If you are like many coaches, you are looking for new strategies to work meaningfully with teachers. Perhaps you find yourself unsure of how to begin your coaching conversations or how to provide meaningful feedback and classroom support that will result in student achievement. Have you ever spent time in a classroom observing a teacher and noticed so many different aspects to the classroom that you didn’t know even where to start? Maybe you have modeled a lesson but weren’t sure what your next steps should be.
Formative coaching is an approach to mentoring preservice and inservice teachers in which student work serves as the foundation for mentoring and professional development. It is the work that students produce that provides the context for collaboration between teachers. No longer do coaching conversations have to feel arbitrary or based on what is most en vogue in your district. Instead, coaching become grounded in student work and the joint investigation between teacher and coach into what helps students learn. Formative coaching is built upon reflection, deep analysis of teaching and learning, and differentiation for individual students and teachers.
What is Formative Data?
Most schools use test scores as the measure of teacher effectiveness. Rarely, however, do schools analyze the data in terms of instruction. Formative data, on the other hand, stay in the forefront of your mind as you plan instruction. Formative data is discussed, analyzed and interpreted to adjust the curriculum to suit the needs of the learners. Using formative assessments is like traveling with a GPS unit. Formative information constantly allows you to readjust, makes you aware of wrong turns, and alerts you to other challenges that get in your way of getting to your desired target.
Formative assessments are not necessarily paper-and-pencil tests. They can take the form of observational notes from a teachers, a student’s homework assignment from the night before, the number of times a student raised his hand in class, a benchmark standardized test, or a conference between a teacher and a student. Other examples of formative assessments include journal entries, running records, essays, fluency reads, developmental spelling tests, graphic organizers and exits slips. In fact, formative data is the student work that fills schools. It overflows student folders, hangs on every bulletin board, and makes up classroom conversations. And yet somehow, student work is often overlooked.
How can Formative Coaching Help me?
Through a series of protocols, formative coaching provides systems to determine goals, gather data, analyze student work and teach and plan collaboratively. Step by step guides, techniques such as the “Quick Sort” and “Trendspotting” help both teachers and coaches make meaning of the student work they collect, whether it is thirty six high school essays or a few simple drawing from an individual kindergarten student.
Teachers can use these protocols to make meaning of their students’ learning as part of grade level meetings, on-going professional development workshops, or to support individual learners who may require further attention. Formative coaching provides a system for coaches to plan their support of teachers in a fashion where the responsibility of instruction is “gradually released” over a series of steps so that teachers do not become reliant on the coach for specific instruction.
No more waiting for standardized tests to tell you how you are as doing as a school. By using the strategies of formative coaching, you individual sessions with teachers and profession development workshops can remain continually focused on student progress.
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