Continuous Evaluation of Professional Learning

Well, winter quarter is wrapping up and all quarter I have been learning more and more about ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator. I have spent my last few blog posts sharing about professional learning in general and how to evaluate impact, rethinking the design of professional learning and ideas for using digital resources to make active learning and feedback better. So, for this blog post I want to wrap things up and look more at the coach’s role and impact on professional learning. To start I am focusing specifically on the ISTE Coaching standard indicator 5c which says, “Coaches evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the schoolwide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning.” Wow there is a lot to this indicator, and it got me asking a lot of questions, however I knew that I needed to focus on one question and then hopefully the answers to my other questions would follow. So, for this blog post my driving questions is,

How can coaches continue to modify and improve professional learning to provide meaning learning experiences for educators in a field where educational technology is continually evolving?

I am curious if there are specific resources that can support coaches and if this continuous modification and improvement cycle would look like what teachers do when reflecting and evaluating their own teaching.

So, what does it mean to evaluate professional learning? Since my previous blog post, Evaluating the Impact of Professional Development I have come across a few new resources and ideas for what it means to evaluate professional learning. One of the resources that impressed me the most was the NSW Government website for education. On their website they have an entire section devoted to professional learning and one part of that is focused specifically on high impact professional learning. State of New South Wales or NSW defines high impact professional learning as consisting of 5 key elements that when all working together aim to build teachers up to expert teachers and improve student achievement. Key to high impact professional learning is;

  1. The professional learning needs to be designed around agreed to and identified student needs
  2. School leadership teams are the ones needed to create the culture for learning
  3. Professional learning needs to be done in collaboration and should be job embedded
  4. Professional learning should align with school vision and goals and needs to be continuous
  5. It takes everyone’s investment, school leaders and teachers are all responsible for evaluating the impact
© State of New South Wales (Department of Education), 2019.

While all the key elements are important, I wanted to focus in on the last one which specifically talked about evaluating the impact. Something that NSW highlights is that in order to be able to measure impact, “school leaders and teachers need to be clear about whose impact on what” (State of New South Wales, 2021). This got me thinking because if the idea of professional learning is that it should aim to improve student learning than isn’t that what we should be evaluating? However, I think what is important is that the expectations around evaluation need to be clear for all involved. When tying this back to the work of Guskey it makes me think about his 5 levels of impact and how the levels 4 and 5 are all about the participant and the student. How are educators using the new knowledge and how is it impacting student learning goals? So, if we are to truly evaluate these two things then educators and students should be involved in the evaluation process. As Hattie (2015) describes, “student voice can be highly reliable, rarely includes personality comments and appropriately used, can be a major resource for understanding and promoting high-impact teaching and learning” (pg. 16). Something else that NSW highlights as a part of professional learning is this idea of a cycle of inquiry for continuous improvement cycle. What I find interesting about the improvement cycle is that it continues the idea that learning does not end. People are continually learning and improving their own practice and so if we can use an improvement cycle to help us do that than why not. it also highlights the importance of not doing this alone but how educators should be doing this in a collaborative effort. “A relevant, collaborative, and future-focused improvement cycle supports teachers to reflect on, question and consciously improve their practice” (State of New South Wales, 2021).

How do coaches play into this work?

If the evaluation of professional learning is collaborative than coaches need to be a part of that work. It is the coaches’ job to then be working with the educator to reflect on their learning and analyze the impact on student outcomes. Coaches should be communicating with the teacher to make plans for evaluation and have conversations around the use of new practices, technology, and learning all centered around student outcomes. What I appreciate is that the Washington State Standards for Mentoring really highlight how a coach can support and play a part in this work. While the standards may not specifically call out evaluating professional learning, they do talk about how the role of the coach is to support the mentee through conversation, data refection, connecting to outcomes, evaluating progress towards goals, learning from colleagues, just to name a few. So, coaches are integral to this work and need to support it every step of the way. As a coach it is my job to support the teacher in professional growth, by reflection, observation, conversation, and collaboration. Through these moves I can help focus on the impact on student learning, what this means, how to keep it going, and help build up expert teachers not just experienced teachers. For if the teacher is one of the leading influences on student achievement than we need to continue to nurture and create expert teachers in the field. According to Hattie (2003), “Expert teachers aim for more than achievement goals. They also aim to motivate their students to master rather than perform, they enhance students’ self-concept and self-efficacy about learning, they set appropriate challenging tasks, and they aim for both surface and deep outcomes” (pg. 9).

What role can and does technology play?

Technology can play varying roles when it comes to evaluating professional learning. I think the trick is to start with the end goal, what is the learning outcome, and what is the impact we are looking for? Then we can look to see what resource might fit the best. With the ever-changing environment of technology, it is hard to predict what resources might work the best. So instead of highlighting a particular resource I want to focus on how technology might be used. When thinking about different ways to evaluate and the reflective nature of evaluation I started thinking about the use of observations. However instead of a supervisor observing and reporting back how can technology allow the teacher to observe their own teaching. Video observations and reflection can be very powerful in helping teachers see things that they may not be able to see normally. Some of my own most powerful learning was when I had to video tape myself for my National Boards certification and reflect on my teaching practice. Therefore, building this into the evaluation of professional learning can be powerful. Video can also be used to bring student voice into the evaluation process. Teachers and/or coaches could interview students about their experiences, giving students the opportunity to share how they think the professional learning has impacted them. This could be either through video or just audio and with or without the teacher, it really depends on the comfort level of all involved. Technology also allows for teachers, coaches, building leadership to collaborate with out having to be face to face. This is great especially when schedules can often be hard to align. Bottom line, the opportunities for technology integration are endless. As a coach it is part of my job to support teachers in determining the right technology to use, making sure it aligns with learning goals.

