Instructional Coaching During Covid-19 May Feel Uncomfortable at First

  • As teachers take the reins and led their own professional development related to using video in teacher learning, the relationship dynamic between teachers and instructional coaches has shifted. What role do instructional coaches play during Covid-19?

  • The ability to record lessons during distance teaching offers teachers the opportunity to evaluate and analyze their teaching practices through their eyes.

  • Video tools have set the paradigm for the future of professional development to significantly impact collaboration, self-analysis, and reflection to improve teaching styles.

Teachers and their coaches are redefining their relationships right now. Instructional coaching during Covid-19 is adapting like many other aspects of education.

Without a doubt, teachers are engaged in a “learn as you go” method when asked to navigate video and virtual classroom platforms to discover how to teach, collaborate, and support learners without adequate training due to the pandemic.

To their credit, teachers are tackling this dramatic shift to distance learning. They are quickly taking professional development into their own hands to share and connect with other teachers to advance their skills in a virtual classroom.

“Classroom teachers are the experts,” said Laura Baecher, professor at the School of Education at Hunter College.

Laura applauds teachers for leading their own PD when it comes to remote learning. In her book, Video in Teacher Learning: Through Their Own Eyes, she focuses on the importance of using video reflection as a tool to drive teacher learning. Laura says she can see the value of video in professional development, even during this time of distance learning.

In this interview, Laura discussed the dynamic transfer of “power” in professional development, a force that is reforming the relationships between teachers and instructional coaches. She also offers her core beliefs regarding the use of video observation and reflection to promote teacher growth.

Laura was interviewed for the teacher professional development resource portal PLtogether. You can watch part-1 of the 5-part series of the interview above, and we have shared some of the highlights below.

Coaches, you should be learning from teachers this year

instructional coaching during covid-19 will look and feel different this yearImmersed daily in a virtual learning environment, teachers are quickly becoming experts in Google Classroom, Zoom, and other platforms used in distance teaching. 

Along with the shift from face-to-face learning to virtual classrooms, there has also been a shift in the teacher-instructional coach relationship dynamic. Teachers now have more expertise in implementing virtual practices than coaches.

Teachers are sharing, connecting, and growing together to improve their virtual classrooms via various community outlets, such as online forums and social media groups. As a result, teachers are creating supportive, collaborative learning spaces.

While teachers continue to value instructional coaches and their guidance, teacher-led learning brings a specific energy and motivation to the PD space. Empowering teachers helps them lead their learning because they can identify what they know, what they need to learn, and what they need to drive that learning.

So, what is the instructional coach’s role? 

Instructional coach feedback is still an essential part of teacher learning. Similarly to a traditional classroom, receiving feedback remains a valuable part of distance learning to evaluate the learning environment and promote growth within the virtual classroom. 

“Teachers are really the ones who know what they need, what they need to learn, and where they are and that me, as that coach, facilitator, school leader, I’m really here just to offer space to facilitate what that teacher is going to learn and need through their journey,” said Laura. 

In the past, coaches typically have not engaged in a virtual learning environment as a teacher. Without personal experiences to drive their coaching, coaches will have to transition to more of a guide to support teachers while promoting critical thinking to help them navigate through their learning.      

“It’s really a chance for us to shift and to learn in communities, where there’s that interchange and mutual support,” Laura said. 

The power of perspective and self-analysis to drive coaching sessions

Although coaching discussions may look different this year, coaching remains a powerful, valued resource for teachers. As the relationships between teachers and instructional coaches transition to a virtual environment, there are robust tools to stimulate productive sessions online. Laura believes that video is an important tool to use to drive teacher learning. 

Laura stressed that if we want teachers to see their work as their own, they need to see what they have produced. 

“Let’s say you have an artist who’s painting, and you’re giving them feedback and telling them all about their painting and what parts of it are really strong and effective and which weren’t,” said Laura. “But if the artist can’t see their own painting, how effective is that, really, as a feedback conversation? And yet we do that continuously [with teachers].”

Video has become the answer in many aspects of education during Covid-19. It has allowed school communities to communicate, teachers to connect with students, and coaching sessions to continue between teachers and instructional coaches. Video is also the answer to advancing professional development to effectively target teaching goals during distance teaching. 

“Teachers go through their whole career, always hearing about their teaching through some else’s perspective,” Laura said. 

Today, thanks to the implementation of virtual learning, teachers can easily record lessons and analyze them to see their teaching practice through their own eyes. By simply recording their session, teachers can review the video and identify their strengths and opportunities for growth within their practices. 

“They can watch that video, they can analyze it even briefly, get a sense of how things were going, which is always really hard to do when you are in front of a classroom,” Laura said.

For instructional coaches, implementing this video method as a self-reflection piece for teachers can significantly impact coaching sessions. Paring feedback from a coach’s perspective with the self-analysis from the teacher’s perspective can help drive targeted goals and further engage teachers in their learning.   

Laura believes that the ultimate goal of video reflection is to foster teacher empowerment. Video observation and video reflection allow teachers to explore the classroom environment that they’re in from an outsider’s perspective, identifying potential learning goals that they may not have recognized before.  

Professional learning is changing, and it’s a good thing

Laura believes that now is a time for change. The value of video observation was evident before distance learning. However, with the use of video platforms easily accessible to most teachers, there is even more opportunity for widespread growth among educators by implementing video as the primary tool for self-reflection.  

The future of professional development advancement lies in using video for self-analysis, reflections, and collaboration. Allowing teachers to critique their own teaching, discuss their findings with their instructional coach to set goals, and share recorded teaching practices with other teachers can significantly impact teacher learning and teaching practices within the classroom. 

Laura’s wish for the future is “to really harness this change, and instead of trying to use old ways where we try to impose programs and practices onto teachers, it’s really a chance for us to shift and to learn in communities.”

Like what your reading, watch more videos at PLTogether.org or read our most recent post with Elena Aguilar about her virtual coaching experiences.

Keep Reading

Online Office Hours are a Potent Source for Observing Student Talk

Teachers are constantly seeking information sources about their students’ learning. One key way to do this is to hear from students and, quite literally, try to hear their thinking out loud. This creates opportunities for confirming that students are developing the correct understandings from the lessons. This interaction can be strained when students are not…