A few weeks ago, one of the administrators that I work with asked me: “How do you measure the impact of your coaching?”. He has a habit of asking me tough questions. I often need some processing time before giving an answer.
Following this, my learning supervisors asked us to keep track of our coaching activities for a period of two weeks. They provided us with a data sheet. Let me be clear, I’m not tracking who I’m working with, but I am tracking my coaching activities and how much time I spend doing each activity (for example co-planning, teaching, networking, sending emails, working one on one with a teacher, providing professional development etc.).
Both of these things have been on my mind. How do you measure the effectiveness of an Instructional Coach?
While I would not want to have to track my coaching activities all the time, I’ve actually enjoyed collecting this data. It’s made me reflect upon areas of my coaching that I need to develop further. For example, I noticed that I only sometimes use data in my work with teachers.
It’s also helped me be aware of what the data tracking sheet is not measuring and perhaps some of those “anecdotal” instances in my interactions with students, teachers, support staff and administrators that give me important feedback (good and bad) about my effectiveness.
First, an example that was the answer I provided for the administrator. Last year, when working with a group of teachers in math, they infused one three part lesson into each of their textbook units. This year, the same group of teachers begins planning with the curriculum first and a common assessment they are working towards. They use many open ended questions (not in their textbook) to develop several three part lessons and then uses the textbook here and there. They now recognize that their textbook does not actually align with the curriculum all the time too. They did the work to get there, but I know that my work with them played a small part.
Last week, a grade 4 student came up to me and said: “Mme I came up with a new multiplication strategy, let me show it to you – it’s kind of like the one (so and so) used, but different”. This teacher and I co-taught a cycle of “Math Talks” in her classroom for a few consecutive days leading up to this. This week, I got an email from a parent of a student in the same class who was at home with her son who was sick. He was showing her all the different multiplication strategies they had come up with and she was amazed at all the different ways students multiply.
A teacher said to me: “I know you are trying to sell literature circles right now, but I’m not ready for it”. Translation: back off lady! And it also made me more mindful about how I am communicating things so that it does not come off as me trying to “sell” an instructional practice or a resource.
What about the goosebumps I got during a couple of SOLE (Self-Organized-Learning-Environment) activities? I was hoping after some investigating that students would discover certain big ideas. As the teacher and I asked questions that prompted students to make connections between their areas of research, those ideas started emerging. It felt magical and in fact they went further than what the teachers and I were anticipating.
How about my picture, included in a composite with the rest of the teachers, hanging on the wall of one of my schools? I very much feel a part of the team there, and that’s also reflected in the team meetings that I am included in.
What about the whispers of “yes!” I heard when I introduced literature circles in a 5/6 class? I had worked with a lot of the 5’s on literature circles the year before and they were really excited to give it another go.
Here’s another: I’ve been modelling 3 part lessons in math with a couple of teachers who are now ready to move to me co-planning and co-teaching instead.
The LST teacher who has found out about a great app I used with a grade 3 class and is going to use it to support students with special needs in older classes.
Supporting and lending an ear to coaches that are new to the role.
What about the relief an LTO expresses because they are feeling less overwhelmed after getting support? Some of our newest teachers don’t qualify for new teacher support programming.
What about the many instances of work I’m doing with teachers using their “self-directed” PD? They are using their half day funding and choosing to partner with me.
How do you measure co-authoring a blog with a teacher, who has become a friend really, and then giving her a little nudge to share her point of view on changing the library into a learning commons? I imagine the impact she will then have on others or even the system and I feel proud to have been a small catalyst in that.
These are a few examples of victories coupled with a few setbacks over the past couple of weeks. Being a coach is a bit of a roller coaster ride. There are days when I wonder about my impact on student and teacher learning on my drive home. And I make mistakes. I had the same roller coaster feelings as a teacher. However, you have other days when you know that you have made a difference and have made an impact. Sometimes these positive changes are big, sometimes they are small. Sometimes you can’t really measure them until almost a year later when you reflect about where that teacher or group of students started and has ended up.
How do you measure inspiration?
I think a summative assessment of my effectiveness would have to be balanced like how we assess our own students. It’s that balance between observations, conversations and products. I feel like our learning support supervisors do take this into account. We have conferences with them a couple of times per year and they gladly come out to our schools to see what we are doing when invited. Each month when we gather as a coaching team, we bring a “product” – an artifact that demonstrates the effect of our coaching on student learning. I think it’s that balanced “COP”s model or “triangulation of data” that really gives the whole picture of coaching effectiveness. And I think that this data that we collected over the past two weeks is measuring the processes in coaching, which is an important snapshot to have too. Perhaps it’s more of a formative assessment?
I welcome your comments below!