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

Foster Fellowship

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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

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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

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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

Dialogue like a Coach

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While preparing this week for my next coaching cycle, I ran across an eye-opening quote in Diane Sweeney‘s book, Student-Center Coaching. She quotes the authors from the book Difficult Conversations and it opened my mind to how I would move forward this cycle – I will journey forward with a sense of curiosity, not certainty that I have the full picture of teaching and learning in these teachers’ classrooms.

“Certainty locks us out of their story; curiosity lets us in.” – Stone, et al.

Today, I searched for more on this topic of being curious instead of certain and I found this great post in which the author explains how keeping an open mind is the avenue to meaningful dialogue and the way to engage in learning conversations.

“Instead of seeing our role as that of delivering a message to the other party, we need to engage in a ‘learning conversation.'” – Aruna Sankaranarayanan

Since instructional coaching is built upon the foundation of relationships with teachers, meaningful dialogue is a key principle for coaches to keep in mind. Teaching is a very personal endeavor so even when we engage in professional conversations, a teacher’s “sense of identity might be threatened by the conversation.”

For days I was heavy with thoughts about how to deliver a certain message to my teachers about my class visits this week, so when I discovered this idea of curiosity not certainty my world opened up! My job was not to deliver a message from a standpoint of judgement and certainty but to dialogue with each teacher through inquiry so I could better understand why the teachers were doing what they were doing in their classrooms during my visits.

“All people and relationships, especially intimate ones, are complex and layered. Acknowledging that people have different shades to their personalities will shield us from black and white judgments. By shedding our inhibitions but holding back on judgments, we can venture forth to have productive exchanges that can alter the quality of our lives.” – Aruna Sankaranarayanan

Go forth and alter the quality of coaching with a curious mind open to each teacher’s story! 🙂

*Photo Credit: flickr

Coach to the Next Level

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Phot Credit: Flickr

“Imagine you hired a tennis coach to help you improve your game. Then you showed up for the first lesson and he suggested that you observe as he played for the next hour. You’d probably ask for your money back. What if he suggested that he spend the hour observing you? He’ll take some notes and then the two of you will go through it later. Again, you’d be wondering why you are paying this guy. What if he suggested that you focus on your game and, since you are so busy, he will help you out by picking up your balls? You would be wondering when this guy actually planned to provide you with some coaching. By now you may have recognized some of the most common practices used by literacy coaches; modeling, observing, and serving as a resource provider. While each of these methods offers some value to teachers, there are other ways we can take coaching to the next level.” – Diane Sweeney, Student-Centered Coaching

I love this analogy! This quote was taken from Sweeney’s article Moving Beyond Modeling with Student-Centered Coaching in which she highlights techniques to help coaches really move beyond simply watching teachers, being watched by teachers or providing resources.

My goal now is to refine my coaching plan so I’m incorporating student-centered coaching which focuses on student learning, student performance and learning outcomes in every coaching session (driven by an analysis of student work). This coaching model marries well with many of the takeaways I gleaned from last week’s Assessment Conference in Louisville and the Novice Reduction workshop in Lexington. The sessions and the workshop contained a central focus on analyzing student work/performance in order to make better instructional decisions – assessment FOR learning.

“Classroom assessment that involves students in the process and focuses on increasing learning can motivate rather than merely measure students.” – Stephen Chappuis and Richard J. Stiggins, Classroom Assessment for Student Learning (CASL)

Photo Credit: Flickr