Practice, Practice, Practice

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How to define goals and implement deliberate practice in order to grow professionally – based on the ideas in chapter 7 of Grit by Angela Duckworth.

“Each of the basic requirements of deliberate practice is unremarkable:

• A clearly defined stretch goal

• Full concentration and effort

• Immediate and informative feedback

• Repetition with reflection and refinement”

~ Create a goal for professional growth – identify a weakness ~

“…experts strive to improve specific weaknesses. They intentionally seek out challenges they can’t yet meet.”

“Even the most complex and creative of human abilities can be broken down into its component skills, each of which can be practiced, practiced, practiced.”

~ Target efforts toward growth goal ~

“…with undivided attention and great effort, experts strive to reach their stretch goal.”

“…experts practice differently. Unlike most of us, experts are logging thousands upon thousands of hours of what Ericsson calls deliberate practice.”

~ Seek out and utilize feedback ~

“As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong—so they can fix it—than what they did right. The active processing of this feedback is as essential as its immediacy.”

~ Repeat, Reflect, Refine ~

“And after feedback, then what? Then experts do it all over again, and again, and again. Until they have finally mastered what they set out to do. Until what was a struggle before is now fluent and flawless. Until conscious incompetence becomes unconscious competence.”

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Coach to Personalize Student Learning

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This morning I read an article posted to the Getting Smart site entitled, Instructional Coaching for Secondary School Transformation and I’m intrigued by the idea of the use of coaches in the process of building personalized learning pathways for middle and high schools. My high school’s current problem of practice is centered around the notion of real-world and authentic learning experiences so our teacher leaders could definitely benefit from seeing the possibilities of designing personalized learning.

During a vision-setting day, the coach was able to lead discussions to determine teacher understanding of the concept of personalized learning, student need as evidenced by data and potential directions for building their instructional model of personalized learning.

“..the teachers began by identifying the differences between teaching for achievement and teaching for growth.  Through reflective conversation Lori asks probing questions to guide teachers towards a model of personalized learning to address both teaching for achievement and growth.”

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“After much discussion and brainstorming they determined as a team that students will move through tasks or learning zones based on student formative assessment data. This is the foundation for teaching both achievement and growth.”

After the initial vision setting, the teachers implemented the plan and the coach used questioning and data to support professional growth among the teachers. The coach also monitored teacher growth by outlining the currently reality for each teacher and, in an adjacent column, the next steps the teacher had committed to trying to move the plan forward.

“Early in the semester a veteran teacher was inspired–she moved desks and launched a station rotation model the next day. The teacher told Lori, ‘In one day I met one-on-one with more students than I talked to last week in my classroom.'”

That first step of changing a simple practice led to adding another simple change and another with one teacher then another then another – over time, those small steps added up to big gains in achievement and shifts in culture.

“The simple classroom innovation served as a slingshot, others saw her success and it helped propel the culture shift. “


For me, the following quote is the takeaway from this article which provides the direction and encouragement to determine the vision, start small and press forward.

“Think Big, Start Small and SCALE FAST.”

Talk to Think?

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A few days ago, if you had told me that talking can lead to thinking I would have said, “Uh, no. That’s stupid to believe that talking would promote thinking. Talking gets in the way of thinking! You need to be quiet to really think deeply.”

Uh, no. I’m wrong. Well, partially wrong.

Yes, there are times that thinking requires quiet contemplation but there is brain research showing that talking through an issue or problem with someone, who is asking you the right questions and giving you space to think, activates more of the brain than thinking alone.

“Talking about an issue activates more parts of the brain than just thinking about the issue. When people speak about their thinking, it increases the speed of learning, as well as the ability to apply the learning” (Rock, 2009).

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Shut the front door!

Photo Credit: flickr

This week, I attended days five and six of Cognitive Coaching (CC) Training and this is where I had my revelation about talking to think.

Let me back up here and give you some insight into the CC training. I have to say that in January on days one and two I knew CC was going to be a good way to coach others and would definitely challenge me to use skills that were underdeveloped. On days three and four, which took place in February, I was pretty sure I was not going to be able to do this. But, by the time days five and six rolled around this week I had studied my handbook, practiced CC, had recorded video of myself engaged in CC with a teacher, viewed my video several times so I felt like I just might be able to do this.

