Teachers can ask pertinent questions of each other to help them keep focused on the focus. The gathering and use of evidence further enhances this process and adds rigour and depth to the work. It enables teachers to be confident that they do have something meaningful to say and to share. The combination of these three elements empowers to share what they are doing and encourages other teachers to listen and to try out some of the ideas too.
We have felt that the successfulness of coaching process in Gateshead is because the triangle method has supported these three elements. The three part coaching cycle provides a framework for teachers to collaborate more effectively in lesson planning. One coachee at a Learning and Teaching group meeting reported on that in the following way. I enjoyed collaboratively planning as I felt it helped both my colleague and to understand what was going on in the classroom at a deeper level. I found that they sharpened the focus on what I was delivering.
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Although a majority of the coachees were anxious about having their lesson videoed, this has been an invaluable resource for collecting evidence to enable the coachee to become a more reflective practitioner. One coachee said that this method had enabled them to be able to eavesdrop onto pupil conversations. For the first time, they could sit back and see the different thinking processes students were experiencing and how individuals were responding to tasks.
Coaching provides a safe environment for both coaches and coachees, giving them the confidence to experiment with their practice. My self awareness has improved, and I would now say I am a better teacher because I am developing my own practice. It has given me the confidence to be more of a risk taker. This work across 10 secondary schools suggests that collaborative nature of the coaching process develops both the interpersonal capacity as well personal capacity. Desforges recognised the need for practitioners to work collaboratively in order to:.
These conversations and follow up conversations in departmental meetings, staffrooms and teaching and learning groups enabled teachers to develop a common language about learning and provided them with the confidence to argue their perspective on learning and teaching issues. In a coaching network meeting, a group of coaches from one school reported with considerable satisfaction that they had:.
Previously, there had never been a time when staff would have got together to have a quality, detailed conversation about AfL. Teachers routinely reflect critically on their practice, sharing their findings with others, triumphs as well as disasters.
Evidence is sought and critically evaluated. People listen sensitively to one another but are not afraid to challenge. Values are discussed but differences acknowledged and learned from. The outcomes so far from the coaching process would suggest that it is helping schools to develop further some of these characteristics. Certainly, coaches and coachees alike have developed their ability to reflect more critically on their practice, to ask more informed questions of the learning going on in their classroom and begin to experiment with a variety of strategies to respond to some of the issues that emerge.
A culture within these schools has developed where an increasing number of teachers are willing to be coached and coaches are developing the confidence to coach their colleagues.
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This has taken time to develop. One coach reported that here confidence had increased and she was now more organised about the process, having gone through 4 cycles. She also felt that feedback was now more controlled: we now focus on the focus. In addition, she had become more reflective in her teaching by coaching herself. There are indications that the practice is gathering momentum in our area. The process has been extended to 15 primary schools who are developing learning coaches.
In each of the schools that have taken on board coaching, there is a similar view being expressed. No two schools have the same approach, each has evolved coaching to suit their own needs. The triangle method tends to be used for training up coaches, but then due to timetabling restrictions, cover and time issues, coaching becomes a process for pairs of people.
As coaching becomes embedded in the schools, some coach co-ordinators are finding that they are developing specialist coaches to respond to emerging needs amongst staff. The coaching process has motivated some teachers to really explore particular aspects of pedagogy for example, questioning, the development of peer assessment or effective plenaries. This in turn has provided schools with a critical mass of teachers with strengths they can tap into for the development of all staff where appropriate.
Desforges, C. Frost, D. Street and K.
Temperley eds Improving Schools through collaborative enquiry. London: Continuum. McBeath, J. School C is an mixed comprehensive secondary school. It has number of pupils on roll. Initially the triangle model was adapted to include four people. This included the deputy Head, an assistant headteacher and two LA consultants. Each person had an opportunity to teach, observe and feedback. This has now developed into paired coaching, each of the three working with another teacher.
A further development of the process is to embed AfL in key subject areas through coaching. Science and English now each have a coach working on AfL principles in their subject area. Coaches use the Learning and Teaching group as a forum for feedback aspects of best practice.
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The group can then transfer these strategies into other curriculum areas. Coachees reported favourably on the process. They felt that it enabled them to see how pupils processed information and how they went about thinking. Through the use of the video camera, they were able to eavesdrop onto pupil conversations. Teachers enjoyed collaboratively planning as they felt it helped each other to understand what was going on in the classroom at a deeper level. They also found that it sharpened the focus on what they were teaching. Working together on AfL has been really useful in sharing materials and ideas, and enabled them to push their thinking further than if they were just working alone.
The coaching conversations were very helpful, non-threatening and provided useful time to develop their thinking on various issues and how to address them. The conversations have enabled teachers to consider and plan for long-term aims too.
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School D, an mixed comprehensive school with pupils on roll, trained up four coaches in the first year, and a presentation was made to staff to launch coaching. This was followed by activity-based workshops led by the coaches and coachees, to enable staff to get a feel for what coaching involved. This led to a number of coachee volunteers. Each of the coaches was responsible for three or four coaches.
The three phases were conducted within a week to ensure pace was kept. Each coachee was entitled to go through the process three times. One coachee has requested to continue after the initial 3.
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This meant that the English department could learn from each other and enabled them to make more effective use of projectors in lessons. Leaders in these systems have rightly recognized that central offices matter substantially to district-wide teaching and learning improvement. Decades of experience and research show that when central office staff do not exercise central leadership in teaching and learning improvement efforts, such initiatives at best produce improvements at a small handful of schools but hardly district-wide or in a sustainable way.
So these leaders are on the right track in their recognition of the roles central leadership can play in district-wide teaching and learning improvement. Various guides and reports on school district central offices highlight the importance of organizational restructuring such as the additional or removal of units and the shifting of reporting lines , shrinking or streamlining of central office staff, and aligning formal central office and school goals and strategies to districtwide teaching and learning improvement efforts.
But experience and research also show that, despite their popularity, such structural reforms alone generally have not been sufficient for district-wide teaching and learning improvements. For example, the experience of the high-profile districtwide reform in San Diego City Schools in the s revealed, in part, that such restructuring, reallocation, and realignment at the central office level did help with the implementation of reform efforts at the school level.
These lessons reflect that high-performance depends not only on formal structures but also fundamentally on the practice of people—how central office administrators understand and go about their work day-to-day in leading for teaching and learning improvement.
Over the past several years, a small number of urban school district central offices have heeded these lessons about the importance of central office leadership practice. Leaders in these districts have aimed to substantially improve teaching and learning district-wide by radically shifting how central office staff work in ways that hold great promise for realizing such results.
Leaders in these districts recognize that improving teaching and learning across a district is a systems problem, demanding engagement of people throughout schools and central offices in coordinated efforts to realize ambitious teaching and learning improvement goals for all students. And they have made substantial investments in fundamentally rethinking how central office administrators participate in such efforts.
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In so doing, these central offices are in largely uncharted territory and find they must invent new ways of working and relating to schools on the job. With support from The Wallace Foundation, we conducted a research study of three urban districts engaged in central office transformation as a district-wide teaching and learning improvement strategy. To better understand what such reform strategies involve, we asked: Who participates in central office transformation?
What are they doing to increase central office support for teaching and learning improvement? What conditions help or hinder them in the process? We grounded our study in two strands of learning theory, and focused data collection and analysis on particular dimensions of central office work that seemed promising for supporting school-level teaching and learning improvements.