Virtual Coaching for Effective Feedback

ISTE Student Standard

Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator

Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning. Coaches:

b. Build the capacity of educators, leaders and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback.

Teacher effectiveness is a function of not only teachers’ personal qualities but also “schedules, materials, students, institutional incursions into the classroom, and the persistent clutter of reforms that teachers must accommodate (Hu & Veen, 2020). Hu and Veen (2020) also suggested that observation-based coaching is the use of a coach and in-class observation may enhance the coherence between coaching and the needs of individual teachers. In this kind of PD intervention, teachers are observed in their own classrooms with the help of a structured observation tool, and the observation is followed by a coaching conversation and a written report a few weeks later. A trained coach conducts both observation and coaching. Studies show that this approach is highly effective in increasing teachers’ teaching skills. However, as my peer Deanna pointed out how instructional coaches in our experience are typically leaders in the school, and straddle the line between in-classroom teachers and admin. It is important to provide growth evoking, non-evaluative feedback to coaching teachers. Are there any technology available for coaches to provide effective feedback without making teachers feel uncomfortable?

According to Rock and Gregg (2009), previous researchers have established that new and experienced teachers frequently report heightened levels of anxiety when they are being coached. The mere presence of coach who mostly are their supervisor, administrator, or colleague in a classroom implies that the teacher is doing something wrong. To help the teachers feel warm support instead of harsh scrutiny, receiving virtual coaching experiences might be an option to invite coaches who are not limited to school administrators. Virtual coaching can be done in the spirit of shared leadership with school administrators to offer support without monitoring and evaluating teachers’ performance.

In the most effective coaching and supervision paradigms, feedback to teachers is immediate (Scheeler, McAfee, & Ruhl, 2004). However, teacher observations often involve a mentor teacher or academic leader sitting in the corner and taking notes on various aspects of the class. The observation is then followed up by a conversation between the observed teacher and the observer. Many coaches don’t achieve immediacy in the traditional plan-observe-conference cycle so many use. Feedback often occurs long after the teaching episode and out of the teaching context.

Lynch (2019) suggested that Bug-in-ear technology can be a solution for coaches to provide real time feedback. Bug-in-ear technology is a proven method for improving the professional practice of frontline practitioners. Consisting mainly of a portable two-way radio with earpiece and microphone, bug-in-ear devices allow coaches or supervisors to give teachers immediate feedback while they are delivering instruction in their classrooms. “The primary difference between traditional classroom observations and this approach is, that the feedback is immediate, rather than being given after the lesson.” Lynch (2019) believed that this approach highlights the importance of immediate, actionable feedback in the process of professional development as it allows the teacher to make changes and see the results in real time. The advice can be as simple as giving students more time to respond to questions or varying the tone of voice so that it is more engaging to students. Another positive effect of immediate feedback is that it prevents incorrect practices from becoming a habit.

Lynch (2019) listed the following suggestions for coach and teachers to start with Bug-in-ear coaching.

  • Teachers will need practice distinguishing the voice of the coach from other noises in the classroom and incorporating changes into a lesson that is in progress.
  • Virtual coach needs to know how direct to be with the teacher based on the relationship between teacher and coach develops.
  • Virtual coach needs to set goals with the teacher who will be observed and to keep those goals in mind during the coaching session.
  • Virtual coach should offer far more encouraging, supporting statements than corrective or instructive ones.

Rock and Zigmond(2011) suggested it is feasible using most school districts’ existing technology resources and most teachers’ existing level of technology know-how to use virtual coach with earpiece and they listed the possible cost and required equipment for teachers and coaches:

Teachers will need

A wide-angle webcam (Creative Live Web Cam Live! Ultra; $44.66)

A Bluetooth adapter (IOGEAR’s Bluetooth USB Adapter with Enhanced Data Rate; $18.48)

A Bluetooth headset (Bluetooth Headset; $49.99)

Coaches will need

An external hard drive (External Drive Maxtor OneTouch 4 1TB; $179.99)

A headset with microphone (Plantronics Audio 400 DSP Foldable USB Headset; $49.95)

A webcam and microphone, if these are not built into the coach’s computer. We have used the Creative Live Web Cam Live! ($44.66) and Plantronics. Audio 400 DSP foldable headset ($79.95).

Finally, as with other types of coaching, one of the keys to virtual coaching via an earpiece is that it is important for the coach to point out strengths the teacher has and not to focus only on their areas of weakness. This will help to ensure that the teacher does not perceive the virtual coach as a spy or a someone trying to catch them doing something wrong (Lynch, 2019).

References

Hu, Y. & Veen, K., (2020). How Features of the Implementation Process Shape the Success of an Observation-Based Coaching Program: Perspectives of Teachers and Coaches. The Elementary school journal, 121(2), pp.283–310.
https://alliance-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/11thih9/TN_cdi_proquest_journals_2468548422

Rock, M. L., Gregg, M., Howard, P. W., Ploessl, D. M., Maughn, S., Gable, R. A., & Zigmond, N. P. (2009). See me, hear me, coach me. Journal of Staff Development, 30(3), 24-31. https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=cdse_pubs

Scheeler, M.C., McAfee, J.K., & Ruhl, K.L. (2004). Providing performance feedback to teachers: A review. Teacher Education and Special Education, 27, 396-407.

Lynch, M. (2019). With Coaching Via An Earpiece, Teachers Get Feedback In Real Time. The Tech Edvocate. https://www.thetechedvocate.org/with-coaching-via-an-earpiece-teachers-get-feedback-in-real-time/

Rock, M., Zigmond, N., Gregg, M., & Gable, R., (2011) The Power of Virtual Coaching. https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/the-power-of-virtual-coaching