My really big Aha! moment (cognitive shift) happened during a practice session with one of the other participants in the training. She and I practiced by taking turns presenting a small life issue for which we were currently grappling and unable to make a decision.

As I coached her, it was so powerful watching her figure out the answer to her dilemma. After she introduced the issue, I paraphrased her statements to ensure I understood her and once I was clear about her statements, I could pose questions to generate more thinking.

Her answers came as I posed questions and left ownership with her – not as I told her what to do or gave her examples of what I would do. As she coached me, the same thing happened. The answers and my action plan for what to do next evolved with each question she asked and during the moments I talked about the details.

I’m blown away by the power of questioning and being quiet so the other person can think and talk out the answers to their own problems. This is SO foreign to my personality and the way I typically operate. I am very action oriented, impatient and anxious to get things resolved so it’s a huge test for me to actively listen and respectfully be quiet and patient as the other person finds their way through their own thoughts. (Translation: I tend to be extremely bossy and confident that I know the answers for you – just let me tell you what to do.)

On the other hand, it’s extremely freeing! As the coach, I don’t have to carry the weight of having to know or find all the answers. My job is to relax in the fact that, with the right support, others can draw their own conclusions and come to their own realizations without me dictating it to them. I can trust in the journey each coachee is going through and that they too will have an Aha! moment.

Now, I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. You could have told me all these things about the power of CC – the power of listening, the power of higher-order thinking questions and the power of talking – but I wouldn’t have believed you. I had to learn it for myself.

 

Cognitive Coaching is challenging to implement. But, just like anything else, I can do it by starting small.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden


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I am really excited to continue practicing CC and anytime I have an issue to sort out I want someone to coach me! So, fair warning to my friends, family and colleagues – I’m coming to coach you. And, to my peers who are CC trained, I’m coming to be coached. 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

Collaborate to Solve Problems

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Photo Credit: student in my public speaking class

What a great week! Co-teaching, co-planning, co-learning and collaborating with a great teacher and awesome group of students in Public Speaking. Below is an overview of collaborative learning, taken from CTI at Cornell University, which will help you better understand some of the key ideas and elements that our class will engage in through project-based learning this semester. This is the beginning of the semester and we are just getting started so stay tuned for more about our progress this semester.

Purpose of PBL in Public Speaking Spring 2018: To engage students in critical thinking about authentic problems and prepare them to communicate effectively about their proposed solutions to those problems.

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning.

Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University

I love bullet number 1 – “The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.” I spent a great deal of time yesterday researching each student’s background so I can begin to see them as individuals instead of a sea of humanity. Teacher’s cannot successfully plan for a class of students they do not know. At the secondary level where you can have upwards of 200 students, this can be a challenge. A challenge, but not impossible… We teach students, not subjects.


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In the slideshow, you can see our human graph in which kids self-rated themselves on their current speaking skills. We will measure again in the middle and the end of the semester to gauge for improvement. Using the scale of distinguished, proficient, apprentice and novice, most students rated themselves as apprentice in the area of public speaking with the next highest rating being novice.

Measuring the Impact of PBL in Public Speaking Spring 2018: We know we are having an impact when every student is engaged so that growth mindsetself-efficacy and academic outcomes improve.

What is the impact of collaborative learning or group work?

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.

-Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University


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We are also using Google Classroom this semester and it’s working well so far for posting bell ringers, assignments, video of model speeches, and assessments. We are also using a Google site that I built as a hub for the project work.


I’m so excited to be a part of this class of students who are engaged in learning how to be effective and polished public speakers. Thank you to Mr. Goodlett for welcoming me into his classroom and for sharing his students with me this semester. The students, Mr. Goodlett and I are all going to learn so much and do so much to improve our community and ourselves.

