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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Role of Instructional Coach in Professional Learning

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.
~John Dewey

Included in the SCPS Strategic Plan are actions to support 21st Century Professionals, including “Provide ongoing Thinking Strategies/Workshop Model support to teachers”, “Digital Integration”, and “Training teachers to use POP to monitor their impact”. As leaders (staff developers, coaches, principals), we recognize that we are all learning along a continuum across each of these innovative practices, and we are sometimes managing learning several new practices at one time.
A key component of our plan for professional learning is acknowledging that teachers are learning and growing in their practice, just as we recognize students are learning and growing in their understanding.  And it is also why in Shelby County, we believe so strongly in having Instructional Coaches to support ongoing, embedded work so that professional learning makes a difference and growth can be supported in an on-going way. We recognize the need for mentorship and collaboration in learning for teachers as well as students.
In addition to being classroom teachers who successfully moved students toward mastery with expertise, our Instructional Coaches have a wealth of knowledge and understanding about adult learning.  They understand the model for change described in the Concerns-Based Adoption Model.  This model identifies 7 Stages of Concern.  As coaches develop relationships with teachers, they recognize the Concerns and provide embedded learning as awareness grows.  In collaboration with district and school leadership, they are a part of the support team to monitor readiness as teachers move along the Stages of Concern (attitudes and beliefs) when learning a new skill, strategy or innovation.

Typical Expressions of Concern about an Innovation/ Table 3.
Stage of Concern
Expression of Concern
6. Refocusing
I have some ideas about something that would work even better.
5. Collaboration
How can I relate what I am doing to what others are doing?
4. Consequence
How is my use affecting learners? How can I refine it to have more impact?
3. Management
I seem to be spending all my time getting materials ready.
2. Personal
How will using it affect me?
1. Informational
I would like to know more about it.
0. Awareness
I am not concerned about it.

In Shelby County Schools, we have acknowledged the progression of adult learning, just as we do for student learning, by increasingly personalizing professional learning.  We recognize that not all teachers are at the same stage at the same time with any skill, strategy or innovation.  Therefore, teachers have the choice of designing learning that meets their current need and/or interest, taking into consideration where they are in the Stages of Concern.
As we learn new skills (such as classroom management), strategies (such as workshop model as a system of instruction), and innovations (such as digital integration), we progress through Levels of Use (behaviors) seen on the chart below.

Levels of Use of the Innovation: Typical Behaviors
(Note that the Levels of Use may progress over YEARS of practice.)
Levels of Use
Behavioral Indicators of Level
VI. Renewal
The user is seeking more effective alternatives to the established use of the innovation.
V. Integration
The user is making deliberate efforts to coordinate with others in using the innovation.
IVB. Refinement
The user is making changes to increase outcomes.
IVA. Routine
The user is making few or no changes and has an established pattern of use.
III. Mechanical
The user is making changes to better organize use of the innovation.
II. Preparation
The user has definite plans to begin using the innovation.
0I. Orientation
The user is taking the initiative to learn more about the innovation.
0 . Non-Use
The user has no interest, is taking no action.

As we have found with other best practices such as Thinking Strategies, NAMING something gives us power to use and manipulate the concept to facilitate growth.  So, NAMING the stages we go through as learners helps us talk about the Stage of Concern (attitudes and beliefs) we have, as well as the Level of Use (behavior) we currently have with the change or innovation in our practice. Knowing and NAMING the Stages and Levels helps us to have honest, hard conversations about our learning and our practice, while always looking forward to what is next and how we are working to get there.  It helps us to manage and honor the learning PROCESS and where we are along a continuum of growth.  This is why Instructional Coaches have expertise around identifying coaching moves to make to help teachers as they progress along the Stages of Concern and Levels of Use.
Meeting the transformational goals of our Strategic Plan puts teachers in charge of their learning at a time when they are also learning to do so for students.  As leaders, we aspire to honor the learning of our teachers in a parallel fashion to the way we honor our students' learning. That is why our professional learning is personalized and that is why there are Instructional Coaches in every building.

Seek out your coach, who will always help you think--BIGGER!