Strategies of Literary Coaches
Many professions use reflection in their practice. This includes the profession of Education. Reflective teaching is “an active desire to listen to more sides than one, to give full attention to alternative possibilities, and to recognize the possibility of error even in beliefs that are dearest to us. Teachers who are open-minded are continually examining the rationales that underlie what is taken as natural and right and take pains to seek out conflicting evidence,” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007). This type of practice only works if both parties are open to change. The people involved must be open to new research, new technologies, and new teaching practices.
In the preview of teaching, many teachers already use reflection as a normal part of their teaching process. When a teacher plans a lesson, they look through the material they need to teach and “transform the material from a text (typically, although not always, a textbook) into something that can be instructed,” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007). Then the teacher investigates how they can instruct their class, “Instruction requires the teacher to consider how the class, the presentation, and the material will be managed.”
Once this lesson is complete, the teacher then evaluates the lesson. Teachers review the lesson and how students responded to it. “…the teacher reflects on the whole experience thus far. Reflection can change the way the teacher conceived of the teaching along each stage of the process, form comprehending through transforming teaching and then evaluation,” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007). Reflection is not an extra task, but a necessary part of the teaching process.
How can a Reading Specialist help teachers with this process? They can help teachers in many ways. First, they can “support the teacher in new comprehensions about instruction along each phase withing the model. It is in this last phase that literacy coaches may be able to take the reflections of teachers and support them in developing new possibilities as to how they might teach their students,” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007). This is a team effort and both parties must be willing to cooperate and have a shared ownership for improvement. “A final rational for coaching reflection is that it is the kind of work that lends itself to exploration through conservation; reflection…,” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007).
While observing a lesson, coaches should take multiple notes that will help them in the conference with the teacher. These notes have been categorized into five different categories: Hypothetical, Procedural, Methodical, Observational, and Theoretical notes. Using these notes, the coach can refer to things that happened in the lesson. By using open ended questions, they can promote a conversation with the teacher such as, “What evidence do we have that…and do you think…?” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007). Why did that happen? How can we improve on this? “These (questions) gave teachers tacit permission to open up and theorize on the evidence before them as well as their own practices based on their theories.” Rodgers & Rodgers, (2007).
It is important to look at coaching and reflection to improve and not a way to investigate what the teacher did wrong. Each teacher should approach this process with an open mind so they can improve their profession; no matter how many years they have been teaching or how many certifications they have. The coaches’ job is to help facilitate this growth and empower teachers to want to improve and explore new research, new technologies and new teaching practices.
Rodgers, A., & Rodgers, E. M. (2007). The Effective Literacy Coach: Using Inquiry to Support Teaching and Learning. Teachers College, Columbia University.