I recently published a piece in ASCD's Educational Leadership titled, “If Instructional Coaching Really Works, Why Isn’t It Working?” As I point out in the article, one of the key challenges to effective instructional coaching is providing the amount of individualized coaching needed to improve practice.
There is ample evidence in the field to support the effectiveness of coaching, but as you dig into the research, time is a key challenge that is clearly present in the conversation. Teachers need frequent and on-going coaching in order to really fine tune their practice – and this is quite challenging given the way the school day is structured. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world in which a teacher has an hour a week to engage in instructional coaching, isn’t it?
This is precisely why we’ve invested so much in exploring the use of video in this work. As a practitioner myself, I’ve grappled with time since I first stepped foot in the classroom. I can’t think of a point in my career where I had time to do everything I thought needed to be done. And I especially didn’t devote time weekly to reflection of my practice.
But as the years have moved along, and as technology has progressed, it has become easier to design coaching systems that can actually work. The ease of using video is removing the barrier of time so that we might actually come closer to realizing our goal of weekly reflection on our practice.
Perhaps the easiest way to think about this is through an example. Here’s a coaching schedule that may help you achieve the frequency of reflection needed to move the needle on instructional coaching. In a typical month, teachers might engage in the following:
- Week 1: Self-reflection. Take a 20-40 minute video of your practice and watch it. Make notes about what was effective and what you’d like to improve.
- Week 2: Peer-to-peer reflection. Share a video of your practice with a peer. (And it doesn’t need to be an entire lesson – 15-20 minutes will do.) If there was something specific in your self-reflection you wanted to improve, take a video of that part of your lesson and ask a colleague for their thoughts. And do the same for your colleague. Imagine the power of getting specific feedback from a peer without needing to get substitutes and spend time out of your classroom watching each other teach. Capturing the video takes no time at all, and you can watch the videos during a prep period or during common planning time.
- Week 3: Feedback from an instructional coach. Coaches rarely have time for weekly observation/feedback sessions with every teacher. But with video, the time requirements decrease significantly. By sharing a video with a coach, they can provide feedback at a time that is most convenient. And with video, the urgency of immediate feedback lessens because both the coach and the teacher can rewatch the video as questions arise.
- Week 4: Feedback from an administrator. We know school leaders aim to be effective instructional leaders, but that requires them to be in classrooms. Although I’d never suggest eliminating classroom visits, using video can provide some flexibility to the process and allow administrators to engage more frequently in coaching conversations.
While I’d never suggest that building and sustaining coaching programs is easy, it can likely be easier than it is today. Teachers don’t benefit from 60-minute observations that happen only a few times a year. Rather, they greatly benefit from continuous reflection on their practice. Weekly reflection on 15 – 30 minutes videos will go a long way in this engagement process, and the use of video and tech can help streamline the process so we’re spending less time (and money) on things like scheduling and substitutes and more time on what matters most – watching and reflecting on classroom instruction.
Interested to learn how you can incorporate video into your practice? Take a quick test drive of our user-friendly platform, ADVANCEfeedback.