The Curious Coach
Coaching cycles in the Studio
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Throughout October and November, Danielle (a Studio 4 teacher) and I began a coaching cycle together. There was lots of 'new' about it, with both of us being new to the school and to the Studio model. As I look back on it, about to start semester 2 fresh, I am struck by the differences of this coaching cycle compared with others I have had before, and how the Studio model might play a significant role in why that was the case.
Setting goals for the cycle
Normally, I would work with a teacher to identify a learning goal through the lens of an essential question and/or a standard related to a unit. In the Studio model these seem to lie under the surface and what is more readily accessed are the ATLs and ongoing planning (CAR - Choose, Act, Reflect) students do each week.
In in our first session, Danielle identified the area of growth in response to a trend she had seen among her students during their planning - a misconception that presented a barrier within the Studio model. Her students' expression of their weekly goals resembled what we began to call 'completion goals', such as:
Finish my investigation.
Research a topic.
Go on Khan Academy.
What Danielle wanted was for students to be more cognizant of their goals as learning goals:
Enhance my writing by demonstrating my ideas (Literacy)
Improve my automaticity so that I am more efficient (Maths)
Develop my listening skills so that I can grow more considered ideas (ATLs)
(Fits beautifully with the video shared by our Head of School this week with James Clear and in particular the slide entitled True Change is Identity Change!)
Whilst goal-setting is not an unusual vehicle in coaching cycles, I've never had it be the focus of the cycle itself. However, the nature of the Studio means that if these goals are not stellar, then the learning for the week is compromised. It made sense that this was a big-ticket item for a cycle in Studio 4.
In our first session, we identified a scale of proficiency with goal-setting, and what we felt was an achievable goal and timeframe. At first, Danielle thought gradual release (reflecting the Studio's proficiency scale: Guided/Shared/Independent/Leading) should be the basis for our success criteria, and we planned for this release quantitively:
By the end of the cycle most students will be crafting their goals independently.
As the cycle progressed, we realised that independence wasn't the key to success; rather it was the quality of the goal that really mattered.
Ultimately, the core focus on skills in the Studio model (as evidenced by the nature of the proficiency scale) influenced the construction of success criteria - and the outcome was some learning for us both. New tools needed to be constructed - naming qualities of learning goals and depth of understanding - in order to support the goal of the coaching cycle and the students.
As we continued to look at student work and conference, we noticed other barriers to crafting learning goals - students focusing on the tool they would use to achieve their goal and even naming it as the goal itself - so we began thinking of ways to have students craft goals (such as co-creating categorised "goal-banks" including student examples as mentors) and honour their need to name the tool they would use to act upon the goal. Perhaps something like these:
Enhance my writing by demonstrating my ideas (literacy)
I will add proof and importance to my draft and share my improvements with my editor
Improve my automaticity so that I am more efficient (maths)
I will practice math games on Freckle and measure my speed over the week
Develop my listening skills so that I can grow more considered ideas (ATL)
I will practice paraphrasing during class discussions and try-on the ideas of others.
Whilst not complete, building a bank of models so that students could identify and name qualities of good learning goals is certainly work we'd like to continue. It would form the basis of the success criteria we needed from the outset, and if we co-constructed them with the students, even better.
Adapting in a Student-Directed Context
The single biggest difference from a cycle perspective was how a day in the Studio might be structured. Getting in the classroom with a constructive purpose when direct instruction is minimal and each student is working on personal goals at any given time was a real challenge. We would plan for me to join a class, only to have the goal-posts change to reflect student needs such as workshops to expose students to possibilities and approaches, or simply having students working on different things in different spaces. Being flexible with what I might join Danielle on - and seeking out data on our cycle's goal regardless of the circumstance, was really the only way we could make it work this time around.
Cycles as Ongoing Inquiry
What does this mean for coaching cycles in the Studio?
Having this more structured cycle run concurrently to others has highlighted the need for me to stay flexible and slow it down. Recognising that teachers have goals for student growth that do not conform to time constraints, for example, means I have to also be kind to myself: cycles (particularly those driven by ATL goals) might be ongoing, rather than 6 weeks or unit-long. This also means adjusting the way we collect data, and measure growth accordingly - something I haven't completely worked out, but plan to, soon.
Keeping a defined coaching log is also something that won't work in the Studio context - just like the cycle, the way things changed and moved meant keeping a shared 'diary' of intentions, conversations, events, and noticings seemed to work best for Danielle and I.
And as I look over Danielle's reflection of the cycle, it's clear that maintaining the core beliefs and practices of coaching remain imperative in a Studio model - where coaching focuses on strengths and builds teacher efficacy through a truly empowering process. When our students are being asked to make big shifts - in both how they learn and are supported by teachers - it makes sense that teachers will also need shifts in the ways coaching might support them and their professional growth. To be continued!