Why I Dislike(d) Conferences

I spent much of last weekend at Bavarian International School in Munich, attending the ECIS Tech conference. The theme of the conference was on building engagement. I went to several sessions on making and the maker movement, collaboration, and technology support/coaching. I have a list of ideas to explore further through thinking, conversations, blogging and exploration.

I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of conferences. I’ve been thinking about what the traditional/typical conference offers to reframe my thinking from “don’t like conferences” to “conferences offer …”. The reason that I don’t like conferences is because they are an inadequate approach to professional development. I did my graduate work on professional development for effective technology integration. Conferences are the tip of the iceberg, but they can provide some unique opportunities.

Conferences are a great opportunity for informal learning. Take the chance to speak to people between and during sessions to expand your knowledge of what’s happening in education beyond your experience.

Conferences, especially large ones, provide exposure to new technology. Before going to a conference, make a list of the tools/resources that you are dissatisfied with or problems that you have not found a solution for. Visit vendors and demos to find out resources that may meet your needs. Also take the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools that you are curious about or have never encountered before to build your knowledgebase.

Attend sessions that are connected to your professional development plan. Look at the agenda to decide what value the conference offers you, and whether to attend. It’s okay to sit out a session; this could be a valuable opportunity to process a previous session and make a plan for integrating your new learning into your context. Spend some time looking at the schedule and select sessions that tie into your goals and plans, and that will help you achieve them. Have a focus.

Meet people from your virtual learning network. I’m a big fan of virtual connections but have to remember the importance of connections in the physical work. It adds a new dimension to the connections that you’ve built online when you can meet people in the physical world.

Present something that you’re excited or passionate about. Sometimes I feel that my role should be obsolete given the ease of finding things online. However, presenting lets you add the social element to learning which provides motivation and engagement. It also lets you cater to different personality types and learning preferences.

Take time to debrief. This is the process that I am embarking on. I plan to share resources to those who may be interested, to write some blog posts to expand and share my thinking, follow up with admin to clarify some goals, and implement some processes related to my own professional growth.

If you have a growth mindset, you can create your own learning experiences in a conference, or reframe the experiences provided to meet your goals and the needs of your role.

What strategies do you apply to grow from participation in conferences? Are you someone who loves conferences? I’d love to know what excites you about them.

How to Use YouTube Capture

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Do you take many video clips in your classroom? Would you like to merge them into one video? YouTube Capture lets you do just that.

YouTube Capture lets you easily merge two or more video clips together, trim parts of each one as desired, add music and upload the completed video to YouTube using only one app.

Here’s a tutorial video to show you how to use YouTube Capture. Before you start to watch the tutorial (or maybe even instead of it), I recommend that download the app and take a look at it yourself to see what you can discover. Here are some questions to guide your independent exploration:

  • How do you combine clips to form a video?
  • How do you trim a clip?
  • How do you add music/sound?
  • Can you edit any sound that you add?
  • What happens to clips if you restart the recording?
  • How do you log out?
  • Do clips take in YouTube capture get saved in the camera roll?

If you’ve used YouTube capture, please share your ideas/lessons in the comments.

Research on Coaching

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

The final chapter of Coaching Approaches & Perspectives is written by Jake Cornett and Jim Knight on the topic of Research on Coaching. Quantitative research is (ethically) difficult in education. The analysis that Cornett and Knight have done of the existing research reveals a problem of validity and reliability due to problematic methods. There is also a dearth of of quantitative/experimental research on the effectiveness of coaching for increasing student achievement. The existing research suggests that coaching is effective in professional development by increasing implementation and understanding of programs and models by teachers. For research to guide practice, educators need more reliable and valid research on the structures that allow coaching to work and the instances when coaching is effective. Educators could also benefit from research that shows the types of coaching that are effective, for who they are effective, and when they are effective. For example, when is one-on-one, small group, autonomous online, and other types of coaching effective for working with teachers? What’s the appropriate use of modeling in professional development? Questions abound, and there are currently more questions than answers.

