By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Last week, the PA Institute for Instructional Coaching held its last multi-day professional development and learning conference for the year. It was very well attended and instructional coaches from across the state were able to network with each other and share their insights, experiences, and new learnings.

One of the things that was abundantly clear was the need to continue sharing new information and providing ongoing opportunities for coaches to talk to one another about practice, consistency of instructional support, and how adults learn. Guess what, adults are not just “big” kids! They want to learn and collectively problem solve and they do it in ways that are different than the ways in which our children learn.

Have you ever heard of the term, “Andragogy”? This is the science of helping adults learn and refers to the learner centered method (adult as learner). Much of the work on adult learning is credited to Malcolm Knowles and based on five critical assumptions about a person’s maturation process as a learner: 1) adult learners are self-directed; 2) adult learners “collect” experiences which become resources for their learning; 3) adult learners are ready to learn; 4) adult learning is relevant with the learning focused on problem solving; and 5) adult learners are motivated to learn. (infed.org)

So, how does the theory of andragogy apply to instructional coaching? Adult learners have diverse and distinctive characteristics and to be an effective coach, recognition of these characteristics will make the difference between an instructional coach who coaches “light” and an instructional coach who helps change instructional practice. Instructional coaches must understand how adults learn and provide them with ample opportunities to learn new things, practice what they have learned, and then talk about that practice and what worked well.

When you reflect on your year as an instructional coach, think about the art and science of working with adults and your practice as a coach. Have an internal monologue and answer these questions: Where do you need to nourish your professional growth? What are you doing to help teachers improve their practice? Which of your own practices need to be strengthened, revamped, and realigned with the greater good for increased student engagement and improved student outcomes?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Several states are now requiring student teachers to take a performance-based exam. The exam is called called the edTPA. This is a test that measures the student teacher’s readiness to begin teaching. It involves videotaping and analyzing one’s own teaching style, skill set, knowledge base, and ability to engage students. Central to that are the actual lesson plans, the assessments that are aligned with the instruction, and the daily feedback that teachers give to their students.

The practice of videotaping and analysis can be very powerful. It is certainly a reflective practice and done effectively, helps the teacher really focus on what worked well and what areas of support are needed. What makes me nervous, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be a focused attempt to have the student teacher work with a colleague or instructional coach to discuss the practices on the videotape and share ideas with his/her colleagues about the instruction.

In the April issue of the Journal of Staff Development (JSD), authors Fahey and Ippolito indicate three concepts for adult learning to take place and ultimately influence students: 1) Educators need a learning practice as well as a teaching practice; 2) Adult learning practice changes over time; and 3) How adults’ learning practice changes makes a difference in their teaching practice. So, if the videotaped lesson is the mode by which schools will determine teacher candidate readiness, where does the collaboration take place to ensure that teaching and learning are discussed and necessary adjustments are made to help teachers teach more effectively?