In today’s world, technology is an integral part of education. School districts invest in technology devices to help prepare students for success in future careers, but it takes more than laptops and tablets to harness the power of technology. It’s time to invest in personnel that can bring a return on that investment.
The success of your coaching program depends on who will be leading it. In addition to a technology-rich skillset, candidates need pedagogical knowledge as well.
During interviews, ask questions about how the candidate works with others. How do they resolve conflicts? Do they understand adult learners? I also ask candidates to give a short presentation and inquire about what they have read recently that has informed their practice or views on education. These activities allow me to see if the candidate understands technology, is skilled in presenting content and is a self-starter who engages in continuous professional growth.
2. Develop a coaching vision.
Coaching programs that are unsuccessful often skip this step. Administrators must develop and communicate the purpose and goal of coaching, tying into the mission and vision of the school. This vision should be co-created with a coach.
One suggestion is to develop a partnership agreement between the administrator and the coach. If an administrator does not have a background in coaching, they may have a different idea about what this position should be. A partnership agreement can identify expectations. Who will be coached? Who decides on the coaches’ schedule? What does coaching success look like? Clarity up front increases the chances of success for the program.
3. Communicate and advocate for your coaching vision.
Once the coach and administrator agree on the expectations for the program, it is time to communicate this to others. To increase buy-in from teachers, administrators should introduce the coach and the vision for the program. Explaining the “why” along with the reassurance that coaching is not tied to evaluations is critical.
Continued visible and transparent support for the coach comes in many forms. Scheduling regular meetings to check on progress, providing autonomy for coaches and teachers, and inviting coaches to sit on leadership committees are all ways in which administrators can show support.
4. Foster relationships.
At the heart of coaching is relationships. Teachers need to trust that their coach will maintain confidentiality and understand their problems of practice. Administrators can support this by not asking detailed questions about coaching sessions. While they can inquire about general trends, they should not put the coach in a position to tell them no. Additionally, administrators should encourage coaches to attend grade-level meetings, allow teachers to set their own goals and build in release time for coaches and teachers to work together.
5. Measure and reflect.
With regularly scheduled meetings between administrators and coaches, the program's progress should be easily identifiable to both parties. However, it may not be visible to others. Coaches should consistently collect data to tell their stories. Data can come from teacher surveys after coaching sessions or records indicating how a coach spends his or her time.
In either case, coaches and administrators should set an agreement on what data a coach is collecting and add opportunities during meetings together to review this data. In addition, the administrator should ask for faculty feedback at the end of the year and use this data during coaching program debriefs to plan for the following year.
6. Grow your coach, grow your program.
Coaching is a unique job in education. Often, one coach is responsible for working with teachers that are content experts in grades PK-12 and have different personalities and technology skill sets and, sometimes, are located across multiple buildings. To navigate this, coaches need coaching, too. To support them, administrators can grant release time and funding for meetings, books studies and conferences.
Encourage coaches to create and present professional development opportunities for the district. This helps grow the coaches’ pedagogical and technological skills and offers an opportunity to schedule future coaching sessions.
Building an effective instructional technology coaching program takes careful planning and attention to detail. By following these steps, you can create a program that supports teachers using technology to enhance their practices and improve student learning. To learn more about ways a technology coach can enhance your district, download the report "Technology Coaching to Enhance Professional Practice."
Nicole Zumpano will be hosting the Edtech Coaches Playground at ISTELive 23. Register today!