In the March 27, 2014 issue of EdWeek, bloggers Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers talk about the usefulness of the observation process schools use to ostensibly improve teacher practice. They state what I think we all know, “There is little evidence that the observation methods we currently employ improve student achievement.”
This is another one of the “no brainer” kind of common sense approach… how can an observation without pre-planning or debriefing be effective? What makes us think that just because an administrator observes what is going on in a classroom, at a given moment, is anything more than a snapshot in time? Why do we think that a momentary (or class period) observation will naturally yield a dialogue between two people which will then result in changes in classroom instruction, climate, or content?
Berkowicz and Myers offer a great alternative… “a purposeful coaching model” whereby a process for communication and collective problem solving is intentionally planned, deliberately executed, and determinedly reflective. They realize that the coaching process is ongoing, specific, descriptive, and timely and uses the co-constructivist approach and collaborative thinking to identify areas of strength and areas of need. They understand that coaching is a non-evaluative practice that depends on open communication and the willingness to explore thinking in ways that may be alien at first but welcomed when implemented regularly. When teachers recognize that their voices are honored, their practice becomes much different.
Instructional coaching holds the key to great change…it is one of the most effective ways to talk about practice and make changes to that practice. Coaches are on the side of helping teachers identify effective instructional practices and then implement those practices in ways that stimulate thinking, raise expectations, and acknowledge the potential for learning.