Friday, 23 May 2014

Coaching Teachers: A MOOC from Coursera

I almost deleted the Recommended Courses for You email from Coursera this morning, but what a mistake that would have been. Reading it made me see I had already missed the first week of a course entitled 'Coaching Teachers' and although the first 5 minutes of the first lecture made me cringe with its cheesiness, I soon realised it just being tongue-in-cheek and making a valid point, one not exclusive to coaches but anyone in a teaching role.
It started off by introducing 'Mr Good Coach' and soon led us to understand that he's not the all-star he's hailed at until he becomes 'Mr Effective Coach'. I suppose it's like the difference between the teachers that appear to be doing all the right things; the learners love them, their classes are innovative and engaging, their colleagues admire their out-of-the-box ideas, but are they actually having a positive impact on learning? The point was not to denigrate great teachers, but to ask ourselves if the practices we deem to be effective actually are.
With the focus on coaching, this was the first key idea to consider in the arena of meaningful feedback and potential for growth.
In the following lectures, they outline 'The Four Horsemen' in relation to Dweck's ideas on growth and fixed mindsets. These 'horsemen' are behaviours that appear when giving feedback after observations and lessen the effectiveness of the coaching session. Briefly, they are:

  1. 'I suck' - this teacher takes feedback extremely personally and becomes despondent to the point where the coach has to take on the role of therapist and loses focus on the point of the session.
  2. 'You're wrong' - this teacher disputes the feedback and solutions offered, so the coach spends the time justifying instead of discussing ways to move forward.
  3. 'Blame it on the rain' - with this teacher it is always elements beyond their control that upset the lesson e.g. hyperactivity / tiredness after lunch, 1 learner having a particularly bad day etc but it's 'not usually like that'.
  4. 'Optimist without a cause' - here the teacher seems to be accepting the feedback but in reality there will be no action on the advice because the teacher reckons they are doing just fine.
Although I've observed and recognised all of these behaviours, considering them all together brought me to the realisation that I've probably been guilty of all 4 over the years; indeed, the course creators suggest that watching these examples does much to mitigate the fixed mindset and immediately provide a common language toward managing the coaching process, so they recommend using them to prepare teachers for critical feedback.
With these aspects having already stimulated reflection and discussion, I intend to see the course through its 5-week duration. I'm optimistic about what I'll learn and I encourage anyone, regardless of teaching role or subject, to check out the course.