As coaches, we always ask our teachers to reflect on their lessons, student engagement, and performance data, but what should we reflect on? Let’s dive into what instructional coaches can do to reflect on their practice.
Consider the Coaching Culture
Something you may have to consider before you can begin your self-evaluation is to evaluate the climate and culture of Instructional Coaching in your district or at your site. What role does Instructional Coaching play where you serve? Every coaching program is a little different. Some schools utilize coaches to “come alongside” struggling teachers, some offer “volunteer coaching” as a professional development pathway, while others assign coaches to teachers who are in need of improvement “just in time”. This is important in determining how you approach coaching methods and interactions.
Discuss the culture of coaching with your leadership team. This will provide a framework for a clear vision of what coaching success looks like when planning for overall school goals and how it connects to your daily efforts.
In addition to understanding the coaching culture, what rubric of performance is being used to evaluate you and/or the teachers you work with? Evaluative rubrics can be in the form of 4-scale domains of expectations (ex: Planning & Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instructional Practice, Professional Responsibilities) or may be specific to coaching, see Dynamic Learning Project Coach Success Standards from Google Certified Coach. Rubrics are crucial to guide self-reflective practices. Be sure you understand the performance criteria for each expected domain whether you are guiding teachers toward success or improving your practice.
If you are currently serving as a coach, you can reflect on your impact as a coach and prepare for the next school year by asking instructional staff to take a survey about their experiences with coaching. This can be collected with paper-based reflection tools or through digital form collection (like this one from the Google for Education Certified Coach Program). Additionally, consider surveying your administration team and student groups to determine how your efforts contributed to successes or setbacks. If you are new to coaching, prepare for the coming year by creating a survey that will collect insight from teachers and their experience with coaching or what they want their coaching experience to look like (if the coaching program itself is new).
Another means to evaluate your impact is to reflect on your cycle notes, calendars, agendas, observation forms, communications, project guides, or any other methods for tracking your time spent as a coach. Determine where and how you utilize your time and energy most often as an instructional coach. Document what kinds of interactions took place. Some examples of these interactions may include meetings, professional learning community, professional development delivery, and classroom visits. When applicable, keep track of key topics that frequently come up during these interactions such as classroom management, instructional technology tools, or project-based learning.
Connecthub.io allows you to also track the topics of conversation during those interactions, how those topics trend, and their frequency in order to prioritize teacher needs.
This will help you see where coaching had the greatest impact and where to make adjustments in the future. It may also direct where professional development is needed, either for yourself or the educational staff you support. Below is an example of a coaching interaction collection method, specific to Instructional Technology.
Now that you have reflected on all external sources, look internally at your practice as a coach.
- What went well this year?
- What are the bright spots to celebrate?
- What changes need to be made before next year?
- How do I improve or build stronger relationships with teachers?
- How can I interact more often with teachers?
- Where can I focus more of my time? Or where can I better manage my time?
- How effective were my coaching efforts? (Do I have data to support effectiveness)?
- How can I design or refine coaching cycle notes/data collection tools?
- What areas do I need to grow? Professionally? Personally?
- What topics or initiatives need professional development?
Reflection is key to continuous improvement in education, not just for teachers but equally essential for Instructional Coaches. Be sure you have a clear understanding of your coaching expectations along with consistently collecting and documenting your efforts. By the end of the year, you will be able to cogitate on your coaching insights to ultimately determine your impact.