How to coach a ‘digital educator’ (Part 1)

Coaching expert explains why support is especially needed for online, digital teachers


Got Technology? Ah, yes, we’re inundated with it. Technology lingers at the hub of almost every sector of our lives, work, and now, education.

Its influx into the education arena has left harried educators pondering the most effective ways to leverage technology to provide powerful, engaging learning experiences. To complicate matters further, those experiences need to include resources and assessments to measure student achievement in real-world, meaningful ways.

Because without this technological integration and these resources, today’s students risk being unprepared to be productive in the highly competitive, globalized digital workplace.

How Do I Do This?

Educators are fully aware that not integrating technology effectively results in disengaged students who no longer live in a paper-and-pencil world. Educators certainly don’t want their students excluded from these enriched technological advances.

There are educators who embrace state-of-the-art changes, while others remain at a loss as to how to develop authentic learning experiences that leverage technological creativity and innovation. And with so many competing priorities and a complex array of technical choices, how does one go about implementing all this technology successfully?

(Next page: How and why coaching is used in the digital learning landscape)

One answer to this increasing dilemma is to incorporate coaching into the digital learning spectrum. Studies have shown that coaching provides mentoring and peer collaboration for educators, yielding the greatest opportunity for their success. As a professionally-trained and certified coach, I confess my bias toward coaching. But I’ve also seen the amazing results it brings about and believe wholeheartedly that it is a sound and viable method of support, community, and shared success.

But Will This Work?

Researchers at Regent University have concluded that while training prior to online instruction is imperative, the true benchmark is assisting faculty in the transition, which includes coaching. They write that using “collaborative coaching and networking into the instructors’ training and support plan serves as an impetus not only for initial training but also for continual improvement of their online pedagogical strategies in light of increasing student and technological sophistication.”

In this three-part series, we’ll explore how coaching supports digital educators, which coaching models are deemed the most effective, and tips for integrating technology, coaching, and community. We’ll start with basics and define coaching. Then we’ll delve into coaching models. We’ll wrap up with tips on how to implement a successful coaching program.

What is Coaching?

Coaching has many meanings to many people. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), the accreditation body for professional coaches, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Another ascribed resource, Harry Wong, a San Francisco Bay Area educator and coaching expert, explains that coaches “help maximize personal and professional potential, while concomitantly upgrading their own professional proficiency… Coaching is customized and focused on providing instruction on what needs to be accomplished.” Wong further comments that “educators feel more motivated and responsible to act on new skills because coaching makes them personalized and customized on an ongoing basis.” (Wong & Wong, 2008)

What Makes Coaching Successful?

The global organization for educators known as International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a strong proponent of education, technology, and coaching. This international body strives to connect educators so they can share ideas and knowledge to transform education. ISTE also offers innovative resources, hosts conferences, conducts research, and publishes extensive papers technology and education.

ISTE emphasizes that “coaching becomes a more effective model for today’s educator because it builds a distinct level of mutual respect and trust with the individual being coached, translating into a more effective learning environment.” According to ISTE for coaching to be effective it must incorporate three essential components:

Context: Coaching practices must be in context with what can be used immediately.

Relevance: Coached information must be highly relevant to the lessons being taught.

Ongoing: Coaching support must be provided on a day-to-day basis where educators can practice newly learned skills.

ISTE further recommends the application of a three-pronged methodology that encompasses:

  • An effective coaching model
  • Online communities for greater collaborative idea sharing
  • A fully embedded use of technology

What is the Best Coach Approach?

The lynchpin in successfully linking coaching and educators is to select an effectual coaching model that is applicable to the specific educator, their beliefs, and the course development method they’re using. In Part 2, we’ll explore three coaching models designed to ensure both educator and learner success.

Check out The Teaching & Learning blog for more articles.

Helpful Links and Resources

International Coach Federation

International Society for Technology in Education

Collaborative Coaching and Networking for Online Instructors

GinaMaria Jerome is a business analyst at Pearson.

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