Put me in, coach: Coaching the digital educator (part 2)

Coaching can provide a networked community to jumpstart implementation


Welcome back. In Part 1 of this series, we discovered the downside to technological integration: that some educators remain uncertain about the best approaches, practices, and implementations for technology in the learning environment.

One method for breaking down these barriers is to incorporate coaching that supports and mentors educators, while providing a rich, supportive communal atmosphere that fosters collaboration and innovation.

In Part 2, we’ll delve into three coaching models recommended the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). These coaching models are designed to ensure educator success and enhance professional development by aligning coaching with the educator’s own knowledge and beliefs.

Model One: Cognitive Coaching

According to the Thinking Collaborative (TC), an organization that offers educational programs and seminars, “Cognitive Coaching is a model that supports individuals and organizations in becoming self-directed, and in turn, becoming self-managing, self-monitoring and self-modifying.” Cognitive Coaching does this through coaching question techniques, feedback loops, and conversational models.

(Next page: Models 2-3)

Originally developed by Art Costa and Bob Garmston, the objective of Cognitive Coaching is to empower the individual to form and reform the way they approach and solve problems. The theory is that once mental capacity is enriched, the individual is also enriched.

ISTE states that Cognitive Coaching is based on four propositions

  • Thought and perception produce all behavior.
  • Teaching is a constant decision-making process.
  • Learning something new requires engagement and alteration in thought.
  • Humans continue to grow cognitively.

The idea here is that self-directed individuals with strong cognitive capacity can be both independent as well as active members of a community. Because teaching involves complex intellectual activity, educators who “think at higher levels produce students who are higher achieving, more cooperative, and better problem solvers.” It’s ultimately a win-win for the educator and the learner.

In addition, the crux of Cognitive Coaching is to develop trust, establish rapport, and facilitate a sense of autonomy combined with a sense of community. This communal cocoon provides the educator a protected space to express ideas, brainstorm concepts, and resolve problems. In others words, failure is an option and that’s okay, because you have a team, a coach, and a safe environment in which to learn from mistakes and implement a better approach.

Model Two: Instructional Coaching

The basic premise of Instructional Coaching (IC) is to guide educators on specific areas of focus. IC targets teaching practices proven to have a positive effect on teaching and learning methodologies. Jim Knight, research associate in the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning and director of the Kansas Coaching Project (more on that in a bit), describes IC as providing “intensive, differentiated support to educators so that they are able to implement proven practices.”

Though ISTE touts IC as a definitive coaching model, there’s one slight challenge: few juicy details exist on what this model actual is. Perhaps ISTE figured the title said it all? Nonetheless, IC initiatives are expanding into school districts across the United States, which gives us two comprehensive case studies to further examine IC.

(Next page: Real examples)

Case Study: The University of Kansas Coaching Project

The Kansas Coaching Project (Knight’s project) links professional learning to educators to improved academic outcomes for students. For this project, IC coaches were onsite tutoring educators on ways to apply evidence-based teaching practices. In addition, the IC coaches demonstrated ways to apply these practices in a variety of educational settings. This hands-on approach gave educators guidance when they needed it most.

The result of the study was also the Big Four, “a comprehensive framework for instructional excellence made up of practices that are both easy for educators to implement and powerful in terms of effect on teaching and learning.”

Model Three: Peer Coaching

Saving the best for last, of the three model Peer Coaching offers the greatest impact and sustainability. This model zeroes in on training educators to help one another integrate technology. A savvy buddy system, this approach hinges on the coach’s response as an important aspect for the educator to improve their professional development (PD) skill-set. Peer coaching, the ISTE research notes, “focuses on collaboration as a central component to generate the best possible results.”

This model has five stages:

Stage 1: Assess – determine the educator’s technology skills and instructional strategies, then define a lesson or project that the educator can successfully implement.

Stage 2: Set Goals – set reasonable and realistic goals linked to the school’s educational goals and curricular standards.

Stage 3: Prepare – have coachees use a learning activity checklist to evaluate the strength of a proposed lesson, project, or unit.

Stage 4: Implement Activities – demonstrate the coaching benefit through a technology-rich lesson or team teaching.

Stage 5: Analyze and Debrief – evaluate by reflecting on opportunities, instruction, and tools.

(Next page: What does all this mean?)

Case studies in Peer Coaching suggest that the collaborative community established between the coach and the educators fostered interaction, shared of resources, and the creation and support of professional learning communities between and within schools and districts.

What Does All This Mean?

The soundest approach is to pick the coaching model that best fits the institution, the educator, and the goals that need to be accomplished. The crucial component is to implement a coaching program, with the idea in mind of doing it sooner rather than later.

The ideal pairing is a technically savvy educator with an educator who’s eager to adopt technological advances, yet stymied by what to and how best to do it. Coaching empowers educators and provides a networked community to not only jumpstart implementation but produce an ongoing kinship of support. That treatise alone is a strong argument for intertwining coaching into every phase of technological development and implementation.

The last of our series, Part 3, is ten tips ISTE has outlined to successfully implement a coaching program.

GinaMaria Jerome is a business analyst at EM&CS.

Helpful Links and Resources

The Kansas Project

International Coach Federation

International Society for Technology in Education

Collaborative Coaching and Networking for Online Instructors