It’s been six years since the book was published. I wonder how the scope of research has changed in that time. I would like to determine the intersection of technology coaching with the ten types of coaching identified in this book. Although I am done reading this book, my inquiry is far from complete. My next steps are to identify my learning from this book, to extract the components relevant to my work, and to identify interventions that I will apply to my work based on what I learned in this book. I’ve also joined a MOOC on Technology Coaching. A key question for me is how can I leverage social networking and online communication to create the supportive network important to my own professional growth?

If you’ve read any recent research/books/articles on Technology Coaching that you found inspiring or empowering, please share them with me in the comments.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Literacy Coaching

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This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.46.00

I’d initially skipped Chapter 2: Literacy Coaching by Cathy A. Toll but I went back to read the chapter to see what I could glean. Although the chapter focuses on literacy coaching, which is a subset of instructional coaching, it presents ideas and concepts relevant to all types of coaching.

The chapter begins with a discussion of the landscape of literacy coaching in the USA. It shows that coaching has been a growing field, which first gained widespread popularity due to the Reading First program in the USA in 2002. It also looks at the work of literacy coaching, the opportunities that it presents in education, and its challenges.

Literacy coaching evolved as a new role which encompassed existing tasks such as monitoring a literacy program, providing PD for teachers, and demonstrating how to use purchased material. As the role has grown, literacy coaches have joined various associations, which have developed standards for literacy coaching. Toll argues that there was no need to define a new role for existing jobs, and that the real opportunity of literacy coaching is to have teachers partner with coaches to share data, needs, interests and questions for goal setting, planning and reflection to improve teaching practice. As in other forms of coaching presented, coaching starts with the identification of the needs of teachers. Toll shares that this is done using discourse so that the coach learns the current status for the teachers as well as his challenges, ideas, questions, goals, ideas and experiences.

In this chapter, the metaphor of coach as vehicle for change/transformation is revisited (as in chapter 6). The goal of coaching is to build efficacy and capacity through supporting teachers’ thinking and learning. Unfortunately, little research has been done on literacy coaching specifically, but research exists on the positive impacts of broader types of professional development which include literacy coaching. One of the challenges of research on the effects of literacy coaching is the difficulty of establishing a cause and effect relationship between coaching and student achievement. This problem may be of little issue since coaching focuses more directly on teacher growth rather than student achievement.

In the realm of teacher growth, literacy coaching can explicitly change behaviour, thinking, collaboration and feelings. An implicit effect occurs on teacher identify. Toll identifies four identities for teachers: “The Obedient Teacher”, “The Good Teacher”, “The Problem-Solving Teacher”, and “The Teacher with Agency” (Knight, 2008, p. 63). There is a reciprocal relationship between coaching teachers and the identity of teachers.

The challenge to literacy coaching is the lack of clarity around the term and the role. The term literacy coach is sometimes used to refer to someone who works with students; Toll defines the role as someone who works with teachers so there is a confusion of duties. She defines three duties for literacy coaches: one-on-one conferences with teachers, small group discussions of teachers with the coach, and demonstration lessons (Knight, 2008, p. 65). Unlike the other authors in this book, she stresses that teacher observation can be stressful for teachers and should only be done upon teacher request. Another problem of clarity is that a literacy coach may be given one of many titles which results in confusion about who performs the role. The third confusion is that some people confuse programs and models. A model is derived from theories and concepts and while some programs may do the same and can be used to derive a model, other programs are developed whimsically and do not correlate with a model. In conclusion, Toll provides  some guidelines for examining coaching programs.

I’m not so concerned about the terms and roles of coaching but I think that it’s important that each organization ascribe to a particular definition or create a well defined role. Are you in a coaching position? What is your title? Is your job well defined? How could it be clarified?

The issue of teacher observation has been the most challenging component of coaching to me; it feels like evaluation. However, some colleagues have been discussing co-teaching and this could provide a useful model for teacher feedback and reflection for professional growth. Co-teaching can be tricky when it comes to coaching teachers; depending on how it is structured, it can either be part of teacher coaching or student coaching. I think that the differentiating elements relates to teacher reflection, and discourse.