Connecting Back

So, how can coaches continue to modify and improve professional learning in order to provide meaning learning experiences for educators in a field where educational technology is continually evolving? Well as coaches we need to continue to meet teachers where they are in their own professional learning journey. We need to continue to work to build trusting relationships with those that we work with. We need to continue to collaborate and learn from and with our colleagues. I also believe that it is important to remember that professional learning does not have to be a formal experience. Professional learning happens when we are pushed to think deeply, actively engage, and the learning is connected to student learning outcomes. As I continue my work as a coach, I am committed to helping develop expert teachers. Those who continually reflect on their practice, learn from and with others, intentionally look for ways to improve their practice, and seek out learning opportunities while keeping student learning front and center.


Guskey, T. R. (2016). Gauge impact with five levels of data. Journal of Staff Development, 37(1). Retrieved from:

Hattie, John, “Teachers Make a Difference, What is the research evidence?” (2003).

Hattie, J. (2015). What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise. Retrieved from the Pearson website:

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2021, from

Standards_for_Mentoring_2020.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2021, from

What is High Impact Professional Learning. (2021, January 26). NSW Department of Education.

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Rethinking the Design of Professional Learning

For my second blog post this quarter I am continuing to look at ISTE Coaching standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator. However instead of focusing on the standard as a whole, I am looking at indicator 5a:

Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional and learning needs.

My last blog post centered around impactful professional development and how to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development. For this blog post I want to think deeper about how they truly design professional development centered around and needs assessment and frameworks for adult learning. My driving question for this blog post is;

How can using a needs assessment and frameworks for adult learning help facilitators design impactful professional development sessions that are more than just sit and get?

Some additional questions that I have are around how as an educator I might use what I learn from a needs assessment or from learning more about adult learning frameworks in order to design something that’s new and innovative. I also want to think about what PD might look like that’s completely been designed around a needs assessment.

As I began thinking about my question I really decided that I needed to start with understanding more about the different adult learning frameworks. There are several different adult learning frameworks to consider when thinking about professional learning. One framework that many people are familiar with is Andragogy Which is a framework that was developed by Malcolm Knowles. This framework really centers around the art of teaching adults and specifically those who are “self-motivated or are within a goal-oriented and structured program, or for teaching how to solve specific problems” (Valamis, n.d.). However as I started reading more about adult learning frameworks one that stood out to me was called self-directed learning. This framework is similar to Knowles’ Andragogy framework, however it focuses more on the learner making the decisions for themselves and directing what they learn. This got me thinking about how this would look in action, what sort of professional development model would this fit with?

Professional development (PD) can look so different depending on how it is structured and planned. As I was thinking about the self-directed framework and all of my past professional development, I realized a couple things.

  1. Some PD really sucks! I’ve attended some PD sessions where it was 3 hours of the facilitator talking at me. There was no place for me to take what they were saying and apply it to my own situation, classroom, or life. There was very little time for reflection and conversation. When there was conversation it was a quick turn and talk with little meaning. This is not what impactful PD should look like!
  2. Some PD is amazing! Along with the bad there is also the good. Some of the PD experiences that I’ve had that I would consider the most impactful are ones that fit in to the self-directed learning framework. These are sessions where I was in control of my own learning. I was able to decide how fast I wanted to learn something, where I wanted to take my own learning, and how I wanted to apply it. The PD gave me voice and choice in my own learning. Some of the examples that come to mind are;

Math Learning labs: these were PD sessions that happened both outside the classroom but also in the classroom. As participants we worked together to design learning and then would go into the classroom to see it in action, coach each other in the moment, and reflect on our learning together.

Digital Playgrounds: a virtual playground where as a participant I was able to determine what technology resource I wanted to learn more about, how to apply it to my classroom and experience, test out new ideas and when I got stuck I could ask the playground supervisor (facilitator) for help.

EdCamps: Similar to a digital playground, participants get to decide what they want to learn about. The thing that I love about this sort of PD is that the participants are the ones who come up with the session ideas. Its like doing a needs assessment at the beginning of the PD and using that to determine what the various sessions will be about. Talk about making the PD relevant and tied to what the participants need.

So what is the purpose of professional development? If the purpose is just for participants to passively sit back and take notes, then blog post done there is nothing more to talk about. However, I think we need to continue to rethink how professional development is designed and implemented. Webster-Wright (2009) argues that we “need to move beyond the current focus on how to best provide PD activities toward understanding more about the fundamental question of how professionals learn” (p. 703-704). So how do we design something that gets at how professionals learn? I believe that is through doing a needs assessment. We should be starting with asking how and what they want and need in professional development instead of assuming we know. Let the learners be the drivers and we can be the drivers ED teacher who is there to help when needed. Learning needs to be real and embedded into what we are doing in order for it to stick. Webster-Wright (2009) also goes on to add that we should be calling professional development, professional learning since that is the point of it, we want professionals to continue their learning. If we continue to call it professional development than we are in essence implying that “professionals are in need of “training” or “developing” through knowledge being “delivered” to them in courses” (p 713). Is this really the message we want to convey?

If we truly want to innovate and design impactful professional learning experiences than we need to continue to involve the professional when design them. How are we embedding the learning and connecting it to their classrooms, experiences, and needs? For me I plan on continuing to learn more about the framework for adult learning. I also am excited to continue to explore how I might embed professional learning into the classroom or work that teachers are already doing. How might I take and utilize the needs of the teachers in order to design something that is just for them? Professional Learning is more than just something done “to” teachers. It should be continuous, engaging, relevant, built around their needs, and done in collaboration. Because as The Aspen Institute (2015) said “For students to become powerful learners, their teachers must engage in powerful learning themselves” (p. 1).

If you have ideas for how to make professional learning innovative and relevant to educators needs, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


10 Adult Learning Theories | What Works Best for You. (n.d.). Valamis. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from

Developing a Professional Learning System for Adults in Service of Student Learning. (2018, February 21). The Aspen Institute.

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2021, from

Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing Professional Development Through Understanding Authentic Professional Learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 702–739.

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Evaluating the Impact of Professional Development

Well it is winter quarter in my master’s program at Seattle Pacific University and we are focusing on ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional learning Facilitator

Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning.

