The Identity of a Cognitive Coach

License: CC0 Public Domain

License: CC0 Public Domain

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 4: Cognitive Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

People take different roles in their interactions with others. The authors present Costa and Garmston’s (2002) four metaphorical orientations which are parent, expert, friend and boss which a person may hold in contrast to Cognitive Coaching.

Cognitive Coaching mediates thinking from a neutral nonjudgmental perspective to empower teachers in the process of thinking as opposed to the content of thinking. Cognitive coaching see themselves as “mediators of thinking” (Knight, 2008, p. 87), and this belief influences their experiences, perceptions and interactions. It is in sharpest contrast to the orientation of expert. Experts value their personal knowledge and skills and tend to give advice and solve problems for others. The role of expert may be a useful support function, but it should be used carefully as it is one-directional, leading to dependence. Coaches sometimes need to take on other roles such a collaborator, consultant or evaluator, but by starting from the Cognitive Coaching stance, the coach is better able to consider the needs of the teacher in deciding what coaching role to play. For people who identify as Cognitive Coaches, they may practice other types of coaching, but default to Cognitive Coaching in each new situation.

This final section of Chapter 3 clarifies that Cognitive Coaching can be part of the toolbox of a coach, but the push for coaches to identify as cognitive coaches is strong.

This chapter has introduced the idea of Cognitive Coaching but I am unsure about how it applies in practice. I buy the argument that cognitive coaching is the surest way to professional growth, transformational learning and lasting change. In my work with teachers, I see that they (we) are passionate people who have strongly held believes about teaching and learning. They’re thoughtful people who want the best for their students. I think that Cognitive Coaching recognizes this and uses it in the process of empowering teachers for professional growth.

The biggest contributor for me to discontent in any position is feeling undervalued. I want to be valued as a professional who has knowledge, skills, experiences that will benefit my organization. I like to engage in the process of self-reflection (and peer feedback) to learn from my experiences and determine how I can improve my practice. I would benefit from Cognitive Coaching for my own professional growth and would like to try it in my work with teachers. Before I can do that, I need to learn more about the methodology.

Cognitive Coaching: Three Conversation Maps

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 4: Cognitive Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

There are three maps that coaches can use in Cognitive Coaching: The Planning Conversation Map, the Reflection Conversation Map, and the Problem-Resolving Map. I decided to try to visually represent my understanding of the three maps. I have very little experience with drawing and do it quite poorly, but I think I was able to represent the main ideas of the three maps. The authors stress that the stages of the map do not have to be followed in sequence, and that it may be necessary to complete all the stages in a particular map. They also explain that it is possible to apply the maps in both formal and informal conversations; in informal conversations, the coach can also follow up on other necessary parts of the map at a future date. “The focus of coaching is on serving the needs of the person in the moment, not on completing the maps” (Jim Knight, 2008, p. 85)

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

Cognitive Coaching: Supporting Professional Growth

License: CC0 Public Domain

License: CC0 Public Domain

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 4: Cognitive Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Cognitive coaching is a non-judgmental, constructivist approach to coaching. It aims to value the capacity of humans to use their mind in the process of development and growth. Cognitive Coaching assumes that humans have an intrinsic drive to learn and grow, and engages higher level thinking of participants to realize this drive. “[Cognitive Coaching] provides support for managing the tensions of autonomy and community” (Knight, 2008, p. 80).

As I read the description of a Cognitive Coach as a mediator who helps the coachee make sense of his experience to derive new learning (or meaning) that will be useful in navigating future experiences or meeting goals, the model got a bit clearer to me. This is phrased more elegantly as “the intention of the coach is to assist the learner in clarifying, developing, and modifying his or her internal schema (Costa & Garmston, 2002, as cited in Knight, 2008, p. 80).

The authors present theories by Robert Kegan that are related to Cognitive Coaching. These include three stages of adult development: socializing, self-authoring, and self-transformational. Adults at the socializing level assess their worth based on how others judge their value. Adults who are self-authoring hold personal values and use personal standards to judge their value. At the self-transforming stage, adults value challenges and tests as a way to grow and develop understanding. Most adults stay between the first two stages because they develop informational learning (knowledge and skills) rather than transformational learning (ways of knowing). Cognitive coaching can be used for transformational learning by providing the right balance of inquiry, challenge and support.

