Before I started coaching full-time, I used to wonder what the value of coaching light could be. For those who aren’t familiar with the terms coaching light or heavy, I suggest you check out Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives and other works by Jim Knight or […]
Tag: Instructional Coaching
Things are beginning to slow down in the last month of school in the coaching world. Teachers and the school are part of standardized testing, they are gearing up for awards ceremonies, and they are trying to keep their students calm. It is the end […]
What is the missing piece in most professional development sessions? Why is it so hard to change teacher behavior in learning new
We’ve all asked these questions. No matter how thoroughly we prepare or how high quality the professional development provided is, teachers say “We need more training.” What?! How can that be? We just spent a gazillion dollars to give you tons of hours to learn with experts. I busted my backside to give you everything you need. What training could you possibly still need?
- Steps and actions-check.
- Anticipated results-check.
- Potential pitfalls-check.
- Guided practice-check.
- Q & A-check.
- On-going support-you guessed it, check.
This scenario is frustrating and, I think, all too common. Whether it is culturally responsive teaching, differentiation, RTI, trauma-informed schools, SEL, restorative justice, the refrain is the same: “We need more training?” The accompanying lament remains: “What is the missing piece?”
After years of learning, struggling, and wondering, I think I finally found the missing piece. Teachers need direct, explicit instruction on how to change their own thinking. Truthfully, we spend a lot of time talking about and supporting student thought processes. Self-regulation, self-awareness, self-talk are all part of instruction for students. But it is incredibly rare for teachers to receive the same opportunity to learn such skills.
Instead of wondering why teachers fail to change their behavior, we need to question how we can help change teacher thinking. Not because teachers will all respond perfectly and all our implementation problems will be solved. It is never that simple. But because teachers deserve to understand not just what and why, but HOW. We need to equip them with the tools to control and actively select their actions and reactions in the classroom.
This missing piece is especially pernicious when we are addressing deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviors. Teachers are often stymied by their own struggles. Hence the request for more training. They know, on some level, that they are missing a piece of the puzzle. Articulating what is missing is the challenge. The answer lies in helping teachers surface their thinking, reveal existing inner monologues, and intentionally develop alternative self-talk and thoughts. Teachers need the same level of intentional, structured, and personal instruction that students need.
The biggest problem with the missing piece is that though the need is there, the expertise, the materials, the strategies are also largely missing. As instructional coaches, we are left to address this need as best we can. The first step is knowing there is a missing piece. I wish I could offer specific resources and strategies that would magically fill the void. I can’t. If you have ideas or suggestions, please leave them in the comments for all of us.
It seems like things are slowing down a bit during this time of year. It never fails. Teachers are finishing up last minute to-dos before finals, crafts are being created, and the school has turned into a sea of red and green. All the while, […]
In the life of an Instructional Coach, we are there to support teachers. We love seeing teachers continue to grow. We want to be there for them, provide feedback and do all we can to help facilitate their development. However, we often put our all […]
Core competencies in business are typically “soft skills.” Core competencies in academics have potential too. This year, I have the opportunity to facilitate curriculum writing through the lens of core competencies.
I define core competencies as the 10-15 essential skills a student can expect to master during a course. These should be meaningful and transferable skills aligned to relevant state standards. In addition, they should be written in language students are able to comprehend on the first day of class.
Each core competency is broken into component skills that are more content specific and might use subject-specific language that may need to be explicitly taught. Component skills are necessary for mastery of the core competencies.
The process of crafting core competencies is different from many other curriculum writing exercises with which I am familiar. Though I premised this format on backward design, some teachers have opted to work inductively based on their existing knowledge of curriculum to establish core competencies.
Teachers have been given the opportunity to collaborate and develop, either inductively or deductively, a deep understanding of what students will learn.
It has been an interesting process to facilitate so far. Teachers are demonstrating remarkable thoughtfulness and consistent open-minded thinking as they design a curriculum that meets the needs of our students.
By focusing on skills, we have been able to avoid content arguments and the inevitably imprecise language of state standards. Instead, we are talking about what we want students to be able to do and why. We are engaged in a dialogue about what proficiency means and what skills will equip students for their chosen futures.
In addition to consensus and standards alignment, teachers in each subject area will also be required to come to a genuine consensus on the core competencies for all courses in their field.
I wouldn’t call this a tedious process…meticulous perhaps. The teachers have become deeply engaged and are questioning what they teach and why.
I doubt most instructional leaders have are able to devote the kind of time to this process that I am incredibly lucky to have. Nonetheless, I believe that spending more on the conceptual end of curriculum development has several significant positive impacts:
- Teachers develop a deeper understanding of what they are teaching and why.
- A culture of collaboration.
- Well-defined, flexible, and meaningful curriculum.
- Students held at the center of the curriculum process.
- Teachers are treated as professionals and experts.
- Alignment is increased within courses, across courses, and across teachers and sections.
I think core competencies have the potential to help leaders manage the curriculum writing process in a meaningful, effective way.
You clear your throat. “Today we’re going to learn how to monitor data in our classrooms..” You look around the room and 20 pairs of eyes are looking at you waiting for you to finish your sentence. “..and how to increase student achievement at our […]