The issue of evaluating coaches is an important one, I think. As we define the role of a coach, we should make sure that evaluation and assessment matches that definition.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Leadership Coaching: Facilitating and Supporting Change

By Goalfinder.com, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
By Goalfinder.com, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By Goalfinder.com, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Coaches can help their clients in self-discovery to make sure that energy drains are overcome for a healthy and successful life. Coaches help each client consider their whole life, both personal and professional as one affects the other. Coaches are open-minded and embark on a journey full of possibility with clients. They help clients clarify goals and identify actions to achieve the goals, and to reflect on progress to refine enactment. They encourage leaders to have a positive attitude about their life and responsibilities and help develop the leader as a whole person. Every leader has multiple roles in a workplace including that of individual as well as member of the organization. A leadership coach considers all the roles of a person in coaching him.

Reiss identifies 8 factors necessary for successful change, many of which parallel factors in coaching. They include passionate commitment, attention and focus, vision, action, support, letting go of deterrence, being aware of beliefs that hold you back, and challenging assumptions (Knight, 2008, p. 186). Brain research shows that people can train their brain to create change, and that new thoughts coupled with action leads to new behavior. Brain research shows four areas of brain function that explain the effectiveness of coaching: attention, reflection, insight and action.

Brain connection develops through use and practice. By giving attention to actions related to a solution rather than a problem, a person builds new helpful connections in the brain.

Reflection provides access to the right side of the brain which is more emotional/sensing.

Conversations between the coach and client provide insight that provide energy for action.

A person will have the most success if she uses the energy produced by insight to push her goal forward through action. Insight reveals thoughts and allows a person to choose new thoughts which can channel action.

Hiring a new leader can be an expensive endeavor for schools. It may be prudent for schools to look into coaching existing leaders, which also increases job satisfaction and retention. In the event where a school/district needs to hire a new leader, leadership coaching smooths the transition and established a course of success for the new leader in the job.

In education, we talk about educating the whole child. We understand that children are not robots who can turn off and on for learning, and that the experiences and circumstances of a child outside of school affect their school life. It stands to reason that the same is true of adults. The roots of a professional problem may be linked to a personal problem; the best results will be achieved by addressing the problems and their interactions together. It seems to me that the factors in leadership coaching also apply to other types of coaching as well.

Some years ago, at a previous job, one of my professional development goals was to work with a mentor. What is a mentor but coach as expert? I see the value of coaching as a means of professional development. In my role of technology coordinator, which comprises different roles at different times, knowing about and being able to apply the components of coaching would be beneficial to me, to those that I work with, and to my organization.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Leadership Coaching: Role and Actions

Image by Adrian Trendall: License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Image by Adrian Trendall: License. CC BY-SA 3.0

Image by Adrian Trendall. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Many people who have not experienced coaching have little understanding of the process and believe that coaching is only useful for fixing people. However coaching is useful for refining skills and gaining new skills that can be professional, personal or interpersonal. Coaching requires training and professional coaches have a minimum of 125 hours of training and practice in being an effective coach.

A coach listens to what is being said for the underlying thoughts and beliefs to help the client to identify priorities and implement them. In addition to dialogue and discourse, the coach advises the coachee in self-observation and reflection to guide or modify practice. The aim of the coach is not to fix the coachee, but rather to ignite the coachee’s potential to attain her goals. The recipe for effective coaching in the form of memorable results includes mixing “skills, attitudes, and process with a trusting relationship” (p. 178, Knight, 2008).

Leadership coaching is based on a trusting, confidential relationship. This makes it hard for supervisors who have an evaluative role to be a coach to those that they evaluate. A school leader cannot effectively coach person when there is no trust, confidentiality, honesty or openness in their relationship. There may be a conflict of interest if the coach is also the evaluating supervisor. However, all leaders can apply leadership coaching skills to modify the way that they communicate and act with staff to encourage them to use a growth mindset for desired change and improvement. Reiss lists seven behaviours of leaders applying a coaching style to help employees identify a goal for improvement and an appropriate intervention.  The key to a coaching style of leadership is for the leader to be able to have open, non-judgmental conversations with employees focused on the attainment of a specific goal.

