In this issue's lead article, Bob Tschannen-Moran and Megan Tschannen-Moran ("The Coach and the Evaluator", p. 10) decry the approach of connecting teacher evaluation with efforts to help teachers grow and improve through a coaching cycle. They call into question such common administrator practices as using coaching to help a teacher achieve specific improvement goals. Although such practices are well-meaning, the Tschannen-Morans claim, they "typically generate little growth… Power struggles, rather than cooperative efforts…often ensue."
- Has a supervisor ever required that you undergo coaching or similar professional development to strengthen your teaching? What was the experience like? Did it lead to growth?
- Do you agree that connecting growth to evaluation is less effective than inviting teachers into a coaching relationship?
For administrators: Have you ever required struggling teachers to set specific growth goals and to work with a coach toward achieving them? What has been the result?
Coaches as Leaders of Reform
Coaching is a form of leadership with improved learning conditions as its goal. According to authors Michael Fullan and Jim Knight ("Coaches as System Leaders," p. 50), coaches must expand their focus beyond enhancing learning in individual classrooms or even individual schools. They must strategize about how to make conditions better on district- and statewide levels.
The authors describe how Ontario's Ministry of Education made coaching a central part of the work of its 72 school districts. Through the recently developed Literacy Numeracy Secretariat, 100 "student achievement officers"–success coaches—support school and district leaders in spreading better literacy practices throughout the province. These coaches live out what Fullan and Knight claim a good coach must do: "change the culture of [a] school as it relates to instructional practice."
- Do you agree with Fullan and Knight that it's a coach's responsibility to spread instructional improvements throughout your district or beyond? Have you tried to do so in your coaching work? What has been the result?
- What have you seen a coach do to improve classroom instruction and to create a ripple effect in the school or district?
- Are coaches in your school given official support to encourage schoolwide change?
Peers as Change Agents
Knight and Fullan cite research showing that the countries that most improved their school systems often focused the majority of their attention on professional learning rather than teacher accountability. They note, "The researchers concluded that once the capacity of teachers reaches a certain level, peer culture becomes the source of innovation and energy. Thus peers become change agents."
For study groups:
- Is the peer culture at your school a source of innovation and energy? Are fellow teachers "change agents"? If so, share an example with the group.
- Did a coach—or some kind of coaching program—help create a culture that inspires collaboration in your school? How?
- If you don't see your peers as a source of innovation, what one change might you make to help your faculty work together?
Read about the collaborative coaching model that a private school in Mexico adopted ("The Year We Learned to Collaborate" by Janice Silva and Kathia Contreras, p. 54). Invite a coach who has experience with the collaborative coaching described in this article–or the Lesson Study process described by Catherine Lewis and her coauthors ("Lesson Study: Beyond Coaching," p. 64)—to speak to your group about their experience: What was helpful? What was difficult? What advice does the expert have for a school considering such practices?
Could this kind of peer coaching be effective at your school? If not, why not? What obstacles to collaborative lesson planning, observation, and constructive criticism exist in your teaching situation? How might you begin to overcome those obstacles?