Towards the end of 2014 I was involved in a series of Professional Learning opportunity ran by the fabulous Muffy Hand. Muffy runs PL sessions for schools and their leadership teams focusing on how to be more effective as a leader and how to better deal with ‘challenging’ and difficult situations and people. Something I am sure most of us have had to encounter at some stage.
During one of her sessions Muffy showed the graphic below which I was quite intrigued by. The data contained within has derived from the research that Marzano has done around the impact on learning that teachers have. For more information regarding the great research that Marzo et. al. has done head here.
When looking at this what surprises you? What resonates and relates? What are the implications of this research and most importantly what if anything can we do about it?
To tie this in to my own educational role for 2015, that being a Digital Learning Coach, I have been thinking more and more what exactly a ‘coach’ within a school is charged with doing? Is it my responsibility to get teachers to the point of being effective and more so highly effective? No pressure there!
According to the Victorian Department of Education (DEECD), they state that; “Coaches are primarily concerned with improving learning outcomes for all students, regardless of their location, background or socioeconomic status. Coaches focus on developing teachers as effective independent practitioners who contribute to high performing school communities.” – Coaching Teachers in Effective Instruction, DEECD 2010.
Nothing to it really… 😉
What I very much enjoy about coaching and working with teachers to improve their capacity in a multitude of ways is that teaching teachers is not a whole lot different from teaching kids and I mean this with the utmost respect to teachers! 😉
Before I go on and elaborate on the above point, I need to say that I have never been coached. I have never been formally trained to be a coach and that my knowledge of coaching has been developed from excellent educators I have worked with that have assisted me to be effective as a coach. I’ll take a minute here to thank two of those people in Helen Otway and Michelle Meracis. 🙂
Now, when teaching kids I firmly believe that to do this effectively your number one goal without hesitation is to get to know your learners. If you take the time to get to know your students and their capabilities towards learning, then you as the educator can facilitate a greater means of differentiation and a variance of instructional practices to better cater for these students. Teaching teachers I have personally found is much the same.
Some respond brilliantly to to a more formal manner, some enjoy the team teaching methodology and others prefer a 1:1 approach. I feel that the days of delivering a P.L. (professional learning) session for teachers that involve a presenter banging on about a topic of choice with no audience input are gone, especially with the younger generation of educators that are coming through the university ranks. What P.L we are definitely not wanting to see,and yes, by all reports this is real, is below…
In 2014 I had the wonderful opportunity of engaging as a mentor for a DEECD sponsored professional learning series titled “Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century”. This was a great chance to facilitate and drive and promote professional thinking and practice with a group of passionate and driven educators. One of the other coaches for this PL, John Pearce, gave a great presentation titled “PD can be Dodgy” and within this John delivered two concepts outlined below;
1. An Androgogical Approach to learning. This involves learners being;
- able to strive for autonomy and self direction
- able to use their own and other’s experiences
- able to engage in problem solving
- self motivated
- facilitated by an enabler
2. A Heutagogical Approach To Learning. This involves learners being;
- able to manage their own learning path which may not be linear
- reflect on their learning in order to learn to learn
- pro-actively manage change
- engage a coach to assist part/s of the process
As an educator do the above relate to you in anyway? Over the past few years we have heard that teachers need to develop a greater sense of collaboration and connectedness via having a greater online presence. Creating a PLN (Professional Learning Network) is the core example of this. Via a PLN, and to use my own here as an example, I have a vast wealth of people and expertise that I can tap into when needed. Also, via means such as Twitter and G+, the learning comes to me. I follow who I do because they are beneficial to my learning, which inturn I can pass on to others. It would be terrific to see schools place a greater focus on ‘Heutagogical Learning’ and have teachers take a greater responsibility also for their own development. But this of course takes time to embed and time to implement however is the ficus is made time will be found.
Now… have a think about the best professional learning opportunity that you have been involved in. Why was it so good? Were you completely engaged? Was a topic that you were passionate about? Was it hands on and practical?
…Now did it improve you as an educator and improve your practice? Did it make you more ‘effective’?
What does it mean to be an effective teacher anyway? How to you become an effective teacher? Who teaches you to be an effective teacher? There is no other profession in the world that I feel asks so much from those within it than what teaching does. Being an effective teacher is bloody hard. My support for people in this profession will never waiver and yes we have heard it before, but as a teacher, an educator, you are so much more. Teachers do not simply get to focus on their craft. We have to play those roles of Psychologists, FBI Behavioural Analysts, Paramedics, Mediators, Interior Designers, Law Enforcement Officials, and everything in between. With all of this going on, how do we still become effective teachers!
If within my role this year I can assist teachers in whatever way to improve their practice, with the one focus in mind of improving student learning, I will be a happy man. Not having seen my new school in action, I clearly get the distinct feeling that I am part of a highly effective school. The conversations I have had have all revolved around how to best cater for the students within the school and how we as teachers can best cater for their learning needs.
I believe that Universities have a lot to answer for in how they prepare wave after wave of the new educators coming in to the system. By no means am I saying that they’re doing a bad job, I will say it could be better, however, it is the schools, the personale within, and the teachers themselves that are required to take the most responsibility towards educators becoming more ‘effective’.
Again, I am looking forward to 2015 and working closely alongside teachers in my new setting. If i can improve their skill sets and capabilities through technology integration and help them to become more effective in their craft than what they already are I will be a very happy person, and I hope they will be too.