Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How to support reflective educators

Imagine yourself as a young child entering a candy store. The room smells of fruity flavors, luscious chocolate and your eyes are entranced by the rainbow of colors that cover the walls.  You don’t even know where to begin your raid of the store or how you will fit all of your favorite treats in a bag.  This is how I felt when provided the opportunity to use a tablet to improve instructional practices in the classroom.  

My mind was racing to hundreds of ways that this tool could provide meaningful feedback for teacher and instructional coaching conversations.

My journey through this approach has been a roller coaster to say the least.  Of course like many educators, I want to do it well and have it be effective right away.  However, through the process I sought out feedback from a variety of BPS professionals to really get at the desired purpose of the tablet: to provide timely and effective feedback for teachers to move in the continuum of Teaching and Learning Practices.  

The driving questions that helped to guide my journey were:
How can we as instructional coaches provide meaningful and timely feedback?
How can we as instructional coaches support teachers in becoming reflective practitioners?
Is the tablet an appropriate resource to make this happen?  Or is another tool a better fit?

I would liken my journey to a PBL project; I did not go on the exact path that I thought I would.  However, the learning about student and teacher behaviors that happened through my conversations with classroom teachers, instructional coaches, and leadership helped me redirect and revise my approach.  
Here are the results of my research:
  1. I found that teachers loved the instant feedback from the Google Form.  It was a click of a button for me to forward the feedback and then it was right there for us to have a post-conference.  ***They loved getting instant feedback, but it wasn't always connected to what they wanted to know. I was trying to use a standardized form to get information but learned that teachers needed it to be specific and individualized.  You will see a connection between this finding and number three below.
  2. The tablet provided efficiency and ease when videoing a teacher and then having it instantly uploaded to my Google Drive.  This allowed me to share it to the teacher without frustration.
  3. My greatest learning: that teachers should be a part of creating the observation Google Form that will help them to receive the feedback and data that was discussed during the pre-conference.  This then can be observed and reviewed over time.  This allows the teacher and instructional coach to look at the data over time and monitor for growth in teaching practices.  

Future goals:
  1. Teachers will use the video option from the tablet to facilitate triads for PLC discussions.  Teachers could also use it for personal reflection as well.
  2. Instructional coaches will collaborate to research more avenues in which the tablet can grow teachers professionally.
  3. Make observation and feedback cycles a norm for all staff and schools.  Staff are willing to be vulnerable in order to reflect on their instructional practices.  
So just as the kid in the candy store, my eyes were too big for my stomach!  When I was handed my tablet, my mind was full of a million ideas.  But I have zoned in, reflected and refined my own coaching practice to use this tool as a way to be a game changer for BPS staff and students!  

If you were going to collect data to improve your practice, what would it be, and how would you use it?


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