What stood out to me about this standard is the idea of evaluating the impact of professional learning. I have taken many professional development courses over the course of my career and I often find that the evaluations at the end tend to be generic. So, this standard got me wondering about evaluation practices and how it might connect to educational technology. This lead me to my driving question for this blog post;

How can educational technology help coaches effectively evaluate the impact of professional development and what are best practices in evaluating professional development?

In looking for answers to my question I came across many different resources, all talking about what makes effective professional development (PD). One of the resources that I gravitated towards is the ISTE White Paper, Technology, Coaching, and Community. One of the first reasons I was drawn to this resource was its title as it clearly was about how technology, coaching, and community can be used to provide impactful professional development and I wanted to know more. If we want to provide impactful PD what should it look like and what do we need to incorporate? One thing that ISTE recommends is to incorporate “a three-pronged methodology to achieve 21st-century professional learning experiences, which will better prepare teachers to effectively help students learn. This methodology embraces: an effective coaching model, online communities for greater collaborative idea sharing; and a fully embedded use of technology” (p. 5).

This three pronged approach highlights that impactful PD is not about a one size fits all approach. In fact, PD should be continuous and relevant to the learner to truly be impactful. When designing PD, it is important to consider how technology can and should be used, how are we creating opportunities for individuals to grow their professional learning communities and what support (coaching) are we providing along the one.

If a technology-rich environment is a given, offering job-embedded PD and coaching as a scaffold for ongoing support and growth will allow teachers an opportunity for low-risk practice and lots of feedback. And when teachers can work collaboratively to share ideas and improve teaching practices, a community of practice can emerge to provide a scaffold for support and growth.

ISTE, 2011, p. 7

So how can we evaluate PD that is continuous and job-embedded? What would an evaluation of this sort of PD look like? These were all questions I started asking myself after reading the ISTE resource above. In continuing to look for answers to these questions and my driving question I came across an article by Thomas Guskey. While the article itself is from 2002 it still has some valuable ideas for evaluating PD. According to Guskey (2002) a good evaluation does not have to be complicated however it should provide useful information around whether or not the PD had value and if the goals of the PD were met. There are many different forms that evaluation can take on. Many people thinking of a survey at the end of PD when thinking about evaluation, however that doesn’t have to be the only way. An evaluation might be observational data collected, portfolios, video or audio recordings, anything really that provides valuable information about whether or not the PD is achieving its goals. In the article Guskey describes 5 levels for evaluating professional development.

Level 1 is all about the participants reactions to the PD. While Guskey lists things like “were the chairs comfortable” it is important to think about how some of these questions change over time and given current realities. It might be more important now to ask participants questions around the use of breakout rooms during the meeting, opportunities for movement instead of just sitting in front of the screen, or even opportunities for virtual collaboration.

Level 2 evaluates the learning. Did participants learn something or gain new skills because of the PD. This is a good opportunity to evaluate this using some of the educational technology that was used during the PD. Maybe participants use some sort of video resource like FlipGrid to reflect on what they learned. How are we providing an opportunity for them to practice and reflect on their learning?

Level 3 provides an opportunity to evaluate how well the PD aligns with building or district goals. While this can be harder to evaluate it is important because a “Lack of organization support and change can sabotage any professional development effort, even when all the individual aspects of professional development are done right.” (Guskey, 2002).

Level 4 happens over time. This level of evaluation is all about how participants are using the knowledge or skills that they learned in the PD. This sort of evaluation is going to happen over time and look different. “The most accurate information typically comes from direct observations, either with trained observers or by reviewing video-or audiotapes.” (Guskey, 2002). This is also were ongoing support or coaching comes into play. How are participants building community and getting coaching support to continue their learning?

Level 5 brings everything back to student learning. How did the PD impact student learning? When looking at the impact on student learning it is important to look at the full picture. While there may be a positive impact on student learning in some areas it is also important to look and see if there are any unintended outcomes that result.

All five of these levels are important parts to evaluating PD. Different information is obtained and gathered at each level. However, one thing that Guskey (2002) mentions is the idea of planning backwards. It is important to start with the end results in mind, what are the student learning outcomes that we want to achieve with this PD? Then we can look at the instructional practices that we want to see participants utilizing the knowledge and skills and how things connect to building/district goals. From there we can think about the experiences and knowledge that we want participants to walk away with in order to achieve the outcomes desired in levels 3-5.

So what does this all mean. When thinking back to my driving question,

How can educational technology help coaches effectively evaluate the impact of professional development and what are best practices in evaluating professional development?

I am still left with lots of questions, but also with knew ideas around what impactful professional learning is. Everything boils down to a few key ideas for me.

  1. Professional development is not a one-time thing. It must be ongoing and done in community. Collaboration is important to learning and therefore how are we embedding it into PD.
  2. Technology should be embedded both in the PD and within the evaluation. How am I leveraging educational technology in order to make lasting impacts on the learning experience? How am I continuing to provide opportunities for participants to use the technology both in their classrooms but also in the evaluation process? Are there opportunities for virtual collaboration, digital portfolios, video reflections?
  3. Everything comes back to student learning. When designing and evaluating PD, I need to be sure that I am focused on how it impacts student learning outcomes.

As I continue to think about how I plan and evaluate professional development I will remember to plan backwards by starting with student learning and create opportunities that allow for continued support, embedded technology, and community.


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Reflecting on Coaching Relationships and my Peer Coaching Project

Fall quarter has come to an end but the learning is still continuing. For this quarter my project was around coaching a peer in order to create a lesson plan. I’ve been using the ISTE Coaching standards to help craft a relationship hat allows for collaboration, trusting relationships and an environment that allows for designing learning experiences that engage students. Through this project I have learned a lot about what it means to be a coach and steps for working with a peer to improve lesson plans. I am still in the process of coaching my peer, but am moving forward with the lessons learned this quarter in order to improve our coaching relationship and have a positive impact on student learning through lesson development.

