Supporting Teachers Through Instructional Coaching Cycles

TeachBoost continues to learn—and share—experiences, skills, and tools from instructional coaches. Shawn Churchill, Instructional Coach at Anderson High School in Indiana, shares her experiences using instructional coaching cycles with her teachers and the power of co-teaching to model instruction.

Whether you have been teaching for 20 years or 2 years, many teachers I work with at Anderson High School as an instructional coach are experts in their specialized content area. However, many are apprehensive when it comes to effective technology integration. Often, I hear questions like:

  • Where do I even start?
  • How can I use the technology to support best instructional practice?
  • What will I do if my technology embedded lesson is an epic fail?

These are the questions and statements that many teachers ask themselves before a 1:1 transition and that’s where an instructional coach can help! In order to support teachers in their 1:1 transition, Anderson High School, a public school made up of of 2,000 students in East Central Indiana, implemented instructional coaching cycles to support teachers.

Last year, 35 AHS teachers were divided into 4 coaching cohort cycles that met for 9 weeks. Being a new part-time instructional coach to the district, it was imperative that I start building relationships in order to build trust. With only 8-9 teachers in each cohort group, I was able to customize the workshops to meet the needs of the teachers and get to know the teachers on a more personal level. I noticed right from the beginning that the teachers were at varying comfort levels in regard to technology integration. Since I was only working with 8-9 teachers at one time, I was able to provide individualized support for each teacher.

The Cycle

During our first initial meeting, I asked one simple question: How do you want to use technology in your classroom to benefit instruction? Answers included:

  • “I want to learn how to use digital bell ringers”
  • “I would love to learn how to use multimedia software so my students can show what they know in innovative ways.”

I used these answers to plan my next instructional coaching meetings. Armed with materials to support their learning, this simple question initiated the instructional coaching cycles filled with planning, modeling, co-teaching, and reflection opportunities.

Many teachers learned something new and grew at their own pace. Some teachers simply learned how to use a simple formative assessment tool while others ended up changing a whole unit or lesson based on their new knowledge. Nevertheless, all growth was celebrated and shared at the end of each coaching cycle.

Gaining Trust

As the year progressed, my relationships grew and I became a welcomed member of the staff at Anderson High School. News got out that I was not intimidating, but supportive and helpful, and more teachers were inviting me to co-teach in their classrooms or asking me questions in the hallways.

One of the most innovative projects that came out of the instructional coaching cycle was with Elizabeth Knost, a Developmental Reading Teacher. Her students were reading the novel, Lord of the Flies and Elizabeth quickly found out that many students were struggling readers. She asked me how we could work together so her students would be able to comprehend the novel at their own Lexile level while using technology to benefit instruction. We decided to divide the novel by chapter and assign readings to groups of 3-4 students. Then, students re-told their particular portion using Adobe Spark Video, an online video editing software. Elizabeth and I combined their short summaries using Youtube Editor and voila!Students had a summary of the book using more simple vocabulary accompanied by pictures, voice, and music. The process took a few weeks but together, as co-teachers, we were able to conquer the big project and increase reading comprehension and understanding- a win-win for both teacher and student!

Final Thoughts

Currently, I work full time for the district as an instructional coach. Since I was previously able to focus on relationship building during my small group professional development workshops, I now work with all 100 teachers at Anderson High School and feel like I know almost every teacher. I’m hardly ever in my office (my office is my backpack!)as I’m out and about supporting teachers in their classrooms.

My latest co-taught tech-embedded unit involves Todd Callen, a 10th grade English teacher. Knowing that the students would have difficulty navigating the difficult vocabulary in the short story, The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe, Todd decided to divide up the 177 lines between the students. After having a general understanding of the text, students divided and conquered making simpler line versions. Students recited their lines using a video discussion platform called Flipgrid and a green screen app called DoInk. We had a few glitches and snags along the way, but ultimately, through reflection and problem solving, we should finish the unit!

Check out our Coaching Impact Report where we share practices, tools, and trends driving instructional coaching today so that you can take what works (and avoid what doesn’t) and apply it to your district’s coaching program.

About our Guest Blogger

Shawn is passionate about educational technology and has served as a classroom teacher in two different Indiana school districts for 10 years. During her time as a classroom teacher, she was passionate about breaking down classroom walls and promoting collaboration on a community, national, and global scale.

Her passion for educational technology led her to take a position as an Innovative Learning Specialist for an educational consulting company in Indiana for 2 years. She holds a B.A in Spanish Education and M.A. in Secondary Education from Ball State University. Currently, she is an Instructional Coach at Anderson High School. In this role, she works with Anderson High School teachers leading professional development and instructional coaching initiatives.

Shawn shares her co-teaching experiences on Twitter and loves feedback and collaborating with other instructional coaches! Knowing that you empowered a teacher to take a risk and try something outside their comfort zone makes me feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world!

Follow Shawn on Twitter @_ShawnChurchill

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