Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reflections on Recent Readings (weekly)

    • As a coach, my priority is not what device or technology tool a teacher uses (although, I do, of course have my own opinions about what works best for learning), my priority is the teacher’s mindset. I’m not marketing a gadget, I’m marketing a belief about teaching and learning, and a pedagogical approach to learning with technology.
      • What an important point (see quote)!  I run a lot of PD sessions and work with fellows on different tools, but all of it is embedded with mindset / purpose / intentionality / pedagogy.  Why would we use this?  How would it make things more effective, efficient, engaging, or enjoyable (my 4 E's of technology use)?  The image in below this quote is so powerful!
    • in order to be successful in marketing to the mainstream population, we can’t market our product the same way to both groups.
    • Basically the early adopters will buy in because of the new and exciting nature of the innovation – even if it’s not perfect yet and still has kinks to be worked out, which is a fun and easy part of a coach’s job. The problem is that the mainstream market wants to see a complete product, practical applications, and know exactly how it will work (and that it will work consistently). This is not an easy task when we’re actually really talking about good pedagogy, but we’re perceived to be talking about technology.
  • "Try flipping your class with quizzes to drive, not measure, learning" This is such an important quote! Quizzes should not be "gotcha" moments, but rather great opportunities to gather feedback on where students currently are at in relation to where you want them to be. If you do give a quiz when kids come in to class, is it a "gotcha" or "I hope you watched it" or a "measurement" of their learning? Or is it a way for you to drive what will happen that day (and the following days) in class?
    tags: blog
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Reflections on Recent Readings (weekly)

  • Some interesting ideas on different ways that teachers can reflect and document their journey. I've really emphasized journaling more this year (since last year most fellows did not do it consistently) and I think that has been really valuable. I like to ask follow-up questions and probe more with their journal entries, which normally takes the first 5-15 minutes of our coaching meetings, but I think is very valuable in their journey. I've challenged my fellows to get on Twitter and to even consider blogging, but I know those are huge steps for some teachers. I started a collaborative blog at (currently empty, but hopefully will have posts soon!) for fellows to join in and share what they are trying in their classrooms. I have some interest; it's just a matter of helping them "find the time" and see the value in finding that time. There are several that want to do it, so I hope this will be the start of something great. Beyond the collaborative fellow blog, I've challenged each of my fellows to write a guest blog post for my blog once this semester, either on a specific lesson they implemented or a year-end reflection on their journey. We'll see how this goes!
    tags: blog
  • I like the idea of tech being your "secret sauce" that makes your classroom better, not something extra to add on. Teachers that are struggling to adopt a technology-enhanced pedagogy struggle with that fact and can't get past the "it's one more thing" mindset. I like to think of technology as impacting teaching and learning in four ways: making things more effective, efficient, engaging, or enjoyable for teachers and/or students. My fear is that teachers won't see the immediate impact of a tool (and really how it can shift pedagogy to something new and different than what they are used to) and say, "well this won't make teaching / learning more effective / efficient / engaging / enjoyable so I'm not going to try it". Sometimes we need to take risks and try new things without knowing how it is going to turn out or how it's going to affect our classroom - and then we can reflect and judge after the fact if it's worth continuing. Not after one attempt, because that doesn't give a fair view of it, but after you "Reflect, Refine, and Collaborate" and try the tool in a few different ways. At that point, I'm okay with giving something a "no-go"... but we have to get to that point first!
    tags: blog
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 8: Listening and Questioning)

I've never blogged my notes and thoughts through a book, but I figure there's never a better time than NOW!

My goal is to create a reference & reflective place for me as I continue growing as a coach.

See my notes from all book chapters on my Coaching Page.

Direct quotes from the book are in blue.

Aguilar describes the "Coaching Dance" as having three parts.  First, the coach listens.  Second, the coach responds with questions that probe for deeper learning / reflection.  Third, the coach suggests an action or learning activity.  The order of these steps and the flow between them will vary.  "The art of coaching is the ability to apply a tremendous range of skills in response to a particular situation in a way that appears seamless, effortless, and, at times, even beautiful" (page 148). 

When we listen, our goal is not to listen while thinking of our response (isn't that what we learn in all "listening classes"?).  We want to "[create] a tremendous space for [the fellow] to explore her own issues" (page 149).  This makes me think of getting to the point where the fellow is brainstorming and thinking out loud, making sense of things, and possibly even coming to their own conclusions just because they had the chance to think out loud.  I can think of times when I have had the time and space to do that with colleagues, and it is so helpful!  It does require skill on both the coach's and fellow's parts... the coach needs to be okay with moments of silence (practice "wait time", just like we would with students) and not feeling like they need to interject, and the fellow needs to learn how to process out loud and be okay with the vulnerability that comes when you are sharing unformulated thoughts.

Aguilar describes three types of listening: Quiet Listening, Intentional Listening, and Collecting Stories.
Quiet listening is similar to what I described above. As she writes, "We listen from the point of view that people don't need answers, advice, or wisdom.  They can do their own thinking, discover solutions, and figure out their next steps... We may occasionally ask a probing questions, but in this kind of listening we don't say much... We don't share our opinions, experiences, or feelings.  We don't give advice or suggestions.  We never interrupt... [We might just ask], 'Can you say more about that?'" (page 150-151).

Intentional Listening focuses beyond the surface of the words that are being spoken and delves into "assumptions, interpretations, and underlying beliefs" (page 151) and "what is not said: for what lurks below the surface - feelings, thoughts and beliefs, and for the gaps in a story" (page 151).  This is where being too quick to respond can get you into trouble because you can miss some of these things that could lead to deeper conversations.

Collecting Stories is another viewpoint from which we can listen, which is that we are continually filing away more and more stories about our fellow that will give us a bigger picture of who they are and begin to notice patterns that will help us in our work.

In all of these types of listening it's important to be an active listener.  One of the best strategies for this is to paraphrase.  I have tried to be much more intentional with this lately, and have noticed it starting to come more naturally.  Aguilar gives 5 sentence starters for paraphrasing: "In other words..."; "What I'm hearing then..."; "It sounds like you are saying... Is that correct? Did I miss anything?"; "I'm hearing many things..."; "As I listen to you, I'm hearing..." (page 153).

The second half of this chapter is on questioning.  Aguilar states, "A coach needs to know when to use a particular kind of question and when another would be more appropriate or effective  Questions are technical tools; the art of coaching is about applying judgment and discretion and about making intentional decisions after careful listening and analysis" (page 158).  The "technical" side of this is easy to build - there are question starters and frames all over, and I've worked on collecting those and organizing them for different parts of the lesson design process (prebrief /debrief, content/pedagogy/technology focused).  Collecting is the (somewhat) easy part.  Now it's being comfortable with using them in the right way and in the right time!

There are two types of questions Aguilar describes: Clarifying and Probing.  Clarifying "elicit details, specifics, clarification, or examples" (page 158).  Probing helps to "uncover thinking or beliefs - not necessarily to find an immediate answer or solution" (page 159).  It's important that a probing question not become a leading question where we already know the answer we want to hear or want to suggest something to the fellow in the form of a question.  I like the prompt "What did you notice about..." to probe about something you might have noticed yourself, but you put it in the fellow's shoes to share what they saw.

We want to try to avoid: too many why questions (fellow can get defensive) or rambling / layered questions.

There's supposed to be more about questioning in coming chapters... see you then!

...Until Chapter 9...
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