What I’ve learned so Far

I’ve always felt like I was meant to be a coach in some capacity. I enjoy working one on one with people and building relationships. However I also know I still have a lot to learn for myself about what it means to be an effective coach. I have so appreciated all the learning and support of my peers this quarter in helping me become a better coach. 

When I first started working with my partner on developing a coaching plan and thinking about lesson improvement, it was clear I had a lot to learn. I had never used a coaching plan with a peer before so at first it was a little overwhelming. However through the use of the coaching plan my partner and I were able to have deeper conversations about students learning. The plan helped us focus on what our learning goals are not only for the classroom but also for the school. This helped us to begin to think about how these goals work together and what we might need to do in order to meet these goals. I think it was intimidating for my partner at first to think about what our goals might be for our work together but the more we talked and had honest conversations the easier it became to think about our goals. This leads to other reflections I’ve had during this project.

Coaching relationships are intricate. A good coaching relationship does not happen overnight. It takes time for a coach to build a relationship with their partner. It also takes listening, reflecting, and authenticity. These are all things I knew going in but this project was a great reminder of how important they really are to the coaching relationship. As my partner and I continued working together there were often times where we had to pause the work on improving our lesson plan in order to just talk. In the current state of education it is extremely apparent that teachers are overwhelmed and emotionally drained. I find it is important as a coach to allow for these moments to happen, moments where the teacher can just breath, be honest, and talk. So often we find ourselves just moving forward and continuing the work instead of taking time to acknowledge how we are feeling and where we are emotionally. So as a coach I wanted to be sure to build space for this. I wanted my partner to know that I see them and I hear them. While these means we may not always get through things as quickly as we would like, it does help build a trusting relationship as my partner now knows that I care about them and that I am here to support them. 

I’ve also learned that coaches need their own coaches. It has been so helpful to have peers of my own that I can work with this quarter. For me they have been my coach through this process even if they don’t know it. It has been helpful to bounce ideas off of them, tell them how I am feeling and have them listen and provide feedback when needed. This has been especially helpful as my partner and I have begun improving our lesson. I’ve often had questions but did not be able to talk them through with my own coach before taking them to my partner. So it was helpful to be able to share the current lesson my partner and I are working to improve and get feedback from my peers.

Lesson Improvement 

So what does lesson improvement look like? Well as my partner and I have been digging into this work it has been really important to continually come back to our learning goals for the students, what is it that we want them to have learned after completing this lesson? Do our standards match with our learning goals for students? How are we engaging students in this work? One resource that I have found helpful for engaging in this work is the “Learning Design Matrix” that was created by Les Foltos.

Peer-Ed, 2018

Instead of sharing the matrix as it is I have broken it down by the four different quadrants. This has helped my partner and I focus in on a specific area that we want to improve. So for our lesson we are looking at the engaging task section of the matrix and are thinking intentionally about the ways we want students to engage. We are also looking at the technology section of the matrix as we know that it is highly likely that students will still be remote in the spring when this lesson is taught. Therefore we want to be intentional in the way that students are using technology to engage in the learning. We are also trying to bring in an element of social emotional learning to the lesson since we know that this school year has been stressful on everyone. Therefore we are working to acknowledge where students are emotionally and trying to find ways to account for that in the lesson. 

The lesson that we are working on is for a seventh grade math class. Students will be coming to the end of a unit on ratios and proportions and will be using what they learned in order to solve real-world problems. With this in mind we are thinking about how we might use students interests and backgrounds in order to make the learning more culturally relevant. We are looking to allow students to come up with some of their own examples of how proportional relationships show up in the real world, while also providing examples of their learning. We are hoping to utilize breakout rooms for discussion and collaboration amongst students. We are also looking into different platforms such as Nearpod or Classkick for students to demonstrate their learning. I am also hoping to build in an element of choice for students around what other platforms they might use to demonstrate learning. I want to focus on how we might collaborate together to design a lesson that is authentic, builds student agency and takes into account the variability of our learners.

Next Steps

This is still very much a work in progress. My partner and I are continuing to meet virtually almost weekly. We are still working on the specifics of our lesson and how we might improve it. So I know we still have a lot to work on. However through all of this we have gotten closer in our coaching relationship. We’ve been able to have honest conversations with each other and sometimes even cry in front of each other. This is real and this is where we are. But to me it says a lot about our relationship that they feel comfortable with showing their feelings. This has helped us to have harder conversations and I believe will help us develop a lesson design that will have a positive impact on student learning. I also plan to continue to use the Learning Design Matrix and the ISTE coaching standards moving forward as building blocks for this work. I am excited for this relationship to continue to grow and that through this I am able to continue to work on my own coaching practices. This allows me to continue to practice my listening and communication skills so that I and my partner continue to grow.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin.

Foltos, L. (2018). Learning Design Matrix. Peer-Ed, Mill Creek

ISTE Standards for Coaches (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Posted in Change Agent, Collaborator, Connected Learner, Learning Designer, Professional Learning Facilitator | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Three-Point Communication and Coaching Relationships

Well, I’ve reached the end of Fall quarter in my Educational Technology Leadership class at Seattle Pacific University. For this last module I’ve gone a different route and am focusing on something a little more specific. We have been talking a lot about coaching, communication skills, and helping teachers improve their lesson design. Throughout our conversations as a class and in looking at the ISTE Coaching standards I’ve started to think a lot about what effective coaching is and what it looks like. Many of the ISTE standards talk about establishing shared vision, goals, trust and collaboration and this has me thinking about the use of third point communication in a coaching relationship.

Driving Question

What are good strategies for bringing in and using a third point when coaching? How can a third point help build trust in a coaching relationship? And, what are good examples of a third point?

What is Third Point Communication? 

