Coaching is such hard work and has been made even more difficult while having to work from home. This is what has been running through my mind lately and stood out even more as I started thinking about my inquiry question for this blog post. The focus of this blog post started with looking at and digging deeper into the ISTE Coaching Standard: Learning Designer. This standard is focused around how coaches can support and model what it means to design authentic learning experiences for students using technology. My initial inquiry question was around what the best approaches are for supporting educators in designing authentic learning experiences and how do these approaches change when working with individual teachers, a PLC, and whole staff? However as I started to think more about this I kept coming back to how relational coaching is and how working remotely has made it more difficult to build and sustain that coaching relationship. So my inquiry question has shifted and now is centered around this wondering and thinking.
What supports are there for coaches during remote and distance learning that can be utilized when working with educators, PLC’s, or larger groups in order to maintain and build supportive coaching relationships?
I am familiar with resources from Elena Aguilar and resources used by the OSPI Best Mentor Academy and was curious about using them with remote or distance coaching work. So I decided to start by exploring those resources and seeing what adaptations, if any, need to be made for distance learning work.
Elena Aguilar – Coaching Lenses – Coaching Rubric
First, if you have not read any of Elena Aguilar’s books I highly recommend them. Her book, The Art of Coaching was one of the first books I read when I became a digital learning coach. It helped me think about what it means to be a coach and provides great resources and strategies for coaching others. As I started to look through the resources again I was reminded and encouraged by how well they fit in with coaching remotely. Two specific resources that stand out as being important in this work are Elena’s coaching lenses framework and the transformational coaching rubric.
The Coaching Lenses – There are 7 lenses that Aguilar describes; adult learning, change management, inquiry, systems thinking, emotional intelligence, systemic oppression/equity, and compassion. She describes several assumptions for each lens and follows that up with questions that can be used by coaches in order to better understand the situation. The lenses are designed to be used both on their own and together when engaging in a coaching conversation.
Transformational Coaching Rubric – What I enjoy about this resource is how it allows me to reflect on my own coaching in order to become better. The rubric is divided into six sections and allows me to determine where I am at in each area based on a scale of beginning, emerging, developing, refining, and modeling. This is a great way to gather evidence of my coaching practice and allows for self reflection. My work as a coach is on a continuum, I am constantly working to improve and while I may have moments of backward movement the goal is always to improve.
Best Mentor Academy
The Best Mentor Academy is something that the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction sponsors. They provide free professional learning for educators in support of mentoring new teachers. I have attended these sessions a few different times and always find the work empowering. It has supported me in thinking about how I listen, the questions that I ask, and how I engage with those that I work with. Through this work I have been able to go into conversations with a clearer focus and ready to ask questions that continue the work and thinking. I have become more aware of the phrases that I chose to use when having a conversation and I have tried to focus more on invitational inquiry instead of closing the conversation or leading it by the words I use.
Three Stances for Leading Groups (Present, Collaborate, Facilitate)
Another resource that has impacted my work with groups has come from the book Leading Groups: Effective Strategies for Building Professional Community by Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman. One of the things that stands out to me from this resource is the idea of selecting the appropriate stance for engaging with a group. Each stance plays a different role and there are times throughout the work were coaches and leaders switch stances. Coaches just need to be clear with groups about the stance that they are in and why. This way group members have a better picture of the purpose of the group and the needed outcomes.
Present: In this stance the coach is working with the group in order to teach and transform the group members. The group is outcome driven and everyone understands the criteria needed in order to achieve the outcomes.
Collaborate: In this stance coaches and group members are working together in order to co-construct things. Coaches are a part of the group and therefore need to make sure they have a place at the table for collaboration.
Facilitate: In this stance coaches are there to make things easier by facilitating discussion, answering questions in order to direct and facilitate the meeting. In this stance coaches take a neutral stance and are there to listen, observe, and facilitate as needed.
Something that I am left thinking about is just how all of these resources can be used remotely because in the end it comes down to the relationships that are being built with people. When having a conversation either in person or remotely it is important to truly listen to the other person in order to hear what they are saying and to understand their why. I need to make sure that I am questioning and paraphrasing their thinking in order to make sure what I hear is actually what they are trying to say and it helps them formulate their thinking. The best part is that all of this can be done remotely (zoom, google meet, even email).
So then it comes down to thinking about who I am working with (individual, PLC, large group). The biggest difference is that when working with an individual teacher I am only having to listen and understand one person’s perspective. When working with a PLC or large group I need to be able to hear what the group is saying, acknowledge individual thoughts, while still focusing the work on the goals of the larger group. Doing this work means that I have to strategically and purposefully think about the structure of my coaching conversation as well as my use of the three stances for leading groups and the coach lens that I go into the work with. These are all things that I continue to think about when doing this work, even remotely.
Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: effective strategies for school transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.
BEST Events & Trainings | OSPI. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.k12.wa.us/educator-support/beginning-educator-support-team/best-events-trainings
Coaching Tools. (n.d.). Bright Morning. Retrieved June 5, 2020, from https://brightmorningteam.com/coaching-tools/
Coaching-Lenses.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2020, from https://brightmorningteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Coaching-Lenses.pdf
ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
Lipton and Wellman—Leading Groups Effective Strategies for Building .pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.nesacenter.org/uploaded/conferences/FLC/2009/spkr_handouts/WellmanLeadingGroups.pdf
Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. (n.d.). Leading Groups: Effective Strategies for Building Professional Community. 60.
Transformational-Coaching-Rubric.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2020, from https://brightmorningteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Transformational-Coaching-Rubric.pdf