Using Blended Learning to Maximize Coaching: A Leader’s Reflection

As Jim Knight describes in his 2018 book, The Impact Cycle, coaching is one of the most effective ways to improve teaching and learning in any instructional setting. Coaching involves the reciprocal relationship of giving and receiving feedback, discussion, and reflection, and it benefits both experienced and novice teachers alike. Like most divisions, we at  Virginia Beach Public Schools believe that all teachers can improve their practices if they set clear goals and receive consistent coaching. Our blended coaching process allows teachers to receive personalized job-embedded coaching, group collaboration coaching sessions, and virtual coaching. 

In today’s high-tech and demanding world, teachers are in search of training that is respectful of their time, especially considering the time many of them already spend outside of the classroom planning and self-studying. In her 2018 article, “Teachers Too Busy to Collaborate,” Dian Schaffhauser explains that while collaboration is a 21st-century skill for students, teachers often do not model the same behavior. While teachers understand the importance of coaching and collaboration, most feel that the time involved in reporting to a coach or training outside of school is not worth forfeiting time away from other duties and family responsibilities. We implemented blended coaching as a response to many of these time constraint concerns and because we value personalized learning. 

Why Blended Learning?

Blended coaching combines the best elements of personalized, online, collaborative, and face-to-face learning. While our teachers can offer a laundry list of reasons why they support blended coaching, four appear to resonate with almost all of them: blended coaching is flexible, immediate, engaging, and collaborative. 

  1. Blended coaching is flexible. Teachers have the opportunity to decide what, when, where, and how they learn. Our virtual coaching allows teachers to participate on any device from their school, in their home, or in my case, in the parking lot during my daughter’s soccer practice. Virtual coaching can be personalized for a teacher’s individual needs or used collaboratively with a school or grade-level team.
  2. Blended coaching also provides immediate feedback through job-embedded coaching. Job-embedded coaching allows teachers to receive real-time feedback on a portion of their instruction, watch a modeled lesson, or discuss and create lesson plans.
  3. It’s engaging for teachers. Because all forms of the blended coaching model are designed to meet the specific needs of the participants, the levels of engagement are high, and teachers can participate in ways that beyond phone calls and emails. This blended approach engages teachers, and we are finding that they want to share and think differently, and they are more intentional with decisions.
  4. Blended learning allows for collaboration between teachers and administrators. Teachers who want the opportunity to collaborate can attend our afternoon face-to-face collaborative sessions and share best practices or seek advice from others. However, even this approach can be flexible and approached in a virtual setting to meet the needs of schedules.
Reflecting, Regrouping, and Overcoming Hurdles

Although the blended model of coaching has been a successful way to improve planning, direct, and small-group instruction, and classroom engagement in our READ 180 classrooms, it did not begin without frequent reflection and regrouping.

Our first hurdle had to do with scheduling the face-to-face collaboration sessions. We are a rather large division with schools spread throughout the city. We quickly learned that teachers would not come if the trainings were at an inconvenient time or location. Attendance at these sessions had been on a steady decline. I asked a few teachers what kept them from attending if they didn’t have other obligations. The resounding response was location. Teachers wanted to meet at a central location close to dining (especially a Starbucks) and at a place accessible to a main street or highway. Moving our location and serving small snacks slowly increased our participation. 

The second hurdle came in the form of fear. Teachers were apprehensive about the virtual coaching. They loved the idea of receiving training from any location, but they feared the unknown of web cameras and technology. Initially, the coaches had the same fears of faulty cameras and microphones. We regrouped and solved this problem by hosting a face-to-face training on virtual learning. Teachers logged on to the session together from their cellphones or computers with guidance and support from coaches in the room. It was a great learning experience. 

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This post originally appeared on the 180 Educator Community blog on January 9, 2019.

Learn more about the READ 180 Universal program and the full range of HMH coaching options. You can also nominate exceptional intervention teachers who are devoted to working with struggling students for our 180 Educator Awards.

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