Third point communication is something that I first heard about a few years back while attending the BEST Mentor Academy workshops through OSPI. During these workshops we referenced a book called Mentoring Matters: A Practical Guide to Learning-Focused Relationships  by Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman. In their section on learning-focused conversations one of the strategies mentioned is the use of a third point. Lipton and Wellman (2018)  describe a third point as something that focuses the conversation on something visual and shifts the energy away from the coach/teacher relationship and onto the physical artifact or item (pg.52). When using a third point often the physical item is placed between the two people so that both can easily see and refer to the item. The coach may also use gestures in order to draw attention to the item and should try to use more neutral pronouns when conducting the conversation. The idea of using a third point is to depersonalize an idea and/or conversation. This idea can be useful no matter what role the coach is taking in the conversation.

Why use a third point?

As was mentioned above the use of a third point is to shift the focus of the conversation and depersonalize it. This is helpful when establishing relationships with teachers since it can help to “free the colleague to accept, modify or reject the idea as an idea” (Lipton and Wellman, 2018). The use of a third point is also helpful when having uncomfortable or hard conversations as it gives those in the conversation somewhere to focus besides the other person. This can help make everyone feel more comfortable which helps build trusting relationships between coach and teacher. Since the goal of a coach is to work with teachers in order to define shared vision and goals and improve instructional practices, this can lead to uncomfortable moments and conversations. However with the use of a third point negative thoughts or feelings can be shifted away from the coach or teacher and placed on the third point instead (Collet, 2017). With this shift coach and teacher are better prepared to have conversations that can lead toward improved learning outcomes and better learning experiences for students. So anytime a coach feels like a conversation might be difficult or uncomfortable they should practice using three-point communication and the more it is used the more comfortable coaches will be in shifting to three-point communication in any situation. 

Examples of a third point

When having a three-point conversation it is important for the coach to think about what that third point might be. Yes, a third point can be anything that shifts the focus from the individual to the item but it should be something that also highlights or enhances the conversation. Third points can be just about anything and it is really up to the coach. Some examples of third points that can be useful in conversations are the learning standards, rubrics, lesson plans and student work. These can all be printed ahead of time or even pulled up virtually and shared if not face to face. The more I started thinking about what a third point might be I started realizing that I’ve used many things in conversations as a third point. When working with other teachers I often like to have either a lesson plan when we are planning together or student work when we are reflecting on how a lesson went. However now that we are working virtually some other things that could work are recordings of their Zoom sessions or the asynchronous videos that teachers are preparing to post to their virtual classrooms. I’ve even had a teacher pull up the home page of their learning management system so that we could have a conversation around its design and functionality in terms of student use. All of these are examples of a third point. The thing that I keep reminding myself is that it is how we use the third point that matters. This provides an excellent opportunity to practice communication skills on top of the use of a third point. How is my body language, my tone of voice, am I keeping my phrases neutral so as not to sound accusatory? If we are practicing all these things while using a third point then it should help keep the conversation feeling safe and help build trust and support between the coach and teacher. 

If you’ve never thought about using a third point before then you might check out this video on Three Point Communication.

Three Point Communication – TeachingHOW2s

I would love to hear what you have used as a third point before? As well as your thoughts on how the use of a third point can help establish safe and trusting coaching relationships? 


Caviglioli, O. (2016, February 27). Three Point Communication—TeachingHOW2s.

Collet, V. (2017, December 15). My Coaches’ Couch: Using Third Points. My Coaches’ Couch.

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2020, from

Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. M. (2018). Mentoring matters: A practical guide to learning-focused relationships.

Posted in Change Agent, Collaborator, Connected Learner, Learning Designer | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Connecting 21st Century Learning and Effective Learning Practices

As I sit here on this cold and overcast day, my mind keeps wandering to this idea of 21st Century learning. In class the topic these last two weeks has been on 21st Century learning and what that means. This got me thinking that this term gets used a lot but often means different things to different people. As I continued to think about this I started looking more at the ISTE coaching standards to see how these ideas connect. I was specifically looking at coaching standards 1, 3, and 4. These standards seem to connect so well as they are all about being a change agent, collaborator, and learning designer. I also started thinking about my own classroom experience as a teacher and whether or not I was modeling 21st Century learning. So now I’m sitting here at my computer thinking about all of these things and asking myself these questions.

What are the connections between 21st Century learning and effective learning practices? How can coaches support teachers in establishing effective learning that also emphasizes 21st Century skills?

What is 21st century learning? 

The first step in helping me develop some answers to my questions is to really define what 21st Century learning is. Often I hear this as 21st Century skills or the 4Cs, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. I hear this and I think great, but these are just words, what does this mean for me? As I think about this it keeps coming back to the idea that 21st Century skills are all the things that students, adults, everyone needs to be successful in life. We need to know how to talk to one another effectively. It’s one thing to have a conversation but to be successful we need to make sure we know how to communicate clearly and in a way that lets our point be heard. We also need to know how to work with others. So much of what happens in the world does not happen in silos. It takes people working together, brainstorming ideas and collaborating in order to complete a project. So how do we learn how to effectively collaborate with others instead of push others away? Creativity and critical thinking are always harder for me to wrap my head around why they are important, but they are. If we are not developing humans to be creative and critical thinkers then we can forget about the next version of the iPhone ever coming out. It takes creativity for someone to develop new technology and think outside the box in order to create something that doesn’t yet exist. We also need critical thinkers in order to make a lot of this new technology work. We need individuals who are able to see a problem and gather enough information in order to develop solutions to the problem. So if these are the skills that individuals need to be successful why do we call it 21st Century learning sometimes? Well I believe that really these are one in the same, yes they are skills but they exist in the learning. We need to be developing ways to bring these skills into the classroom and the learning experience so that individuals don’t have to wait until after they get out of school to learn the necessary skills for success. 