Now off to plan for next week! More co-teaching, co-planning, co-learning and collaborating. 🙂

 

Slow Down

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Are traditional school schedules and teacher classrooms too rushed and hurried to foster creativity and innovative thinking? Is the pressure to perform in a standards-based culture too high to promote deep and reflective thought? Do factory-model schools cultivate trust and relationships that drive honest feedback, teamwork and the co-creation of solutions?

And the implication is that the real or perceived societal pressure we feel to get more and more things done, and process more and more information, can be an enemy to real love and true learning.” – Four Reasons to Slow Down by Jon Bloom

Learning takes time and patience and this conflicts with how our society and our public education system often operate.

“In an ideal world, the school day would reflect kids’ changing needs and rhythms. There would be time for free play; school would start later to allow time for students’ much-needed rest; the transition time between classes would be longer, allowing time for kids to walk down the hall and say hi to their friends and plan their next moves; kids would have the opportunity to step away from school “work” in order to regroup and process what they’ve absorbed. “The actual encoding of information doesn’t take place when you’re hunched over a desk,” she said.” – Why Kids Need Schools to Change by Tina Barseghian

Deep and thoughtful learning that generates creative and innovative ideas and solutions requires the time and patience to:

  • think
  • reflect
  • dream
  • hope
  • discuss ideas
  • ask questions
  • seek answers
  • encourage others
  • build relationships
  • generate new ideas
  • test theories
  • create solutions

“The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.” – The Creativity Crisis by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman


This leaves me wondering about the learning and creativity within my school…

    • Do students know how to be creative? Can creativity be taught?

Creativity can be taught,” says James C. Kaufman, professor at California State University, San Bernardino.” – The Creativity Crisis

  • Are teachers designing learning experiences that promote deep learning and creative output?

“What’s common about successful programs is they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages. Real improvement doesn’t happen in a weekend workshop. But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.” – The Creativity Crisis

“When students display creativity and innovation in PBL, they are able to generate and refine solutions to complex problems or tasks.” – How Can We Teach and Assess Creativity and Innovation in PBL? by John Larmer

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Encourage Reflection & Action


As the instructional coach, I wonder what I can do to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school. Maybe I should procrastinate and be unhurried! 🙂

“We’re always asked to be faster and more precise. But what can we learn from slowing down — even procrastinating? This hour, TED speakers explore why taking it slow is crucial…for all of us.” – Slowing Down from the TED Radio Hour

This radio program and Grant’s article, Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate, illuminate the idea of slowing down in order to come up with creative and innovative ideas. By slowing down and taking time to reflect on a problem, we give ourselves time to come up with different solutions. Sometimes, our initial solution or answer is not as good as those ideas we come up with after taking in and wrestling with and testing lots of ideas.

“But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.” –  Grant

“It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.” – Grant

““You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” – Aaron Sorkin

I had never heard of the Unhurried movement until I started researching for this blog post, but the principles definitely align to being patient and engaging in discussions in which you truly listen (skills which I’m practicing). I love the philosophy of this approach which challenges us to relax and focus on listening instead of talking in a frenetic volley that is laden with interruptions.

The Unhurried Approach “applies to any process that requires the participation of human beings. We use Unhurried as a guiding principle in our work with people.”

I hope to apply the principles for being unhurried at work and plan some opportunities for Unhurried Conversations for teachers and students. In order to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school, I will…

Photo Credit: flickr

Foster Fellowship

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help-community

As I reflect on this week and my coaching program up to this point, I need to remember the following.

  1. Continue co-planning, co-teaching and building relationships with the willing
  2. Continue sharing pictures, videos and brief insights from classroom visits in my SharePoint Coaching site IC-SPsite
  3. Create opportunities to communicate: invite staff to the Google Classroom Teacher Community (includes a Digital Pineapple Board)

Coaches “need to begin by cultivating strong relationships, collaborating on a regular basis, and demonstrating that every teacher has some expertise to share…” – Instructional Coaching in Action: An Integrated Approach that Transforms Thinking, Practice and Schools

“Coaching creates a relationship in which a client feels cared for and is therefore able to access and implement new knowledge. A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practice, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated. Finally, a coach holds a space where healing can take place and where resilient, joyful communities can be built.” – How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, and Students

encourage

Photo Credits: taken from Pinterest and Instagram – no credits listed

Listen

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Reflections

This week I was fortunate to participate in a professional learning experience in which participants studied and practiced Cognitive Coaching strategies. The foundation of effective coaching is having a trusting relationship with the coachee and relationships are built upon open communication. Therefore, if I want to be an effective coach it’s imperative that I become proficient in the area of listening and fully attending to the person with whom I’m engaged in conversation.

