Ellis, Chief Academic Officer at Scholarship Prep, on the framework and components for effective coaching.
We kind of think about video coaching in this framework. So for video coaching to be effective, there needs to be clarity, consistency, and collaboration as part of the process. And none of these stand alone, and they do not go in like a sequential order. They all kind of work together and create an effective coaching model. And so around clarity, we’re gonna talk about creating a common language and connecting data and practice in terms of consistency. We will talk about how frequently you’re coaching your folks and how you’re following up and following through. And then collaboration obviously probably the most important piece. Um, how are we designing reflective tasks and how are we outlining measures of accountability in a collaborative fashion so that we’re really moving the needle and improving practice? So let’s jump right into it. Clarity. Um, we know that with a lack of clarity, there’s often a lot of frustration and that can create, um, an erosion of trust.
It can erode relationships. And at the end of the day, you can’t reach your goals if there is not trust and relationship in your coaching. And so really creating this clarity in your coaching model is really important. And the way that we do that is first and foremost to create a common language around coaching. So as scholarship prep, we really focus on two kind of pieces With this, we focus on data and then we focus on practice or, or the pedagogy piece. So in terms of data, you wanna make sure that your teachers are coming to coaching a knowing what you wanna talk to them about, and b, with the skillset to talk about that in an engaging and meaningful way. And so when you’re thinking about creating this common language, really defining what data points you’re gonna be looking at to gauge success is gonna be a huge foundational piece of how you build your coaching.
You can choose whatever data point works best in your organization and best in your context. So if you are a school that is really big on daily exit tickets, maybe daily exit tickets are what you’re looking at as part of your data or as part of your coaching. If you use a common assessment, maybe you all use the iab, um, to, you know, as kind of like this formative assessment moving up and leading up into casp, maybe that becomes your common data point. It doesn’t matter what the data point is as long as that your teachers know what it is so that they’re ready to talk about it and that your teachers really understand how to use and dive into that data. And so kind of doing that, that back or yeah, backend work to make sure that you’re ready for coaching is gonna be huge.
Similarly practice, there are a million resources around good teaching practice. Um, making sure that you narrow down which one your school is working with is gonna be really helpful for you so that you’re using a common language. And similarly with data, your teachers wanna know what you’re coming in and looking for, and it’s only fair to them to have that beforehand so that you are all working towards the common goal of student achievement, but have this common language to talk about it with. So as you’re thinking about this, you wanna think about what framework you’re using to drive teacher practice, maybe use the Danielson rubric. And so you really ground all of your work in that Maybe your school loves teach like a champion and you have narrowed down the top five strategies from teach like a champion that you really wanna see in your classrooms.
Or maybe there’s some instructional strategy initiatives that you’re really working towards, like English learner supports that you really wanna push as part of your coaching. Same with data. It doesn’t matter where you land on what it is that you’re using as your common language, but it’s important to choose one and then make sure that everybody is familiar with those so that you are all working in the same direction and understanding what each of you are talking about in that coaching piece. The next piece with clarity is really connecting data with practice. So I think, you know, when I was earlier on in my career and I was coaching teachers, I think I kind of grew up in a time when we really over focused on pedagogy. So we were really looking for academic discourse, stru, uh, structures. We were really looking for, um, you know, frequent checks for understanding.
But without that data piece, all of those other things kind of fall flat. It’s really important to tie together data with practice so that you can see, hey, what’s happening in my classroom, but my pedagogy, my, um, implementation of my lesson is resulting in this student data, whether that be positive or negative. It’s important to tie those two things together. So for example, if you have phenomenal Socratic seminars where kids are, you know, sharing their ideas and everybody’s collaborating and they’re using the habits of discussion, but they’re a little off base on maybe the rigor of the standard, it doesn’t matter how engaging that discussion was, because at the end of the day, they’re not meeting the standards that we need them to meet. And so really being able to connect data with practice is gonna help improve student outcomes and really help improve teacher practice in a way that’s very meaningful.
And so as you’re thinking how to do this, as you’re watching your videos, you wanna think about what strategies that you saw in a lesson or that you see in your video contributed, whether it be positive or negative to student outcome data. So an example of this might be, um, if you’re looking at your student exit ticket data, maybe that’s the data point you decide to work on, and you’re finding consistently that your boy, the boys in your class are outperforming the girls in your class. In the video, you might notice that there’s something that the teacher is doing differently for that group of students that is causing them to be more successful. So maybe you’re watching and you find that the teacher does much more frequent checks for understanding and calls on the boys a lot more often than the girls. Recognizing that and being able to tie that to that data point will help a teacher to be able to reflect and say, Hey, that’s a super easy fix. I just need to make sure that I create a structure for myself to ensure that I’m calling on kids more equitably so that we see more equitable outcomes.