Supporting 21st Century learning in the classroom

All of this brings me back to the classroom and how educators and coaches can support 21st Century learning. One word keeps coming to mind when I think about what this might look like in the classroom and it is intentional. As educators we need to be intentional in how we build these experiences into a lesson or unit. How are we explicitly creating opportunities for students to practice 21st Century skills? With the adoption of the common core some of this has been made easier since 21st Century skills were built into the standards and mathematical practices, but it still needs to be done with intention. So how can coaches help educators build effective learning experiences for students that intentionally teach 21st Century skills? Well Foltos (2013) suggests that norms are a place to start. If a coach wants to work effectively with their collaborating teacher then there needs to be an explicit agreement on what improvement means (p.104). So it is important for the coach and teacher to be on the same page when it comes to effective learning and 21st Century learning. A good place to start talking about norms is through conversation, asking the teacher what the goals of the lesson are, what skills they want students to walk away with. This helps jump start the conversation around effective learning and can lead to deeper discussions around the skills needed for that. Often in these discussions I hear the word engagement come out and from there I am able to have a conversation with the teacher around what engagement means and what they would look like in the classroom. Most often it is described exactly as Foltos (2013) describes it, “students are actively involved in their learning” (p. 105). For here we can begin to get specific about what this should look and sound like in the classroom. “When coaching other teachers to make similar moves, Wolpert-Gawron encourages them to “tease apart what it means to collaborate, communicate, think critically. This is a language that teachers at all grade levels, in all subjects, are able to embrace.” The more concrete, the better.” (Boss, 2019). Something else that I have been thinking about while writing this post is the strategies that can be used in the classroom to support this work. One strategy is to make 21st Century learning explicit to students, let them know when they are learning it and what the expectations are. A resource to help support this is from The Buck Institute for Education. On their website they have rubrics that are specifically connected to 21st Century skills that educators can download and use in their classroom. One rubric that I find really useful is the collaboration rubric for grades 6-12 that is aligned to the CCSS for ELA.

I like this rubric because it has both expectations for what students should be doing individually and also as a team. As a teacher I could see myself turning this rubric into an anchor chart that could just be posted in the classroom for students to reference at all times. Then to be more explicit I would reference it anytime students are doing collaborative work. This also makes me think about something I used to do in the classroom with my students called a participation quiz. This was really just a way for me as the teacher to explicitly call out and highlight the behaviors that groups were doing that I wanted to see. So as groups were working I would circulate helping groups but I would also be looking and listening for 2 or 3 specific behaviors that I wanted to see from groups. These behaviors were always connected to the activity, things that would support the group in being successful and they were always shared with the class ahead of time so they knew what I was looking for. As I heard or saw the behavior I would write it on the whiteboard in order to make it public and remind students of what I wanted to see and hear. Now I could imagine using this rubric to help guide what I was looking for. 


So I’m back to my initial questions, What are the connections between 21st Century learning and effective learning practices? How can coaches support teachers in establishing effective learning that also emphasizes 21st Century skills? While I don’t think I have fully fleshed out answers to these questions for myself I do think I am on the right track. 21st century learning and effective learning practices go hand in hand. As educators we should be designing experiences that allow students to collaborate, communicate, be creative and think critically. We need to be intentional in how we design these experiences in order for them to be effective. There are many resources out there that can help with this work. However I think one of the best resources is that of a coach. A coach can be there to support in so many different ways. However it is important to remember to start by setting norms for the work so that all involved are on the same page. Once on the same page we can begin to develop learning experiences that allow for 21st Century learning to happen. So as we continue to develop experiences for students that allow for creativity, challenge their thinking, and provide opportunities for communicating ideas and collaborating with others I’m left thinking about this quote from Boss “The challenge that remains is making sure all students have similar opportunities to dream and do.” (2019).


All Resources | MyPBLWorks. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2020, from

Boss, S. (2019, January 22). It’s 2019. So Why Do 21st-Century Skills Still Matter? – EdSurge News. EdSurge.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin; eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2020, from

Posted in Change Agent, Collaborator, Learning Designer | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Communicating in a Virtual Space

For my EDTC 6105 course we are continuing to talk about communication, coaching and how communication plays a role in successful coaching. Over the last couple weeks we have been talking about how coaches can build trust, set goals and norms, push on instructional practices and build the capacity of educators and the role that communication plays. This has gotten me thinking about my own communication skills, what those look and sounds like and if they have changed since we’ve started working remotely. This has lead me to my driving question for this blog post:

Do communication skills need to change when coaching virtually versus face to face in order for coaches to be successful at establishing productive and respectful coaching relationships? What impact does meeting virtually have on a coaching relationship?

What are communication skills? 

There are many things that come to mind when I think of communication. As Foltos (2013) describes, communication can include many things from tone of voice to language choice or body and facial expressions (p. 83). The list can be quite long but it is important to consider how we communicate when working with others as effective communication leads to strong collaborative partnerships. When coaching, those that we are working with want to know that we believe in them and that we are there to support and build them up. So how we communicate both verbally and nonverbally has to match and support that. Some of the skills that I have found work the best when coaching are making sure that I am actively listening which includes questioning and paraphrasing what I have heard and also body language. 

This is something that I still am continually working on. Being an active listener is more than just paying attention to the speaker. It means not getting distracted while listening. As a coach it is my job to really hear what my colleague is saying, not just what I think they are saying. Elena Aguilar (2018) suggests that instead of active listening we should actually be listening with an expansive mind. I had never heard this phrase before but it made sense. If we are listening with an expansive mind then we are listening for those places where we can push on learning, build our partner up, being curious about what they are saying. We aren’t closed off but instead are open to hear and learn together. 

This is something that I find myself doing all the time, at work, at home, even when I’m out to dinner. To me this skill holds the key to building relationships. When I paraphrase it is more than just repeating what I just heard. It is taking what I heard and rephrasing it in a way to check for my own understanding, it gives the speaker time to correct anything that I may have misheard and also allows for the speaker to think about if that was really what they were trying to say. I have found that when I follow up a paraphrase with a question this helps push the conversation further and leads to deeper discussion and/or learning. As Foltos (2013) mentions, good paraphrasing and questioning should focus on the speaker not the listener so it is important to not use the pronoun I and instead use phrases like, “so you are saying …” or “you’re thinking that …” (p.85). 