Cognitive Coaching is one of four support functions that we can see in education. Ellison and Hayes present Cognitive Coaching as the optimal support function because of its relationship to transformational learning. The other three support functions are evaluation (external evaluation), collaboration (collective evaluation) and consultation (goal setting by external evaluator).

I’ve read other research in education that speaks of the importance of teacher beliefs in the success of professional development. It seems to me that a non-judgmental, open environment for reflecting on experience through the lens of refining/reconstructing thinking, and challenging values, identify, mental models and beliefs would open the way for changing practice. I think it would benefit me to see this approach in practice. I’m wondering how Cognitive Coaching addresses the necessary informational learning for implementing change, along with the transformational learning that will drive the change.

 

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

Cognitive Coaching: The Five States of Mind

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 4: Cognitive Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

The Five States of Mind in Cognitive Coaching are efficacy, consciousness, craftsmanship, flexibility and interdependence.

Efficacy within a school leads to a positive environment where teachers believe that their actions will have positive results on student learning. Teacher efficacy leads to a general attitude of openness and and enthusiasm which leads to success, thereby feeding higher efficacy.

Consciousness is the State of Mind that allows attention to both internal processes, external cues, and past experiences to understand an experience. A conscious person asks internal questions to determine perceptions, biases and thinking processes, while monitoring the situation as it unfolds.

Craftsmanship is intrinsic motivation to strive for excellence. Teachers with craftsmanship aims for excellent for both themselves and their students. They use self-assessment to determine next steps for continued growth and development for continued excellence.

Flexibility is the State of Mind that opens us up to other possibilities and perspectives besides our own. It allows us to move pass our egocentricity to surprise and greater understanding. It is necessarily for interdependence and creativity, because multiple points of view build understanding and new solutions/possibilities.

Humans can be egocentric (self-centred), allocentric (other-centered) or macrocentric (system-centered). Interdependence is the state of mind that allows us to see past the egocentric self to the other two types of selves. Mutuality and reciprocity are important concepts in interdependence so that each person sees her contribution and her benefits from the system, with an understanding of the value of both.

I appreciate that the five states of minds are significant in determining the experience of a person and his perception. I’m not sure how they will be applied in Cognitive Coaching. Does the coach explicitly go through the states of mind with the coachee, or implicitly use the states of mind in coaching? I’m confused as to how this would work, and look forward to finding out more as I continue the chapter.

I’m also curious about the phrase States of Mind, especially given the capitalization in the book. I’m familiar with Habits of Mind for IBDP and am wondering if the two terms are equivalent.

 

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

Cognitive Coaching

This is the ninth post in a series based on my reading of Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 4: Cognitive Coaching. You can filter my posts to find all the posts in the series by using the Coaching category.

Chapter 4: Cognitive Coaching is written by Jane Ellison and Carolee Hayes. The two authors established the Center for Cognitive Coaching to share the methodology.

Cognitive Coaching is a  methodology used to build the thinking capacity of participants. “The mission of Cognitive Coaching is to produce self-directed persons with the cognitive capacity for high performance both independently and as members of a community.” (Costa & Garmston, 2002, p. 16 as cited in Knight, 2008, p. 73).

The mission shows that Cognitive Coaching is results driven, focused on developing educators that are self-managing, self-monitoring and self-modifying so that they are able to live and work as individuals and as members of systems without any tension between those selves.

Self-managing refers to the ability to assess your existing circumstances, identify goals, and specify clear indicators of what a successful outcome would look like. Self-monitoring involves being able to listen, observe and collect data to see how well you are progressing towards your goals. Self-modifying refers to being able to use observations and data to modify thinking, actions, and plans to be able to better meet goals.

One sentence in this chapter gave me pause: “Cognitive Coaching expands the traditional work of an educator to include developing internal cognitive, social, and emotional capacities within others” (Knight, 2008, p. 74). I look forward to learning more about this. I’m also attracted to the concept that the self and system are interconnected, interdependent, and inseparable. I’d like me like to be whole, not broken up into pieces and I am curious to learn more about holonomy, which is a new word for me.

 

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

Successful Instructional Coaching

Chapter 2: Instructional Coaching ends with a presentation of seven factors that affect the success of coaching. They are time, the best practices presented, the professional development of the coach, the coaching relationship, the relationship between the principal and the coach, the skills and attributes of the coach, and the evaluation of the coach.

