Supporting teacher reflection and growth is an essential part of the coaching process. Reflection helps teachers to identify areas for improvement and develop action plans for growth. In this article, we will discuss the importance of reflection in the coaching process and provide strategies for supporting teacher reflection and growth. We will also share examples of coaching conversations that have led to meaningful change in teaching practice.
The Importance of Reflection in the Coaching Process
Reflection is a powerful tool for increasing self-awareness and improving decision-making. As a teacher, I sought to make reflection a habit, knowing that it supported students in how they connected their learning to themselves, supported their decision-making, and made room for their personal voices in all current and future learning. So, why would the benefits of the reflection process be any less impactful in a coaching practice? It helps teachers to identify their strengths and areas for growth and develop action plans for improvement. Reflection can also lead to a deeper understanding of teaching practice, as teachers reflect on their experiences, goals, and objectives.
Strategies for Supporting Teacher Reflection and Growth
Coaches can use a variety of strategies to support teacher reflection and growth.
First and foremost, creating a safe and supportive coaching environment, in the same way we would create a safe and supportive learning environment for students, is crucial for supporting teacher reflection and growth. Coaches should work to build trust and rapport with teachers and create a coaching culture that values reflection, feedback, and growth. Setting clear goals and objectives, and developing action plans for improvement, can also help to keep teachers (and coaches) focused and motivated. Additionally, you may consider the following strategies:
- Clarify your role and set clear routines and expectations. Reflection can be uncomfortable and you’re more likely to have productive conversations in an environment that is predictable and friendly. This means, as your working to build rapport, getting to know your teachers as people first is a crucial step. Don’t be afraid to share more about yourself (within reason) as a person and a professional and thoroughly explain the foundation of your work as a coach. Follow-up with meeting schedules/outlines other tools that both allow teachers to know what to expect going in and give them something to refer back to when all is said and done.
- Ask open-ended questions that encourage teachers to reflect on their experiences and identify areas for improvement. Coaches can also provide feedback that is specific, actionable, and focused on areas for growth. This may take the form of a survey or Google Form or could be utilized before, during, or after coaching conversations.
- Video or audio recordings can also be powerful tools for facilitating self-reflection. By reviewing recordings of their own teaching, teachers can identify areas for improvement and develop action plans for growth. Coaches can also use recordings to provide feedback and support. Of course, recordings can often make people nervous, and the decision to record audio or visual snippets of teaching should be made with your teacher.
- Visit the class for sound-bite observation or to lend another set of hands. Take some time to experience your teacher’s…well, teaching. Immerse yourself in the lesson and lend some time and hands to your teacher or simply experience the class by conducting a “sound bite” observation, which is simply gathering bits of information in a short amount of time, like a 48-minute class period. To engage in true reflection and reflective conversations, it’s best all parties involved have a good understanding of what’s going on. NOTE: “Observation” tends to have a negative connotation in the world of education. Feel free to call it something else!
Coaching Conversations that Lead to Meaningful Change
Coaching conversations that lead to meaningful change in teaching practice are those that identify specific areas for improvement and develop actionable plans for growth. By working collaboratively with coaches, teachers can develop strategies for addressing teaching challenges and meeting the needs of all learners.
For example, a coaching conversation might focus on improving student engagement or addressing classroom management issues. When reviewing video recordings of their teaching or debriefing after the coach observes a class, the teacher and coach might identify specific strategies for increasing student engagement, such as using more hands-on activities or even making strides to help students build empathy and make real-world connections to learning. The latter was the case for Tracee Keough, an Instructional Design Coach at Forward Edge, who offered some insight on coaching conversations in her own practice.
“When working with a middle school teacher, and preparing for an upcoming unit where students would be reading A Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the teacher was reflecting on the lack of empathy she has seen in her students this year. Through conversations, this teacher mentioned that the students are just not engaged with their readings because they seem to be numb to the feelings that a character may be experiencing. We continued to meet as the unit start day got closer and develop some activities that would place students in some uncomfortable, yet safe situations to create a level of empathy towards situations that were happening in the book. After a few weeks into the novel, we met again to discuss how things were going and if she was seeing any changes in the students. This teacher was so proud to reflect on the learning taking place and to state that through our conversation and reflection on the way the novel unit had gone so far. She was seeing empathy from her students towards the characters in the book. The students were recognizing and displaying those emotions more readily because of the safe environment that had been created in the classroom. Reflection as a part of her teaching has allowed her to create moments throughout this novel and other units of study that students will remember. The teacher is also able to see the power of reflection as she sees more growth and understanding than the previous group or even the previous unit.”
Supporting teacher reflection and growth is essential for improving teaching practice and student outcomes. By using strategies such as open-ended questions, feedback, relationship-building and observations, coaches can help teachers to develop a deeper understanding of their teaching practice and identify areas for growth. Coaching conversations that lead to meaningful change are those that identify specific areas for improvement and develop actionable plans for growth. By prioritizing reflection and growth in their work with teachers, coaches can help to create a culture of continuous improvement and support teacher success.
Written by Torie Mollett (@TorieTeaches)