So you have all of this clarity that’s great, you know, what data points you’re gonna be using, you know, what, um, kind of framework you’re gonna use to talk about implementation of lessons. Um, but now we have to think about consistency, right? We know that coaching folks once, twice, even three times a year, isn’t going to make the same kind of gains in practice as if we can do it much more frequently. We know that success doesn’t come from what we do occasionally, but what we are doing all the time. And so how do we do that? Uh, you coach frequently <laugh> the hard part about that, I imagine you’re probably a school leader if you’re coaching a lot of teachers. So it might be very difficult for you to create a schedule in which you can consistently be in classrooms, and that is okay, but you need to be honest with yourself and create a reasonable and manageable cadence for how you can coach your teachers.
So really thinking through how many classrooms can I realistically observe each month or each week? And then who needs to be prioritized for coaching? Maybe some of your folks need to be coached every week or every other week, whereas some of your folks who are a little more seasoned or who may be are already really strong in their practice only need a once a month check-in or maybe an every other month check-in. So really thinking through what that realistic cadence looks like for you will be huge in consistency. A really big way to break trust with your coachee and really, uh, be a detriment to your coaching cycles is to have to break meetings or not show up for observations when you say you’re gonna be there. And so being realistic and creating this, um, this schedule is gonna be really big for building an effective teaching, um, or rather coaching model.
Similarly, um, it doesn’t matter if you are in classrooms every single month if you’re not following up and following through on what you say that you’re going to be doing. And so a huge piece of consistency with the follow up and follow through is gonna be keeping coaching notes from all of your coaching sessions. Obviously, those videos are gonna live somewhere. That’s one thing, but the notes of the discussion that you have from those coaching sessions should also be kept somewhere that is shared, um, and able to be referenced back to notes should include anything that was discussed and really most importantly, any next steps in action items that were agreed upon. And then that way you can begin all of your next coaching sessions with a follow up from the last meeting. And that way coaching starts to feel like an ongoing conversation and something that we are constantly working on to improve practice as opposed to more of kind of these one-off, um, feedback sessions.
So we have this shared language, we’re really clear on what we’re looking at in terms of data, in terms of what we’re looking at in terms of practice. We know that we now have this very consistent, um, schedule. Maybe it’s once a month, maybe for some folks it’s every other week. Uh, but now how are we being collaborative about it, right? So we know that if you just tell a teacher to do something in their practice, maybe they’ll try it out, maybe they won’t. But there’s definitely a lot more buy-in when the process is collaborative, when there is engagement and ownership of the decisions and next steps that are being made in coaching from the teacher themselves.
So as you’re doing video coaching, um, what we recommend to foster collaboration is to design a reflective task as part of the teacher re-watching their video. So not just going in and watching their video to say like, Hey, what went well? What could go better? But really identifying a task or a specific question that you want a teacher to focus on that will translate into an actionable next step. So you wanna think about what you really want that teacher to be looking for in their lesson or what you want them to be considering so that they’re ready to come and answer that question and engage in a meaningful conversation with you about that when they come. The key here is that yes, you should have an idea of where that conversation is gonna go, but you should not have an answer to this question. It should be open-ended enough to really allow the teacher to be reflective and think about what they’re seeing and what they could kind of view as a next step based on going through this reflective task.
So for example, maybe you are working with teach like a Champion strategies and you are focusing on positive framing with students. You might ask a teacher after being familiar with <laugh> what positive framing is. You might have a teacher go through and tally all the times that they noticed in their video that they used positive framing, and then maybe identify one or two areas that were missed opportunities and have them work on restructuring the way that they were maybe talking to kiddos in that moment, right? Them doing that work on the backend then allows a them to really view their video with a hyper-focus on an area that they’re already working on. And it also allows them to come to the discussion with some ideas already made because they’ve already done the lake work that you really wanna talk about. And then that will help you guys have a better jumping off point for creating next steps for doing some planning, maybe co-planning together.
And it’s gonna make your coaching sessions a lot shorter because that backend work has already been done Similarly, um, we this, you know, we talked about this a little bit in terms of consistency, but really outlining next steps and measures of accountability are going to be huge in terms of collaboration. Um, the key here is that you’re not just creating next steps for your teacher, you’re creating next steps together about what both of you need to be doing to help improve practice for kids. So as you’re creating these actionable, observable next steps, you’re thinking about what is one thing that teachers are gonna commit to doing in a next lesson based on the discussion that you had, um, from the data, both the the video as well as whatever data point you’re choosing to talk about what data you’re gonna collect as a measure for success, right?
So if you are talking about from our example of calling on, you know, maybe the boys more often than the girls in your class, maybe you are gonna go in for your next observation and start tallying how many times each group is called on, right? But outlining what that data that we’re collecting is, is gonna help build out the accountability piece and help you as a coach better support your teachers. And then on the flip side, really outlining what teachers need from you. Do they need additional resources? Do they need an additional planning period? Do they need you to come model something? All of those pieces are really huge because like we talked about from the study from Harvard teachers just trying things, trial and error is not going to help them improve as fast as you being able to kind of pull some resources that you know are already successful for them to support them in their classrooms.