Like many of us, I tend to focus on my own thoughts and ideas and listen with the intent to speak instead of understand the speaker. I’m also very action oriented and impatient so often I want to rush to a solution. (Because, my gosh, there are so many problems to solve! We’ve got to get busy… Hurry up! Solve those problems! There’s no time to waste!)

“You cannot listen when you have an agenda. You cannot listen when you are just waiting for a pause in the conversation so you can insert your opinion. You cannot listen when you presume to know what the problem is before it has even been explored.” – Jesus, Life Coach: Learn from the Best, Laurie Beth Jones p.210

“They [poor listeners] listen only long enough to get the topic of your conversation, and then they proceed to tell you all the thoughts in their mind regarding that topic. Or, if you present them with a personal struggle, they will quickly move to give you an answer by telling you what you ought to do in that situation. They are adept at analyzing problems and creating solutions. But they are not adept at sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person.” The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition, Gary Chapman p.85

Human beings are very social and that entails talking AND listening. Now, we’ve got the talking part down pat. Most of our problems stem from not listening or simply listening reflexively.

Reflective listening takes place when you not only pause and consider what has been said, but are able to repeat it back accurately to the speaker. Reflexive listening is waiting simply for your chance to insert something into the conversation.” – Jesus, Life Coach p.211

Ouch! Many of us in the Cognitive Coaching sessions felt this sting; the sting of awareness that we are not fully attending to the speaker or listening with the intent to understand but only to give our own point of view.

“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

Actions

If I intend to fulfill my professional and personal vision and mission with a servant heart, then I must PRACTICE until I perfect my listening skills. If I want to improve my coaching and “mediate thinking,” then I have to COMMIT to becoming a better listener.

“…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45 (ESV)

“If I can listen to what he tells me, if I can understand how it seems to him, if I can see its personal meaning for him, if I sense the emotional flavour which it has for him, then I will be releasing potent forces of change in him.” Barriers and Gateways to Communication, Carl Rogers and F. J. Roethlisberger

In addition to the Cognitive Coaching strategies, I will practice the following skills.

Sympathetic Listening – The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition

  1. Maintain eye contact when you are listening to someone.
  2. Don’t engage in other activities while you are listening to another individual.
  3. Listen for feelings.
  4. Observe body language.
  5. Refuse to interrupt.
  6. Ask reflective questions.
  7. Express understanding.
  8. Ask if there is anything you might do that would be helpful.

Effective Listening – 10 Steps to Effective Listening  

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed.
  3. Keep an open mind.
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
  5. Don’t interrupt; don’t impose your “solutions”.
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding.
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback.
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues.

As I practice listening, I need to be sure to focus on PAUSING. During some of our Cognitive Coaching practice activities, I was reminded of how much I detest silence in conversations. (Eye contact makes me nervous, too, but for now I’ll focus on pausing. 🙂 ) During our planning-conversation practice, a colleague and I really struggled to keep a straight face as we made eye contact and tried to paraphrase and pause. I felt so exposed as I tried to keep eye contact, juggle all these different thoughts, paraphrase AND listen! (This is going to take a lot of practice:/ )

“From the time Americans are small children, we are taught to dislike silence. The punishment of being sent to one’s bedroom for “quiet time” or “time out” causes children to plead for mercy and promise to be good. And what is the dreaded sentence they wish to avoid? Silence.” – Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott p.222-223

Conclusions

All things considered, I am excited, hopeful and prepared to continue this journey – the journey of not only becoming a better coach but also becoming a better human being. It’s tough, but we’re all in it together and we need one another and if listening makes the journey better, then just do it!

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13 (ESV)

“…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…” – James 1:19 (ESV)

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)

Photo Credit: flickr