This one is extremely important. As a coach I might be saying one thing with my words but if my body language doesn’t match then it can be harmful to the coaching relationship. Just like in any relationship my words and my actions need to be in sync. Therefore it is important that my body language communicates that I believe in them, that I’m listening, and that I am open to what they are saying. How am I communicating through body language, am I looking at them, is my posture tense, how is my tone of voice? All of these are important to think about when communicating. “You can build community simply by heightening your awareness of your body language and how you interpret the body language of others” (Aguilar, 2018). 

Communicating in a Virtual Space

So what does this mean for coaching and communicating virtually. While all of the things listed above are still true it can sometimes be harder to do in a virtual environment. Since the physical connection of being in the same place is gone it is important to pay attention to how we are communicating. It is important that we are aware of the message we are trying to send and keying into the language that we use in order to effectively communicate. Even more so in a virtual space we should have humility and empathy for those that we are working with. Therefore we need to be sure that our tone and body language comes through in a virtual space. It is important that those we are working with know that we are listening ao we need to do what we can to limit the distractions and use paraphrasing and questioning intentionally. Another idea that stands out during this time is also litening for those opportunities where we can highlight the successes that are happening all around us. Where are the places where we can call out something that someone has done and share those tips and successes with others. This takes actively listening for those moments and then being ready to share them out with others. Good communication also leads to positive collaboration which is also a skill to successful coaching. As a coach I need to be willing to be vulnerable myself, communicate my learning, be open, transparent, and use phrases that emphasize that “we” are doing this work together. 


So while I don’t believe communication needs to completely change while coaching remotely, I do believe it is even more important. Without the face to face connection it is important that others still feel connected to what is happening. As a coach it is even more important that I am paying attention to facial expressions, tone and word/language choice so that there is not a mismatch between what I’m saying and my body language. While working remotely it is important to keep the lines of communication open and to continue to let those I’m working with know that I am there to support them. It is on me to continue to reach out so that there is not a feeling of isolation. Share successes whenever possible and make sure that what I am communicating verbally matches my nonverbal communication. 


Aguilar, E. (2018, October 26). How to Hone Your Interpersonal Skills. Edutopia.

Berg, A. V. D. (2020, August 18). 4 Ways ICs Can Support Teachers and Students Virtually.

Blogger, A. G. (2020, April 20). Three keys to instructional coaching in a virtual learning environment. ASCD Inservice.

Coaching During COVID: 6 Key Takeaways from Jim Knight and Diane Lauer. (2020, April 10). KickUp.

Coaching for Change: Effective Instructional Coaching | EL Education. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2020, from

DeCastro, M. (2020, August 13). How Communication Skills Coaching Will Prepare You to Lead in a Post-Coronavirus World. Business 2 Community.

Ferlazzo, L. (2020, March 27). Instructional Coaching During the Coronavirus Crisis. Education Week – Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin; eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2020, from

UWCEL. (2020, May 18). How Coaches are Improving Teaching in a Virtual Environment.

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Learning to Navigate the Many Roles of a Peer Coach

It’s the fall of 2020 and this quarter for my EDTC 6105 course in the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University we are focusing on peer coaching. For this first blog post my focus is on ISTE Coaching standard 1 which is about being a change agent. The reason I am focusing on this standard and specifically indicators a and c are because of their focus on a coaching culture and how it connects with a shared vision and goals. As I began digging into these standards and reading the text for our course, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration by Les Foltos (2013) I started thinking about all the different roles and hats that a coach wears. I started wondering about the use of each role, how many roles are there, and how do coaches know when to switch from one role to another. All of this led me to my driving question for this week’s blog post.

Driving Question

As a new coach how do I balance my use of the 4 different coaching roles and know when to move from one role to another? I know each role has a purpose and is important but there are times when one role may be more effective then another. How do coaches go about determining what role to take and when they might move between roles?

To get started I wanted to really look into what the different roles are that coaches take on. What I found is that there are a variety of roles and depending on who you ask they go by different names. While the list of roles can go on forever there were some roles that seemed to be common across the board. 

Facilitator – This role is all about leading through asking questions, supporting the learning while still pushing thinking. As a facilitator the coach is the one leading the learning and helping teachers to reflect on their practice. While the coach is asking questions the teacher is the one doing most of the thinking and reflecting. In this role the coach is there to act as a sounding board to the teacher in order to help improve practice. In her research article, “Teacher-centered Coaching: An Instructional Coaching Model” Sonia Wang (2017) provides examples of questions and statements that a coach might pose when taking a facilitator role. All of the questions or statements are phrased in a way that pushes the teacher to go deeper in their thinking. Questions such as “take me through your thinking process” or “What do you think allowed for this to happen?” all help the teacher to reflect on their practice.

Collaborator – This role is about being a partner and working together with the teacher. As a collaborator coaches and teachers are working together to brainstorm ideas, coplan lessons, reflect on and evaluate lessons. The coach should not be doing all the thinking and talking but instead there should be a balance of responsibility. This is a great role for working together to problem solve and plan activities. When in a collaborating role the coach should be asking things like, “why don’t we brainstorm around … “ or “let’s think of some pro’s and con’s for …” or simply “what if we …” all of these shared the thinking with the teacher.

Expert – This role has the coach doing most of the talking since they are taking on an expert role and sharing their experience. As an expert the coach positions themself to be the one sharing their knowledge and the teacher is there to learn from them. This does not mean that the teacher is a passive participant however. Through this role the coach is sharing their experience but also asking questions that check for understanding, similar to an instructor in a course.

Catalyst/Empowerer – This role is about reflection and improving practice while building teacher agency. When in the role of a catalyst the coach is working to improve instructional practice and helping teachers to become instructional decision makers within their classrooms and buildings. In order to do this a coach must empower the teacher to build their own professional identity, agency and voice. Wang (2017) shares that “ Therefore, I coined the term “empowerer” for the moments in the session where the teacher and I shared a thinking process where they identified their own growth and/or they saw the larger impact their instructional practice can and does have on their students and classroom (p. 30).

