This article first featured in Teach - our monthly best practice newsletter featuring tips and practical advice from Ark, our partners and our friends.
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Johanna Klinsky is Interim Head of Professional Development at Ark. Prior to this she worked in Chicago Public schools as a teacher and mentor teacher. With the Academy for Urban School Leadership, she helped to develop the first urban teacher residency programme for initial teacher training in the US. Johanna helped to found Eric Solorio Academy High School in Chicago, the highest performing neighbourhood high school in the State of Illinois for high poverty, high minority, urban students.
At Ark, we have an unshakeable core belief that classroom observations can be used to make teachers more effective. Traditionally in schools, classroom observation has been a part of monitoring teachers’ performance. Classroom observations are also a golden opportunity to provide feedback to a teacher through coaching that is purely developmental. Based on the work by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, we have a model for coaching teachers that is implemented across our schools.
We typically think of coaching teachers in two ways:
- Observing a lesson, collecting data about learning, then coaching the teacher after the lesson
- “Real-time” coaching where the coach provides feedback whilst the teacher is teaching.
Both of these methods can be very powerful and improve teacher practice rapidly. However, they also present their challenges. When coaching a teacher after a lesson, the feedback consists of small, concrete action steps that the teacher practises over the course of several lessons. Improvement is cumulative and the impact is seen over time and may not appear as immediate as “real-time” feedback.
One of the challenges posed by “real-time” coaching is that it takes an advanced skill-set for both the coach and teacher to implement. The teacher has to be able to manage and teach a class of students whilst listening to their coach and implementing the feedback in that moment. Think of it like patting your head and rubbing your tummy and carrying on a conversation all at the same time! The coach also has unique challenges such as deciding what feedback to give, when to present it during the lesson, how to present it in a way in which the teacher can immediately act upon it, and how to do it without undermining the teacher in front of their pupils.
One method of coaching that combines the best of both worlds is Voice Over Coaching. Using this method, the coach videos the lesson whilst simultaneously recording their commentary on top of the video. The teacher then watches the video and listens to their coach’s feedback at a later time. For some teachers, this removes the stress of having to manage their pupils whilst trying to implement the coach’s feedback at the same time. It also frees up the coach to provide a lot of feedback on the video and have the teacher see what the coach is seeing. Find out more about Voice Over Coaching in the short film above.