School leaders can become more effective by working with a coach, and can also build their leadership coaching skills to guide employees, students or anyone in the process of change. One of the biggest areas of support for school leaders is on developing their interpersonal skills, and their capacity for dealing with change. Coaches can make a difference in attaining outcomes through their inspiration, curiosity, compassion, courage, thinking, problem-solving and support; this summarizes Reiss’ list of 10 attributes. Coaches help their clients find a way to make their goal a reality.

Coaches are becoming more commons in schools and school districts. Research is beginning to show the value of coaching as part of professional development for teachers. Ideally, a person interested in coaching would have a choice of coaches who do not supervise him and would select one that fits his needs.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Leadership Coaching

In Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching, Karla Reiss discusses the value of coaching as embodying the best components of professional development. She presents the view that coaching is personalised to the needs of the leader to realise the goals of an organisation. She explains that coaching is necessary for transformational change, and should be viewed as “a process, leadership style, and continuous improvement strategy” (Knight, 2008, p. 168). She recognises the need for studies on the effect of coaching on leadership in schools, and presents research from industry which shows that coaching has a positive impact on the leader and the organisation in a broad range of areas including job satisfaction, beliefs about coaching, organisational structure, relevant skills, and tenure.

Reiss states that every leader can get better with coaching.  Coaching is individualised and contextualised with a focus on flexibility and growth mindset to help leaders deal with changes and achieve their mission and vision. Leaders can also apply a coaching approach to their leadership through weekly meetings to discuss goals, progress made, perceived obstacles, and paths for continued progress. The most important skills of a coach are listening and questioning to learn about the person being coached, the situation, and the context to support the coach in coming up with individualised solutions that will lead to success.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Differentiated Coaching: The Coaching Plan

The final step in differentiated coaching is to create a coaching plan. An information gathering sheet can be completed in any order to record the coaching styles and strategies that the coach thinks will be most effective for providing evidence that could change teacher beliefs.

Coaches have to work the hardest when working with teachers who have an opposite personality type. Completing this four step differentiated coaching process may complicate coaching, but it provides a framework where the coach can achieve success with all teachers. Success is defined as interventions resulting in greater student learning, providing clear evidence of improvement that can challenge and change teacher beliefs.

Differentiated coaching makes sense to me. I know that I respond best to coaching styles that match my Mayers-Briggs Type Indicator. It stands to reason that the same would be true of other educators. It would be useful to know the personality types of colleagues; this information could make coaching them more successful, and a more pleasant experience for both parties. We know the importance of student centered teaching and learning; it is also true of adult education and professional development.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 7: Differentiated Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Differentiated Coaching: Identifying the Problem

After steps one and two, it’s time to identify the problem that the teacher wants to solve. Kise cautions that the coach may need to help the teacher identify the problem to solve. The problem to solve is the biggest one, the one that affects other goals. The coach may have to probe to discover this problem; the teacher may identify a problem that is secondary. Cognitive coaching may be the ideal model but the coach may need to be more directive to meet the needs of certain teachers.

Kise has provided a template of an information gathering sheet that records the personality types of the teacher and coach, beliefs, goals, roles and evidence of success. The form is a good reminder to me of the importance of recording coaching practice and reflecting on the process of coaching to improve my coaching practice,

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 7: Differentiated Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Differentiated Coaching: Identifying Teacher Beliefs

The second step in differentiated coaching, after hypothesizing personality type, is identifying teacher beliefs.

Kise gives evidence in this section that teachers do not examine practices that align with their beliefs, so to change practice, coaches need to address beliefs.

Teacher beliefs about coaching come into play. Different personality types have different perceptions of the role of a coach. Kise presents a table of the four coaching types with practical advice for coaches working with individuals of each type. The four types are ST, SF, NF and NT.

It would be useful for me to reflect further on the four coaching types and use the ideas presented there to inform my work with teachers. Kise presents a table with ideas of the information, evidence and interaction/coaching style most suitable to each personality type. I found it interesting to learn more about my personality type, with an explanation/confirmation of the type of mentoring/coaching that I respond to best.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 7: Differentiated Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.