Thursday, 26 November 2015

Stepping Up...Valerie Grace

Stepping Up!
Valerie Grace 2015

Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough,
but because they can be even better. (Dylan William)

How does coaching influence student learning outcomes?

Definition of coaching taken from the Wikipedia – A method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve same goal or develop specific skills.

Learning outcomes are affected by many variables but mainly by the teacher who believes
that all  students have the potential to achieve.

Coaching is an essential component of an effective professional development program. Coaching can develop skill, knowledge, practices, beliefs, values, and confidence of an educator.

A thorough study on coaching was done in 2004 by the Annenberg Foundation for Education Reform. It reports a number of findings which offer powerful validation for coaching.
First, the report concludes that effective coaching encourages collaborative, reflective practice. Coaching allows teachers to apply their learning more deeply, frequently, and consistently than teachers working alone. Coaching supports teachers to improve their capacity to reflect and apply their learning to their work with students and also in their work with each other. A teacher can take risks to change their practice, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated.

Coaching was also linked to teachers' increase in using data to inform practice. Effective coaching programs respond to particular needs suggested by data, allowing improvement efforts to target issues such as closing achievement gaps and advocating for equity.
The Annenberg report found that coaching programs guided by data helped create coherence within a school by focusing on strategic areas of need that were suggested by evidence, rather than by individual and sometimes conflicting opinions.
Another key finding was that coaching promotes the implementation of learning and reciprocal accountability. Coaching is an embedded support that attempts to respond to student and teacher needs in ongoing, consistent, dedicated ways. The likelihood of using new learning and sharing responsibility rises when colleagues, guided by a coach, work together and hold each other accountable for improved teaching and learning.

Finally, the Annenberg report determined that coaching supports collective leadership across a school system. An essential feature of coaching is that it uses the relationships between coaches, principals, and teachers to create the conversation that leads to behavioural, pedagogical, and content knowledge change. Effective coaching distributes leadership and keeps the focus on teaching and learning. This focus promotes the development of leadership skills, professional learning, and support for teachers that target ways to improve student outcomes.

To facilitate growth and changes, the first task was to observe what approach or method of teaching was been used in the learning community and then determine the best coaching skills needed to support the teachers.

The University of Southern California states that the term teaching method refers to the general principles, pedagogy and management strategies used for classroom instruction. The method chosen by teachers depends on what fits them,— their educational philosophies, classroom demographics, subject area(s) and school mission statement. Teaching theories primarily fall into two categories or “approaches” — teacher-centered and student-centered.

Teacher centered approach – direct instruction by teacher. Teacher the only expert in the class, with children not having the opportunity to explore, investigate, to be problem solvers or to be critical thinkers. Teacher plans the learning where students listen and follow instructions and duplicate the teachers work. Assessments are generally tests.

Student centered approach – is inquiry-based learning and cooperative learning.
Teachers and students share an active role in the learning process. The teacher’s coach and facilitate student learning and understanding of work. Students given the opportunity to plan and direct own learning with support from teachers.  Assessment are both formal and informal , including group projects, student portfolios, and student participation.

From observations,  the teacher centered approach was identified as the preferred method. Next step was a learning conversation with the teachers. Learning conversations are a key strategy to strengthen teaching practice and improve learning outcomes.Teachers reflected on their teaching and learning practices identifying areas of strength and weaknesses.
Each teacher chose an area where they needed support and further PLD.
Goals were set and teaching strategies put in place.  Planning collaboratively allowed teachers to target student needs and organise rotational activities, leading to students working independently. 
Teachers were able to make further changes to their practices that led to improved learning outcomes in literacy and mathematics. Students were involved in the planning and their ideas valued.
Building positive relationships within a classroom has had a major impact on the student’s academic and behavioral success.  When students believe that their teacher values and respects them, they are more likely to value and respect the teacher.  This mutual respect leads to students behaving more appropriately and participating in classroom activities. 
Engage students in cooperative activities.  Cooperative learning allows for peers to rely on each other, to begin to trust each other, to problem-solve, to practice conflict-management, and to use social skills.
The teachers continue to hold learning conversations reflecting on their practices, challengeing themselves and the students.

In conclusion,  having teachers reflecting on their teaching and learning practices, with the guidance of coaching has led to improved learning outcomes.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

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