This past week I was asked to speak on a panel about virtual professional learning structures and strategies to an audience of over 600 P-12 educators world-wide. While COVID has been a stressful disruptor, it also has been an innovator -- Teachers are seeking ways to learn how to improve their pedagogy in virtual settings. Educators are resilient, and this webinar was in response to school leaders asking how to provide virtual professional learning and coaching at a time when many teachers are new to online teaching and learning. The guidance I shared was not about the logistics or platforms used for virtual coaching. Instead, I approached the conversation from my perspective that meaningful virtual professional learning and coaching provides feedback on conscious shifts in critical pedagogy and their impact on students.
From a historical context, the effective use of video to guide reflection and feedback has been researched since the 1960’s (Lewis & Jones, 2019; Rich & Hannafin, 2009). Virtual coaching has been identified as a potentially cost-effective and useful method of promoting change in instructional practices. My own research has also shown that professional learning paired with coaching has a greater impact on student outcomes if the coaching is (1) grounded in teaching with a social, emotional, and cultural lens (Markowitz & Bouffard, 2020); (2) builds upon a person’s self-efficacy (Summers, 2020); and (3) helps support reflection of improvement goals by engaging in invitational rhetoric (Foss & Foss, 2003).
Lewis & Jones (2019) state that “people participate in tasks in which they feel confident and avoid those in which they do not” (p. 4). Hence, when implementing a newly learned online instructional practice, teachers need to be encouraged to record themselves and watch self-selected, recorded virtual lessons and reflect on why they made the instructional decisions they did and consider the reasons why their students responded the way they did. A recorded video can document teacher and student actions and provide specific evidence that encourages metacognition about choices an educator makes that might otherwise be forgotten. Then, a teacher should review student work to see if there is evidence of student improvement as a result of their changed pedagogical practices. When teachers are able to observe, reflect on, and share evidence of improvement in their students’ work, actions and/or behaviors, their own self-efficacy increases.
As part of the professional learning with coaching approach, teachers can learn how to try one new small action of their choosing within a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. Teachers report that a sense of ownership and the ability to look at one action helps them feel less overwhelmed. An example is that after a team of teachers learned about five equity-based math practices (Aguirre, Mayfield-Ingram & Martin, 2013), they were coached to select one practice to try for two weeks and observe the impact that practice had on a student.
After two weeks, the teachers realized they previously had a deficit mind-set about these students and needed to examine their own biases. When asked, they reflected that because they had been given a choice about what to try and were coached from a place of non-judgement, they were more willing to try something and asked for more professional learning. Student voice continued to increase within those classes. Evidence of impact came from the coaches (1) observing teacher’s actions based upon their established PDSA goal, (2) observing students’ responses in classes; and (3) analyzing statements made during student focus groups before and after the implementation of the professional learning. These practices can still occur regardless of whether the teaching is remote or in-person.
References and Resources
Aguirre, J., Mayfield-Ingram, K. & Martin, D. (2013). The impact of identity in K-8 mathematics: Rethinking equity-based practices. NCTM.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall.
Bryk, A.S., Gomez, L.M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P.G. (2016). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can bet better at getting better. Harvard Education Press.
Foss, S. K. & Foss, K. A. (2003). Inviting transformation: Presentational speaking for a changing world (2nd ed.). Waveland Press, Inc.
Guskey, T. R. (2016). Gauge impact with five levels of data. Journal of Staff Development, 37(1), 32-37.
Killion, J. & Harrison, C. (2017). Taking the lead (2nd ed.). Learning Forward.
Knight, J. (2014). Focus on teaching: Using video for high-impact instruction. Corwin.
Lewis, T. E. and Jones, K. D. (2019) Increasing principal candidates’ self-efficacy through virtual coaching. Journal of Organizational & Educational Leadership, 4(3), Article 4.
Markowitz, N. L. & Bouffard, S. (2020). Teaching with a social, emotional, and cultural lens: A framework for educators and teacher educators. Harvard Educational Press.
Rich, P. J., & Hannafin, M. (2009). Video annotation tools: Technologies to scaffold, structure and transform teacher reflection. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(1), 52–67.
Summers, L. (2020). The right blend: SEL skills support teacher learning in person and online. The Learning Professional, 41(4), 32-36.