One Effective PD Method Not to Overlook

When you think about professional learning for your teachers chances are your go-to methods are presentations or training. But there’s one crucial component that’s bound to make a huge impact and get the results that make all the difference; coaching.

We unpack why coaching is a valuable method, how to use it, and what to focus on to get the results you want.

Why Coaching?

If the professional development your teachers receive doesn’t seem to have the impact you hoped for, it could be because traditional PD methods of presentations, workshops and tutorials are missing a crucial consideration. 

Because we all learn in different ways, at different paces, and in different contexts, these three common delivery methods don’t always hit the mark. What these approaches lack is the importance of personalising learning for each individual teacher. 

Coaching is often the perfect way to help teachers set goals that meet their individual needs. It also helps them develop a learning plan that suits their unique abilities and learning styles.

Rather than use the ‘shoot and hope for the best’ approach that often happens in large training settings, a personalised coaching session can be a targeted way to give each teacher exactly what they need at the time.

Coaching Tips

1 Spend time evaluating their values and beliefs

It’s really easy in any coaching conversation to drill down on something that a teacher wants to focus on without considering why that approach or tool could be a focus. 

When we start talking about the ‘why’ behind the tool we get the chance to examine the value or belief that is the intended outcome. A request to ‘start using a PDF scanner,’ for example, could lead to exploring the values about what learning is or can be. 

Spending time unpacking a teacher’s possible belief that digital learning is limited to filling in blanks on a worksheet is worth every second if there is a possibility that their practice could expand to methods that involve collaboration and creativity in the learning process.

One way to explore a teacher’s values could simply be asking, “Why would that be helpful in the classroom?” or “Tell me what you’re hoping to achieve with that tool?”

Another approach is to use the ‘Five Whys’ approach, said to be developed by  Sakichi Toyoda who worked with the Toyota Motor Company. This involves simply asking why five times, to get to the root of the problem or motivation.

2 More Listening & Less ‘Show and Tell’ 

While it may be tempting to give direction and advice, the coaching approach is focussed on asking the right questions, listening to the answers and digging deeper into the reflections. This helps to get to the root of a person’s problem rather than making assumptions about what their problem could be. 

To remain accountable and maintain a more coach-like approach you may find the GROW model helpful; Goal, Reality, Obstacles/Options, and What will you do? If you find it a challenge to refrain from offering ideas or advice, use this structure and ask questions up until the Options stage at least.

3  Hold the Feet to the Fire

With all the complexities teaching involves it’s normal (and incredibly easy) to get caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind and let goals fall by the wayside. However, it is important to help teachers be accountable for what they decide to develop as a goal. Accountability helps keep the momentum of new ideas and methods going and can help teachers experience significant growth.

There are two critical ways to help teachers be accountable. The first is to establish an ongoing cadence of coaching sessions that suit the teacher involved and are not too far apart. If we know that we will be discussing the progress made at the next session, and that session is booked into our calendar then we are much more likely to be motivated to focus on it.

The second accountability step is to agree to goals being both specific and measurable. This could mean making a plan for putting something into practice, or knowing what the goal looks like when it’s achieved. 

A measurable goal will often have a number attached, like, “I will create three lessons that involve a collaborative doc for students to share their ideas.” This makes a goal very easily defined as being achieved or not.

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