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Supporting school leaders through video coaching

By Judy Touzin
September 7, 2017
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Strong leadership contributes greatly to the achievement of both educators and students and, ultimately, the overall success of a school. IDEA Public Schools is committed to ensuring transformational leadership across our schools in the San Antonio, Austin, and Rio Grande Valley regions of Texas.

One of the ways we work to ensure each school is led by a transformational principal is through actively developing aspiring leaders through the Principal in Residence (PIR) program. The program is a multi-year professional learning experience to help PIRs learn critical knowledge, skills and mindsets from experienced principals. Upon successfully completing the program, PIRs go on to be transformational leaders at an IDEA school.

PIRs receive coaching, mentorship and professional development through the PIR program. However, as our program has grown, we have found it increasingly difficult to travel to each school site to conduct observations and provide feedback as frequently as desired. That’s why we scaled up our coaching support through video coaching, and it has been a game changer.

Using video coaching to support aspiring principals

Video coaching allows our leadership coaches to view residents as they implement IDEA’s School Leadership Levers (SLLs), which are the core framework of the PIR program, in both simulated and real situations without actually being on-site. This alleviates the previous time and distance constraints we were facing.

As part of the video coaching process, our PIRs capture video using their mobile devices and then upload them to the Edthena platform where coaches can tag certain moments in the videos, make comments and provide instantaneous feedback.

Each of the PIRs’ videos is focused on one of the eight levers, such as data-driven instruction, observation and feedback, or coaching and managing other leaders. PIRs are required to submit at least two videos a month, although some submit more depending on the lever they are working on or if they want to receive extra feedback on a particular skill.

One of the most important interactions our PIRs record and share regularly is their Student Work Analysis Meetings. In these meetings, our PIRs work with teachers to unpack student learning standards and exemplar student responses. They then deliberately analyze student work samples against the standards and student exemplars in order to diagnose the point of student error.

Once they identify the most important student misconceptions, the PIR and teacher work to develop a plan to reteach the material or concept in a way that is highly likely to address the student misconceptions and improve student learning accounts.

When our PIRs share these videos, their leadership coaches provide targeted feedback to help ensure that PIRs are effectively implementing each part of the student work analysis meeting.

As a result of this type of targeted coaching and support, our PIRs have been able to profoundly impact teacher practice and student learning across their schools. This has helped to increase their level of investment in conducting the student work analysis meetings. Using the Edthena platform to ensure ongoing timely feedback helped to make this possible, and is just one of the many ways that video coaching has improved learning.

Even experienced principals benefit

Video coaching was so well-received in the PIR program that we opened it up to our experienced principals as well. Although not required, many of our principals saw the value in video coaching and started submitting their own videos throughout the school year so they, too, could receive valuable feedback, which is so critical to a leader’s continued professional growth.

Video coaching allows each school leader to receive personalized professional development tailored to their goals. Take, for instance, one of our first-year principals. He was working diligently to improve the quality of his student work analysis meetings. He had submitted two or three videos but was still struggling to effectively unpack the standard and student exemplar.

His coach shared with him a video that was submitted by one of our PIRs. After watching that model, our principal remarked, “That was exactly what I needed. I just needed to see it. Now the feedback makes perfect sense.” Not only were his subsequent student work analysis meetings increasingly effective, his students went on to achieve above average learning outcomes for the school year.

Tips for success

Video coaching has become an engrained part of our principal residency program and a practice we continue to use as part of the professional learning process. When we started with video coaching, we had a clear sense of what we were doing and why we were doing it. Here are some things we learned.

1. Select the right tool.

We made the video coaching initiative compelling by selecting a tool that was easy to use, so our PIRs as well as our experienced principals were excited to get started using the technology.

Videos can be recorded using most any device and are then uploaded to the platform using a quick and easy tool. Even those who might consider themselves “technologically challenged” made great use of the platform with little difficulty.

2. Pilot then launch.

We adopted a “go slow to go fast” mindset. We vetted several technology options to ensure it would have the most impact. We then piloted the use of the platform with a group of 10 PIRs in 2015-16. Piloting the platform allowed both coaches and PIRs to practice using the system and to get a clear sense of how we might leverage the tool to support our work.

We considered feedback from our users before expanding our plans for use. Because of this deliberate approach, we increased the number of educators using video coaching by nearly 10-fold in 2016-17 and are looking to double that number in 2017-2018.

3. Celebrate successes and acknowledge challenges.

We’ve celebrate successes by sharing videos of leaders doing great work and have highlighted coaches for the quality of feedback they’ve shared as well as the number of coaching interactions they’ve had.

This coaching process aligns to the ISTE Standards for Educators, which helps our users continually improve their practice by learning from and with others. We are currently working to create a video library that reflects our leaders in action as a model for aspiring leaders.

While we are always on the lookout for what’s working, we are also listening for questions and suggestions for how we can better use the platform to meet our needs. Feedback from our users includes a desire to use our organization’s rubrics and evaluation tools in the system.

Doing so would allow our coaches to align their feedback to specific indicators, which we believe will further accelerate leader development and growth.

Whether a PIR or principal, video coaching has provided our leaders with the opportunity to receive valuable feedback on their use of IDEA’s School Leadership Levers and, in turn, improve their practice. Our organization is committed to fostering – and supporting – effective, visionary leaders who help drive student growth through teacher growth. Technology and the use of video coaching have been instrumental in this ongoing work.

Judy Touzin is the senior director of design, Principal Preparation Programs for IDEA Public Schools. Learn more about the PIR program.

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