Empower Your Teachers with "What I Need" Surveys

Header - Leforce and Hockenberry - Surveys

Have you ever struggled with knowing where to focus your next coaching cycle? Lisa Hockenberry, digital learning coach, and Rachel LeForce, instructional coach, for Frisco ISD in Texas, highlight why going straight to the source through surveys allows them to gain a more in-depth understanding of their learning community's needs.


ur coaching triad team—a digital learning coach, an instructional coach, and a language coach—tries to carve out time weekly to discuss district, school, and teacher goals to ensure we're meeting our learners' needs. However, when you work in a building with almost 50 professionals, all at different places in their careers and professional learning, it becomes a difficult task!

With this in mind, we decided to go straight to the source with our most successful collaboration tool to date: the "What I Need" survey.

Creating the survey

We created the first version of our survey using a Google Form asking questions about areas supported by all three of the coaches in our triad. Many of the questions ask teachers to rate their confidence in instructional practices in their classrooms.

For example, for the instructional practice of keeping running records, teachers can say if they're good, if they need some support or if they need help now.

What I Need - Ratings

Requiring teachers to reflect on their need for support helps ICs plan their support.

We also wanted to include a space for teachers to comment on questions that focused on very broad areas of instruction. One of these questions was: What's your main concern for student engagement?

Then, at the bottom of the survey, we added one final question—our favorite!—that allows the teacher to request coaching support from any, or all of us.

What I Need - Student Achievement

Having an example gives teachers a jumping-off point.

Analyzing the results

Once we had designed our survey, we sent it to teachers through our weekly newsletter. The surveys were a hit! Requests for individual coaching were so high that we had to create a wait list to allow enough time for the coaches to meet with teachers, set goals, and choose strategies to address student learning needs.

As the results came in, we analyzed the data to decide the level of support for teachers. Depending on the response each teacher gave, we triaged as follows:

  • I'm good: We would give support in planning.
  • I need some support: We provided support through the bite-size PD offerings that we embed in our coaching newsletter.
  • I need this now!: We created targeted professional development sessions after school, during their planning times, and through our bite-size PD.

For example, after a round of surveys, the data showed us that lots of teachers wanted to learn more about Nearpod. Lisa, the digital learning coach, worked with a 4th grade teacher on campus who was already using it with her students. They created a training session that was set up in a way that teachers could experience the program for themselves and learn how it worked at the same time. They ended the training with a task, getting the teachers to practice what they learned, with coaches on hand to support them.

Reflecting and improving

After reflecting on our first survey, we reconsidered our original plan to send the survey every month. We wanted it to be a way to take things off the teachers' plates, rather than adding more. We also wanted to address the needs teachers had from the first survey before sending another one. As a result, we decided to space the surveys out to every nine weeks.

Although the success of the first survey was laudable, we also decided to revamp it a bit. We modified each of our sections to ensure we are really serving our teacher's needs.

To provide teachers more voice and choice in how they approach professional learning, we added questions about how they would like to receive training e.g. planning, after school PD, bite-size PDs, etc. We also asked if they were comfortable sharing their strengths on particular topics with their colleagues. We know how dedicated and talented our teachers are and felt these questions helped us communicate trust and empowerment.

Bonus: Check out our survey here for inspiration in creating your own! 🎉

Final note

Our triad's focus is to cultivate learning for different needs, and this tool really helps keep us on target to meet that goal. The responses to these "What I Need" surveys have allowed us to gain more in-depth understanding of our learning community's needs. It's allowed us to be more strategic in working with teachers, both as individuals and as a team. We’re excited to continue with them!

About our Guest Blogger

Lisa Hockenberry is a K-5 Digital Learning Coach (DLC) in North Texas. She received her education degree from the Texas Woman's University and taught 2nd and 3rd grade for a total of seven years.

Lisa has always displayed a passion for technology in building curriculum in the classroom. She works to support future-ready students by collaborating with teachers to embed meaningful technology into their lessons. Discovering new ways to implement technology and generating teacher excitement is one of Lisa's favorite components of being a digital learning coach. She has shared her learning by presenting at District PD sessions, and she had the privilege of presenting at the Teach with Tech national conference this past summer.

Connect with Lisa on Twitter!

Rachel LeForce is a K-5 instructional coach in North Texas. Before making the leap to coaching in 2016, Rachel was an early childhood classroom teacher for 15 years in Oklahoma, Thailand, Maine, and Texas.

Rachel's vision is to cultivate a culture of learning that collaboratively meets adult needs. She does this through building relationships, using the impact cycle, and developing school-wide professional learning. In October of 2019 Rachel earned her coaching certificate through theInstructional Coach Group, and her work with instructional playbooks was highlighted in Jim Knights' book The Instructional Playbook: The Missing Link for Translating Research into Practice.

Illustration by Icons8.

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