The key ideas in this section are of the importance of having the coach focus on working with teachers to apply best practices that will improve student learning. Care should be taken to provide professional development for the coach so that she learns both how to coach teachers and what teaching practices to coach teachers in. She needs to work closely with the principal to ensure that they have the same perspective on instructional coaching, and on the role of the coach. The evaluation of the coach provides an opportunity for professional learning; involving the coach in developing the process for evaluation can lead to greater buy-in.

I agree that professional development on the why and what of coaching is important. It would be great to share professional development on coaching with other coaches within the same school. I think that it would be useful to have the evaluation of the coach tied to the goals of the program, which is related to the job description, and use the evaluation to create a professional development plan for the coach. The International Society for Technology in Education has developed standards for technology coaches; I’ve used these standards for self evaluation in the past. I would love a process whereby my job description is directly linked with my evaluation and formal support for professional development from my principal.

 

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

Instructional Coaching: Explore, Refine and Reflect

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Explore, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll, Identify and Explain, and Model and Observe.

Knight explains that the exploration stage should happen soon after the model and observe stages. The two collaborators should meet very soon after the observation to discuss the observation, using the data for further dialogue. It is important for the instructional coach to highlight the positive aspects of the lesson observed, ensuring that any compliment is genuine and authentic. Knight reminds us that positive feedback should be specific, direct and nonattributive. The explanation given is that vague or attributive compliments do not give a person any new knowledge about what he knows about himself, but a specific, direct, nonattributive compliment highlights a specific act that the person may not even have been aware of the action or impact. The instructional coach also shares her opinion, and should be careful to present it in such a way that it is clear that it’s just one perspective and there are other equally valid points of view. Dialogue is very important here so that both the teacher and instructional coach can learn from the observation and come to agreement about next steps.

The next component is refinement. This component is concerned with customizing the process for the needs of the teacher. This means deciding which of the ?? components of coaching to use, and in what order. In deciding the components to use, the instructional coach must know what the teacher needs, because the coach should provide the optimal amount of coaching to the teacher, which is just enough for each chosen intervention. When the teacher has attained the goal set, the collaborators shift their focus to a new goal.

The final component of coaching is reflection. Both the coach and the teacher should be learning from the coaching experience. While the teacher is learning a teaching practice, the coach can be learning a variety of things including coaching skills. It is important for the coach to record what she is learning. One useful model may be to keep a record of the desired outcome, the actual outcome, an explanation of the discrepancy and a discussion of possible modifications to the process for better results.

I was unclear about what was meant by nonattributive. Knight explained it as making sure that the compliment focuses on an action/experience rather than an attribute. The example contrasts the impact of wait time (you waited 10 s which gave Ashley enough time to correctly answer a question and she was clearly excited about her success) over patience (you were patient).

I used to think that Knight meant the components to be linear, and was struggling with that. The refinement step clarified the process for me and made the components seem more useful in practice.

I do reflect about my experiences working with teachers but I don’t always make time to write down what I learned, or I don’t keep track of my reflections in an organized way. I’ve recently decided to use Evernote for all my note-taking, unless the minutes are being kept in a collaborative Google document. I think that it would be a good idea for me to make an Evernote for every meeting that I attend, even if to indicate that the minutes are in a Google document. It’s easy to lose tract of information or become overwhelmed with the multiple ways of receiving and accessing information. It would be useful to me to have one tool for everything. Because I take lots of notes on my phone and iPad, Evernote seems a good option.

 

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

Instructional Coaching: Model and Observe

License: CC0 Public Domain

License: CC0 Public Domain

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Explore, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll, Identify and Explain.

Knight explains that modeling and observation are complementary activities that do not have to be stressful to the teacher. He stresses the important of the approach of equal partnership, with the teacher and instructional coach co-creating the form that will be used for recording observations. The teacher uses the form to observe the practice being modeled in a lesson; the coach uses the same form when observing the teacher’s teaching. Knight stresses the importance of recording what the teacher does well, as well as any suggestions, focusing on the teaching practice being explored. A form is usually adequate for observations, but in some cases it may be necessary to record data to determine the progress in using a particular teaching approach.
To me, the important consideration in any observation is to make sure that the collaborating teacher and coach both have clear, shared understanding of the purpose of the observation. It seems clear to me that to respect teachers as equal partners, they need to be part of the process of determining the focus, as well as planning implementation. To get the most professional growth out of an experience, it is important for teachers to engage in reflection; this works best if they fully understand the process and are completely engaged in it.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Instructional Coaching: Identifying and Explaining

Magnifying glass by Auntie P, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Magnifying glass by Auntie P, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll before; this post address the next two components.

