New ways of teaching hybrid or remote during Covid-19 can be challenging to navigate. Yes, there are technical challenges, but there are also real needs to help redefine what “good teaching and learning” means in a context that doesn’t look the same as it did last year.
If you’re a coach reading this, you may also be thinking about the context in which you’re able to provide feedback, too. What if you can’t meet face-to-face with your teachers anymore due to safety protocol?
Clearly, observation and feedback need to continue. Now more than ever. What needs to change is what types of artifacts you’re using as evidence of teaching and learning in order to perform teacher observations.
The concept of how coaches and school leaders can provide personalized PD during Covid-19 was the focus of our webinar series Kitchen Table Coaching. This training series is filled with tactical, actionable advice for adapting your feedback models to be more flexible during Covid-19 and to utilize what’s actually happening in your school setting. (PS – It’s free to access)
Part 1 of the series addresses three important questions about providing personalized, virtual PD:
- What instructional strategies should a coach focus on for coaching distanced teachers?
- What type of artifacts of distance teaching can be collected to assist teachers?
- How can an instructional coach apply a “how-to-teach” style to administer personalized professional development for their teacher?
The video segment above is above, and below we have a run-through for some of the best parts.
Yes, teacher observation and feedback is possible with almost any type of teaching video
Teachers are teaching in a variety of ways this year. Pre-recorded. Live in classrooms. Live-streaming on the internet. Live teaching in classrooms while live-streaming… and probably ten more ways of doing it.
No matter, the hosts tried to make it clear that it’s possible to use nearly any artifact of teaching to start a meaningful and productive dialogue with teachers about their teaching and the impact it’s having on learning.
To prove their point, they chose an uncommon example: a “how-to-teach this” video sent to parents at home. This type of video is a modification of the flipped-classroom idea. Instead of the video being aimed at teaching a concept to a learner, the video is designed to help parents and guardians support learning at home.
Within the webinar, the hosts demonstrated how to use Edthena for timestamped comments and show that using a video from Covid-19 distanced teaching could be a powerful source of information for a coaching conversation.
In this scenario, the teacher uploads a video into his Edthena coaching group. In the video, he is modeling how parents can teach an elementary mathematics lesson focused on adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators.
Then the hosts demonstrate how a coach can give targeted, personalized feedback to the teacher via the video. (skip ahead in the video to approximately 12 minutes to see this happen)
The coach notes that she is seeing some positives within the video worthy of comment — the video is straight to the point and still had the most important points of a lesson facilitated by a teacher. However, the coach was able to spot a specific moment in which the teacher could have used more precise academic language in the video.
At one point, the teacher used the words “top and bottom number” instead of “numerator and denominator.” At this exact moment, the instructional coach was able to make the comment, “Have you introduced math vocabulary to your students?”
So even though this was a short video, designed for parents, it still provided a rich source of information to talk about the teaching being implemented by this teacher.
If this type of conversation about teaching sounds familiar, good!
The goal is for the audience to agree that providing feedback asynchronously on recorded videos of the new types and styles of teaching during Covid-19 is not so different than coaching conversations using videos of in-classroom teaching.
Distanced teaching and in-class teaching may be more similar than you’re expecting when it comes to teacher observation
Observation and feedback on what makes an effective lesson should not be tied to the specific way in which a lesson unfolds in a physical space. This was true before Covid-19, and it’s still true now.
Sure, feedback to a teacher about using proximity to modify student behavior is an idea that is distinctly rooted to teaching happening within a physical classroom. But there are many components that go into designing and executing a learning experience that don’t depend on physical presence.
Take for example “use of academic language in the content area.” If this was important within your school prior to Covid-19, it’s likely still important today.
Take an inventory of these types of big ideas or strategic priorities. Instructional coaches will likely find that coaching teachers virtually and about virtual teaching may prove to be more similar to coaching live classroom teachers than they expected.
If everything still feels like it’s going sideways in conversations about what should be happening during teaching, go back to the basics of good instruction:
- How are teachers facilitating checks for understanding?
- Are all students involved and engaged in the learning?
- How are procedures and routines supporting positive learning environments?
What is preventing a coach from focusing on these instructional strategies during distance teaching? Just because a teacher is not with their students in person does not mean the content of their lesson, routines, and procedures are any less important. In fact, one could argue that they are even more important now than they have been before. The teachers can no longer rely on physical presence and charisma to carry them through a lesson that may be otherwise lagging.
The hosts demonstrated that coaches can still reflect on artifacts of distance teaching in the same manner in which they reflect on artifacts of a live classroom.
Commenting on teaching videos allows a coach to provide targeted feedback on a specific moment in time at any part of a lesson. Even if this is a distance teaching video, a coach can still target their feedback on an exact moment just as if they would have had the video been of in-classroom teaching.
Collecting videos of teaching during Covid-19 may be easier now than ever before
Using classroom teaching videos to supercharge teacher learning is not new. This concept has been validated by decades of research. The continuation of this idea would be for educators to use videos of virtual teaching to support the coaching process.
The specific type of distance teaching that a district is implementing will depend on their particular context. Many different types of learn-from-home options that vary by age and access are available. We have seen many types of distance teaching facilitated to meet the needs of students. Regardless of the type of distance teaching happening in a district, teaching can be captured through recording, and the videos of all types of Covid-19 teaching can be valuable for coaching.
Some of the types of distance teaching that can be captured for remote learning include:
- Synchronous online lessons delivered via video conferencing software
- Flipped-classroom style lessons for students
- Recorded “how to teach” conceptual videos for parents
- Online office-hours for students and parents
- Conference-call discussions with individual or groups of students
Fortunately for all of us, the tools that educators are using to facilitate this type of learning already include ways to record. Software such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Google Meet all include features to record sessions.
If you are interested more in this Kitchen Table Coaching webinar series, find the rest of the series at PLTogether.org.