Scaffolding Teacher Goals for Long-Term Impact

Collaboration Montage

What's a great way to increase morale when working on a goal? Mini-achievements! Dr. Cristine LaMontagne, instructional coach at East Side Union High School District in California, shares how she simplifies goals with teachers to build small achievements along the way.


D

uring a goal-setting conversation, your teacher says, "I'd love to work on Socratic Seminars this semester. The same kids talk the whole time and just bring up opinions. I really want them to relate to the text more." So, together you create a goal that looks something like this:

By the end of the semester, students will be able to effectively communicate in Socratic Seminars without a facilitator. They will be able to bring in relevant evidence and thoughtful analysis of that evidence, pose their own questions, and build upon what others say.

Fabulous! This is a teacher-selected goal, inspired by a student need, and has a student-centered outcome. However, in order to authentically improve teacher practice, coaches need to encourage teachers to scaffold their goals into smaller steps. In return, the process creates a long-term impact on the teacher's practice and mini-achievements along the way.

5 Tips for Working with Teachers on Scaffolding Goals

Let's dive into some of my favorite tips for scaffolding goals and then look at a full example of how this might work in practice.

  1. Ask the key question: What skills do you want the students to walk away with? Group similar skills to create scaffolded teacher goals focused on skill-building, versus curriculum.
  2. Set a realistic timeline and order. How often is the teacher willing to spend time on this one instructional strategy? Is this a protocol that can be used once a week for the whole semester? Is this a focused 2-week unit with students speaking in a seminar daily? To start, schedule opportunities for students to hone their fundamental skills and build from there.
  3. Make the goal data-driven. Work with the teacher to create specific student examples or "look-fors." This work drives the mini-lesson a teacher should give for each skill. These look-fors not only help during your observation, but they also remind the teacher to focus on data. Creating student examples for all aspects of a seminar can seem daunting because it is! Scaffolding goals allow the teacher time and energy to focus on introducing and giving feedback on one skill. Clear student expectations allow you to debrief and keep conversations focused on student outcomes.
  4. Create mini-rubrics for each chunked goal. These mini-rubrics create a comprehensive rubric. Finding a rubric with grouped skills helps expedite this process and going through it together helps coaches create authentic teacher ownership of the steps necessary to achieve their instructional goals.
  5. Allow time for you and the teacher to reflect on the goal. This should be done in its entirety by the end of the semester or unit. Additionally, during the final observations, collect specific data showing student growth while using a comprehensive rubric to evaluate student skills.

Example of Planning With Scaffolded Goals

The below example shows four, four-week coaching cycles where the goals build off each other

  Goal(s) Coach's Role

Coaching Cycle #1

(4 weeks)

Students will be able to introduce and connect relevant textual evidence effectively in a Socratic Seminar.

Students will practice speaking and responding to teacher-generated questions.

  • Collect student data during seminars.
  • Model the in-class debrief with the students.
  • Debrief with the teacher on the next steps for an upcoming coaching conversation. Plan how to address student skill gaps.

Coaching Cycle #2

(4 weeks)

Students will be able to analyze relevant textual evidence effectively in a Socratic Seminar.

Students will practice posing and responding to their own questions in the seminar.

  • Collect student data during seminars.
  • Co-facilitate the in-class debrief with the students, allowing the teacher to debrief first and coach to bring up new points.
  • Debrief with the teacher on the next steps for a future seminar in a coaching conversation. Plan how to address student skill gaps.

Coaching Cycle #3

(4 weeks)

Students will be able to challenge other students' evidence and analysis discussed in the seminar by posing thoughtful questions.

  • Collect student data during seminars.
  • Coach takes notes for feedback while the teacher facilitates in-class debrief with the students.
  • Debrief with the teacher on the next steps for the next seminar in a coaching conversation.

Coaching Cycle #4

(4 weeks)

By the end of the semester, students will be able to effectively communicate in Socratic Seminars without a facilitator. They will be able to bring in relevant evidence and thoughtful analysis of that evidence, pose their own questions, and build upon what others say.

  • Observe and collect specific student data that shows growth.
  • Facilitate reflective conversation on teacher and student growth.
  • Celebrate!

The Impact on Teacher Practice

By scaffolding goals, coaches help teachers:

  • Lighten their grading. Instead of grading all aspects of a Socratic Seminar, or entire essays weeks after students complete the assignment, teachers evaluate and give feedback on a specific skill, often during class time. Completed work or culminating presentations are more like celebrations than high-stakes evaluations.
  • Provide students with immediate feedback. If the teacher introduces the art of finding and using relevant evidence in a seminar, encourage your teacher and model best practices that feedback about relevant evidence. Multiple opportunities for students to practice speaking in a seminar also allows the teacher multiple opportunities to practice collecting specific data to address during the class debrief, or in a "time-out."
  • Move away from evaluating and focus on data-driven feedback and instruction. Data collection leads to instruction, not necessarily a grade in the grade book. Teachers can create mini-lessons of data-driven feedback from students when they take the time to listen!

Final Thought

Students need immediate feedback and the opportunity to attain the next level without feeling overwhelmed. This begins with a strategic and smart goal set with teachers. Whether the goal is student-centered, or personalized, by scaffolding goals teachers can focus on smaller objectives and quickly see concrete changes in their practice.


About our Guest Blogger

Dr. Cristine LaMontagne is currently on leave from her instructional coaching position at East Side Union High School District. As an instructional coach with a researcher's background, she believes in guiding educators to develop their own critical, yet personal, pedagogy. She streamlines professional learning through a process of goal setting, inquiry, and self-reflection that is strongly grounded in collecting measurable data.

As a classroom teacher, Dr. LaMontagne is always thinking about how to facilitate dynamic learning experiences for disengaged and struggling students, where mistakes, real-time feedback, and growth are all part of the process. She is passionate about teaching the basics of learning theory and instructional strategy to struggling students, so they have a voice in the world of education. Her doctoral research highlights what can happen when students and teachers have a shared understanding of teaching and learning.

Check out Cristine's blog and connect with her on Instagram @thevarsityclassroom!

Read more from our guest bloggers

Topics: Guest Blogger, Your Coaching Toolbox, Student-Centered Coaching, Goal Setting, Scaffolding, Goals, Achievements

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