So how does a coach navigate and move amongst all of the roles listed above and the hundreds of other roles not mentioned? Part of this navigation starts with being clear around your goals as a coach and having a trusting relationship with the teacher that you are working with. If the coach has built a trusting respectful relationship with a shared vision and goal then they will be better equipped to shift from one role to another and flexibly. The ability to shift from one role to another is something that I think takes time but should also be natural. I think oftentimes coaches don’t even realize that they are shifting in between roles because it is just part of natural conversation. The shift or move should happen and be based around the needs of the teacher and what is going to push student and teacher learning further. Something else that I have come to recognize is the importance of framing everything around a third point such as data, standards, goals, student work. This helps keep the conversation focused on student learning and helps continue to build trusting relationships because it is not about the teacher personally but about the learning. I appreciated how Wang (2017) shared that they tracked the frequency with which they were assuming the different roles and that this gave them a better understanding of how often they were utilizing each one. I also think it showcased how easily it is to move from one to the other and how as coaches we subconsciously determine which role to take and when. Moving forward I plan on using the goals set between myself and my coaching partner to help determine which role to begin in. I then plan to let the conversation dictate the course and help determine the role to take and when.

After all of this what I have come to realize is that there is not a magical answer. It really is all about relationships, trust, and vision. If I continue to build relationships with my coaching partners then the movement between roles will come naturally as it will be built around our shared vision and the community we have created. While I still believe that each role has a purpose I think when to utilize it is up to the coach and where they are at in their relationship with the teacher. For me when I am just starting I don’t want to come in as the expert since I want the relationship to be a partnership. So for that purpose I tend to start with more of a facilitative or collaborative role. One in which I can support, ask questions and be a partner in the learning. As our relationship builds then I can begin to move into more of an expert role when appropriate or even that catalyst who can empower the teacher to be a change agent in their classroom and school community.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin; eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).

Foltos, L, 2018, Peer-Ed. Mill Creek, WA

Impact-Cycle.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2020, from

LearningFocusedConversationsGuide.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from

McNamara, C. (n.d.). How to Know When to Facilitate, Train or Coach. 2. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from 

Wang, S. (2017). Teacher Centered Coaching: An Instructional Coaching Model. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 29(1), 20-39.

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EDTC 6104 Community Engagement Project – Supporting Learning with Project-Based Learning and Nearpod

This summer as part of my EDTC 6104 course I have had the opportunity to learn more about ISTE Coaching Standard 3 and how it connects with my work as a coach and supporting educators and students. One of the elements of our course this summer has been to develop a professional learning opportunity that can hopefully be presented at a conference of our choosing. As I thought about this opportunity I really wanted my presentation to be relevant to the work that is happening in my district. I wanted to develop something that could hopefully be utilized with teachers that I work with and also presented at a conference for other educators to experience. So after some internal discussions with myself and some reflection I found that I kept wandering back to exploring Project-Based Learning (PBL) and the digital tool, Nearpod. 

I choose to present something on PBL and Nearpod for a couple reasons. One of the main reasons was that many of the secondary schools in my district have started thinking more about how to incorporate PBL into their instruction. Another determining factor was that our district just recently purchased Nearpod for all of our secondary teachers. Therefore I really wanted to focus my presentation on Project-Based Learning (PBL), Nearpod and Remote Learning. My goal for this presentation is to help give educators a better understanding of what PBL and Nearpod are and how the two things can work together in order to support student learning. 

As I started planning my presentation I knew right away that I wanted to be able to deliver the presentation utilizing Nearpod. This way participants would get to experience Nearpod from the student perspective and I would have the opportunity to explore it as a teacher so that I can be better prepared to answer questions. I also used this time to explore some of the resources that Nearpod has on their website for PD. I also revisited many of the PBL resources provided by during a conference I attended this past June. One of the other resources that has been helpful for my preparation has been the book, Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences by Suzie Boss and John Larmer. 

Right now my plan is to provide a 50 minute presentation at NCCE in the spring of 2021, if my proposal is accepted. I am also planning on offering a modified version of this presentation to educators in my district. Within my district the presentation will mainly focus on Nearpod and PBL and working with educators to design opportunities for incorporating those two things into their lessons. I also plan on working closely with some teachers in order to gather evidence of PBL and Nearpod use in the classroom including student artifacts. These would all be incorporated into my presentation for NCCE. 

This work and presentation directly relates to ISTE Coaching Standard 3 in the following ways.

  • 3a: Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies. 
    • I plan on starting the presentation by building in common language and understanding. That way everyone is starting from a fairly level playing field and thus may be more inclined to explore the resources and ask questions.
  • 3b:Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards. 
    • Participants will be asked to use their current curriculum and standards in order to think about what design elements of PBL can be incorporated and how the Nearpod features can support that. 
  • 3c: Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.
    • There will be time throughout the presentation for educators to engage in with the Nearpod platform in order to evaluate if it is the right tool for their classrooms and to get more comfortable with how to use the platform.
  • 3d: Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.
    • The design of the PD utilizes Nearpod so I will be able to model how to use it as the teachers and participants will be able to see the platform from the student perspective. This will allow for participants to account for places where students may get stuck or ask questions.

Below is a link to materials that I plan to use and reference during my presentation and a video overview of my presentation.

My hope is that this presentation will be something that can be added to in the future with more classroom examples of how educators are using PBL and Nearpod. I am happy with where it is at currently and can’t wait to share it with other educators in my district so that I can add their experience to the presentation.


Boss, S., & Larmer, J. (2018). Project based teaching: How to create rigorous and engaging learning experiences. ASCD ; Buck Institute for Education.

Boss, S., Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J. R., & Buck Institute for Education. (2015). PBL for 21st century success: Teaching critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. Buck Institute for Education.

Home-Based Learning Resources—Nearpod. (n.d.). Home-Based Learning Resources. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from

PBLWorks. (n.d.). PBLWorks. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from

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