Professional Development Opinion

Student-Centered Coaching - Let’s Make it About Kids

By Starr Sackstein — August 28, 2016 2 min read
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*This content came from a training I participated in based on the work of Diane Sweeney. Her books are about student centered coaching

Have you ever had an unsatisfying observation that has led you to seek help from a coach or a colleague?

Or have you ever been asked to talk to a coach because an administrator believed you needed help that you yourself didn’t agree with?

Or maybe you recognized that your students needed help, but you’ve tried everything and nothing is working, so you’ve had to seek assistance from someone else.

When the coaching relationship develops under pretenses of perceived teacher need, the depth of growth is limited by many factors like:

  • teacher willingness to truly hear what the coach is saying and then implement change that may or may not have an impact on student learning
  • the feedback provided by the administrator which may or may not impact student outcomes
  • the coach’s ability to provide meaningful actionable strategies that can be measured in terms of something meaningful like student achievement.

It’s because of these challenges that we need to shift the focus of the coaching away from talking about improving teacher growth and pedagogy and toward focusing on student data and outcomes instead.

When a coach or administrator can approach a teacher and say, “how can I help you help your students?” What teacher is going to say no?

One thing we can assume about most educators is that we have the best interest of our students in our hearts and minds all of the time. Like parents, we are determined to ensure we are giving students everything we can to help them be successful. So instead of placing on onus on teacher pedagogy, which may or may not support true student growth, we must start focusing on the data of student outcomes and looking for real solutions that will directly impact student achievement.

So what can coaches do to improve student learning:

  • Review student work with teachers to see what kids actually know and can do and then build strategies out from there. Sometimes kids know more than we think, but we only know for sure when we look at the work.
  • Celebrate what’s working, by helping to articulate it and then work on areas that can use tweaking.
  • Review assessments and see what skills are being addressed directly and indirectly
  • Talk about how the data from these assessments and class activities are being used to shift need appropriately
  • Provide specific strategies based on what the data suggests kids need.
  • Work with teachers as partners to do what’s best for kids
  • Participate in class activities by observing and talking to students directly
  • Watch teacher interact with students and help adjust rapport to better serve all students

When we move away from a teacher-centered coaching relationship toward a student-driven one, we shift away from punitive structures and toward collaborative engagement to ensure student success beyond teacher success. Let’s face it, doesn’t matter how good a teacher is in the classroom if the students are getting what they need. It’s all about applying the best strategies for the specific kids who are in front of us to help them achieve.

*This content came from a training I participated in based on the work of Diane Sweeney. Her books are about student centered coaching

How can we focus on student-outcomes to improve collaborative classroom environments? Please share

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