In the Identify Step, it is up to the instructional coach to respond to teacher interest and schedule a meeting as quickly as possible. This meeting is for the teacher and instructional coach to agree on the goal of their work with each other. The instructional coach may observe the teacher’s class if the teacher would like a suggestion of teaching practice to implement.
The next step is Explain. The challenge here is for the instructional coach to adequately and accurately explain the teaching practice in the amount of time that she has with the teacher. Knight presents five tactics to help with explanations:
clarify, synthesise, break down, empathise and simplify. A key idea in clarify for me is the importance of discussing teaching practices with other professionals in the same job to build thorough understanding of best practices. This is essential to allow synthesis where the instructional coach summarises the key features of the teaching practice. Synthesis can be combined with the breaking down of the practice. The instructional coach can help the teacher access the teaching practice by breaking down its components into manageable pieces to scaffold the process. This can help remove teachers’ anxiety. The instructional coach can further reduce anxiety by empathising with the teacher and anticipating the practical concerns that the teacher may have with respect to implementing the teaching practice.  And last, instructional should keep the explanation simple without dumbing it down.
Reflection: My Takeaways/Extensions
 
I hoped that moving to ISP and working with other people in the same position would provide an opportunity for constructing shared understanding that would help me in my coaching work (clarify). This has happened informally but I would love to see the collaboration formalised. I’m also thinking about how I can make better use of Twitter, Google Hangouts and the rest of my professional learning network for focused professional growth to support instructional coaching.
 
One suggestion in synthesis was to create checklists that could help teachers identify the teaching behaviours of the best practice being presented. I think that’s a good idea. Teachers often ask for models of teaching practice being discussed/taught. We have been having conversations in elementary school about making better use of the strengths within our school; this could take the form of peer observations, allowing teachers to exercise greater autonomy and create their own checklists based on observations. Peer observations and even online videos can be very useful for contextualizing the teaching practice and communicating it more effectively. 
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

The Coaching Partnership

By Obsidian Soul (Own work), License CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Obsidian Soul (Own work), License CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Chapter 2: Instructional Coaching, Jim Knight reminds us that instructional coaches support teachers with their specific needs to be able to implement research based best practices for teaching. Support could include model/demonstration lessons, observation of classrooms/teaching, support for professional goals, creation of appropriate assessments and the sharing of knowledge in accessible language; all actions are aimed at improving instruction.

Knight explains that instructional coaching relies on a partnership between the coach and the teacher. He goes on to elucidate the seven principles of the partnership. The are equality, choice, voice, dialogue, reflection, praxis, and reciprocity (pp. 32-33). In summary, it is important for each person to feel valued in the partnership, with opportunities for learning from and with each other to improve teaching/learning.
As a digital learning facilitator, there are several challenges to implementing the partnership principle in my work. At times, colleagues do not see the DLF as an equal partner. It can sometimes be a challenge to be considered an equal educator rather than the IT teacher (specialist). This attitude is changing; dialogue about coaching practice helps this change. Another challenge as a DLF is providing choice. I find it relatively easy to do this with individual teachers and small teams. However, I need to continue exploring more creative means for for giving teachers choice and voice when I am responsible for larger professional development sessions.
In preparing professional development as an instructional coach, there are four proven practices: classroom management, content, instruction, and assessment for learning. Classroom management is the first consideration in coaching because it will be difficult to successfully implement other practices if the classroom is not well managed. Next, it is important that the teacher understands the content, how much detail to communicate to students and how to do so clearly. The next focus is instruction, considering how the teacher will structure her lesson and teach the content so that all students can learn it. Finally, it is important to explore formative assessment, which is used to explore how well students are learning.
I can see how these four practices would make the process of working with teachers on technology integration more effective. The classroom management component may make coaching light the best approach at the beginning of the school year or with new teachers who are setting up the classroom environment. Once the classroom is well managed, we can move on with coaching heavy: content, instruction, assessment. Although this practices are presented linearly, I think that the process may be iterative within a unit as reflection may highlight the importance of modifying the practices (especially instruction and formative assessment) to meet the goal of teaching all students.
*Italics are my thoughts; the rest are notes from the chapter.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.