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REL Pacific

Virtual Coaching Brings Hindsight Into Focus

REL Pacific
Meagan Taylor
April 30, 2021

Elementary student studying remotely

“Hindsight is 20/20.”

Although this phrase often refers to life choices rather than classroom instruction, hindsight can provide administrators with valuable opportunities to support their teachers. Determining how to take advantage of hindsight, however, isn't always straightforward. And that's where instructional coaching comes in.

Jim Knight defines instructional coaching as a non-evaluative, learning relationship between a professional developer and a teacher, focused on improving instructional practices to enhance instruction and, subsequently, improve student achievement.1 Coaching supports teachers as they transfer knowledge acquired from professional development to their instructional practice.2 Instructional coaches provide modeling, observation, and feedback, allowing teachers time to put what they learned into practice correctly, confidently, and consistently.3 Even so, for teachers to truly improve their teaching methods, they must first understand what their current teaching methods are. But being able to reflect on one's teaching methods can be difficult to do based only on one's own perceptions or even feedback from observers.4

Enter virtual coaching. Virtual coaching involves using technology to provide instructional coaching when the instructional coach is not in the same location as the individual receiving the coaching.5 This type of coaching has emerged as a new delivery method in the last several years and boasts the same characteristics as instructional coaching but provides coaching through the use of micro-cameras in telephones and other devices and via email, video conferencing, and Bluetooth devices.6 Some of the benefits of virtual coaching include reducing logistical challenges and costs,7 fostering teacher autonomy and accountability, and the opportunity for teachers to reflect on their practice from an observer's vantage point.8

Like instructional coaching, virtual coaching can happen in multiple ways. Two primary methods of practice are real-time virtual coaching and video coaching. Real-time coaching uses tools like smart glasses or Bluetooth earbuds so a coach can communicate discreetly, but in real time, with the teacher.9 These tools allow a coach to hear and see what the teacher hears and sees and to offer ideas as they teach; however, it's vital for schools to evaluate participant and program readiness before purchasing tools like this. In exploring the use of smart glasses for virtual coaching, key attributes of a successful innovation include “advantages over the existing method, compatibility within the culture of the organization, low complexity, easily observed benefits, clear potential for work improvement, and easily available support components.”10 But while the use of these tools is exciting, they still don't offer teachers the perspective of hindsight. The second form of e-coaching, video coaching, does.

Video coaching involves a teacher recording his/her instruction, then reflecting on it with the coach after both have had a chance to view it.11 Of all the forms of coaching, this is the only one that offers teachers the opportunity to fully understand the current reality of their practice. By reviewing recordings of their own classroom practice, teachers can see how their instruction impacts student learning. One of the reasons teachers have an incomplete understanding of everything happening in their classroom is because they have too much to think about while teaching to stop and observe its impacts.12 A second reason is due to habituation, or losing sensitivity to anything experienced repeatedly. For teachers to be motivated to change, they need to recognize that there is a gap between what they think is happening in their classroom and what is actually happening. When teachers watch a recording of themselves teaching, they are given an outside view of their practice that may be very different from their self-perceptions. This opportunity, or hindsight, creates the motivation to change.13 As with all instructional strategies, there are best practices when implementing video coaching in schools. A few of the most important include: 14 , 15 , 16

  • Turn the camera on the students rather than the teacher.
  • Use technology that allows the camera to swivel and students to be heard.
  • Record once or twice a week for 30 minutes.
  • Watch the video independently (teacher and coach), then come together to reflect.
  • Scaffold the process of reflection with a checklist or reflection tool.
  • Allow teachers to choose goals that inspire and motivate them only after watching their first video.
  • Make iterative adjustments to goals and instructional strategies based on what the videos show.
  • Create open dialogue via email, etc., to make learning and feedback ongoing.
  • Start with teachers who are comfortable using technology.

Professionals such as doctors have been using virtual coaching for years to improve practice. As this practice moves into classrooms, the ability to communicate over distance can transform and improve teacher practice. However, it is the opportunity that teachers have to watch their practice and make decisions with hindsight in front of them that makes this a most promising practice.

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Footnotes:

1 Knight, J. (2006). Instructional coaching. School Administrator, 63(4), 36–40. http://www.aasa.org/School AdministratorArticle.aspx?id=9584

2 Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and teaching, 8(3), 381–391. https://doi.org/10.1080/135406002100000512

3 Ahrend, G., Diamond, F., & Webber, P. (2010). Virtual coaching: Using technology to boost performance. Chief Learning Officer, 9(7), 67–76. http://www.cedma-europe.org/newsletter%20articles/Clomedia/Virtual%20 Coaching%20-%20Using%20Technology%20to%20Boost%20Performance%20(Jul%2010).pdf

4 Knight, J. (2014). Focus on teaching: Using video for high-impact instruction. Corwin Press.

5 Gamboa, T. (2014). Study of face-to-face and virtual instructional coaching with core content high school teachers and composite student academic achievement (Order No. 3583984) [Doctoral dissertation]. ProQuest Education Collection.

6 Zaccaria, K. (2018). Exploration of a smart glasses teleconference system for virtual instructional coaching (Publication No. 7285) [Doctoral dissertation, West Virginia University]. West Virginia University, Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/etd/7285

7 Ibid.

8 Knight, J. (2014). Focus on teaching: Using video for high-impact instruction. Corwin Press.

9 Zaccaria, K. (2018). Exploration of a smart glasses teleconference system for virtual instructional coaching (Publication No. 7285) [Doctoral dissertation, West Virginia University]. West Virginia University, Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/etd/7285

10 Ibid.

11 Edthena. (2018, September 26). Watch Jim Knight as he reveals his best practices and worst mistakes for instructional coaching with video. The Edthena Blog. https://blog.edthena.com/2018/09/26/best-practices-instructional-coaching-video/

12 Knight, J. (2006). Instructional coaching. School Administrator, 63(4), 36–40. https://www.aasa.org/School AdministratorArticle.aspx?id=9584

13 Knight, J. (2014). Focus on teaching: Using video for high-impact instruction. Corwin Press.

14 Edthena. (2018, September 26). Watch Jim Knight as he reveals his best practices and worst mistakes for instructional coaching with video. The Edthena Blog. https://blog.edthena.com/2018/09/26/best-practices-instructional-coaching-video/

15 Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and teaching, 8(3), 381–391. https://doi.org/10.1080/135406002100000512

16 Gamboa, T. (2014). Study of face-to-face and virtual instructional coaching with core content high school teachers and composite student academic achievement (Order No. 3583984) [Doctoral dissertation]. ProQuest Education Collection.