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Instructional Coaching Program: A Means to an End                                Impacts, Challenges, and Lessons Learned ...
This was a tall order. From a national perspective, most college faculty rely heavily on an instructor-centered, rather th...
The pilot period was evaluated using the survey and interview methods. Anonymous surveys wereadministered to participating...
Table 2 illustrates that as the coaching initiative matured, there was a large increase in peer-led sessionsoffered by par...
1. Intensity. Impact is greater when the intensity of coaching work is sustained over time. Programs       that benefit mo...
Survey respondents often tied the worth in receiving constructive feedback to the specific skills and areasof knowledge th...
“Our coach has helped all of us here at the college to learn techniques and skills needed for a        learning community....
technical assistance strategy for faculty hiring be completely redesigned. Further hiring        requirements such as the ...
faculty are hired, expectations should be newly communicated. Likewise, GtCNN should continue to        require colleges t...
challenges were successfully solved as the program evolved. Staff turnover remains the greatest challengeto sustaining the...
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Coaching challenges lessons learned 2009-2011

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Coaching challenges lessons learned 2009-2011

  1. 1. Instructional Coaching Program: A Means to an End Impacts, Challenges, and Lessons Learned 2009-2011Gateway to College National Network’s coaching program has been an important means to an end increating a Network-wide culture of innovative teaching and learning. This document, a component to anevaluation conducted by GtCNN’s research and evaluation department outlines the evolution of thecoaching program; summarizes impacts on the organization, individuals, and participating teams; anddiscusses implementation challenges, responses to those challenges, and future recommendations.The Impact of Coaching for the OrganizationBackgroundIn 2008, the Gateway to College model had been operating for eight years. Up through this point, Gatewayto College National Network’s (GtCNN) educational philosophy hinged upon the importance of relationshipsand intensive student supports best embodied by the role of the resource specialist. While GtCNN’sapproach to student support was, and still remains, an important contribution to educational innovationand reform nationally, the Network did not have a strong culture of innovative teaching and learning.As Gateway to College programs entered the 2008-2009 academic year, a new teaching and learninginitiative was being formulated in order to advance our practice and improve educational outcomes forGateway students. The need for new instructional innovations was informed by GtCNN staff experiencesvisiting Gateway classrooms. Instruction was somewhat of a mixed bag. While staff observed pockets ofgood instruction, there were many examples of the traditional ‘stand and deliver’ approach to teaching thatGtCNN staff had heard Gateway students exclaim hadn’t previously worked for them. Instructionalinnovations disseminated by the Early College High School Initiative’s demonstration school, UniversityPark, as well as evaluation results of Gates’ Small Schools Project (that concluded that teacher andinstructional quality had the greatest impact on student results) further informed GtCNN’s resolve to createa culture of innovative instruction.The new GtCNN instructional initiative focused on collaborative learning techniques and group work toactively engage students in constructing course content meaning, and designing curriculum with the “endin mind” – that is, to assess students on what they needed to know and do in order to be successful collegestudents. Over time, these focus areas were expanded upon and became the GtCNN Principles of Teachingand Learning.The instructional coaching program began in January, 2009 with two part-time contract coaches. Theyprovided the energy, in-depth instructional knowledge and skills, and the classroom clout to move forwardthe new initiative. More broadly, the coaches served as an important catalyst to realize the large task ofculture change envisioned for the Network – to make innovative, quality instruction central to theNetwork’s plans for student success. 1Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  2. 2. This was a tall order. From a national perspective, most college faculty rely heavily on an instructor-centered, rather than a student-centered approach to education. According to the Center for CommunityCollege and Student Engagement’s 2010 national faculty survey of student engagement (CCFSSE), while98% of faculty reported that they use the lecture method, respondents reported that they neverincorporated the following:  Small group work - 21%  Student presentations – 40%  Experiential work (such as project-based learning) – 66%  Hands-on practice – 27%(source: 2010 CCFSSE cohort data, add WEB ADDRESS) The Numbers at a Glance  19 Gateway to College partner colleges received the coaching service  9 Project DEgree partner colleges received the coaching service  Between January 2009 and February, 2013, coaches are making 171 trips to partner colleges, spending approximately 342 days spent on site  Coaches have interacted with and provided direct services to approximately 150 faculty and program leadersCoaching Start-up and Program GrowthFive colleges were chosen for the coaching pilot, four colleges in the program start-up phase, and onemature program. Each college was offered a coaching package, which included six-to-seven two-day onsitevisits from the coach over a period of approximately 18-months. The goals for instructional coaching weredesigned around the premise that the coaching package was short-term in nature and therefore, the role ofthe coach was to serve as a catalyst for sustained change in practice. The goals were as follows: 1. Develop and nurture instructional leadership skills among program directors/leads to ensure that the coaching initiatives “live on” after the coaching service sunsets. 2. Facilitate the design of integrated, thematic, project-based curriculum, artifacts, tools, frameworks, and codified design processes that have uses in multiple contexts and environments. 3. Build instructional capacity by working one-on-one with Gateway instructors to assess individual needs, observe classes, and provide feedback. 4. Develop a community of practitioners who provide mutual support and help each other to improve individual practice, from which students become the beneficiary. 5. Identify and develop “instructor leaders” who can share instructional leadership responsibilities with program directors. 6. Link like-minded staff across programs. 2Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  3. 3. The pilot period was evaluated using the survey and interview methods. Anonymous surveys wereadministered to participating instructors and in-depth phone interviews were conducted with participatingGateway to College directors. While preliminary, results of the pilot evaluation were promising enough toexpand the coaching program to additional colleges over the next two years. During this time a more in-depth evaluation was undertaken.Building MomentumCoach early successes translated into a new momentum around the importance of instructional innovationwithin the Network. Both coaches attended the 2009 GtCNN Peer Learning Conference, providingconference sessions and taking the quality of teaching and learning-related workshops to a higher level.This was combined with direct messaging from Network leadership about the importance of theinstructional initiative. For example, the conference welcome letter, signed by the National Networkpresident and staff stated, We must transform our identity to become not just the innovative support model, not only the innovative access model, but the innovative education model that delivers. At the heart of the transformation is teaching and learning. We must focus on the critical task of making innovative and inspired instruction central to our plans for student success.As the coaching program expanded during the 2009-2010 academic year and again during the 2010-2011academic year, over 75% of Network colleges were offered coaching services. At its peak, six contractcoaches were providing coaching services to program leaders and their instructional and student servicesteam members at 21 colleges. Those colleges not eligible to receive the coaching package directly benefitedin others ways through increased exposure to a higher number of quality instruction-related workshopsoffered at the annual conference, which served as a critical vehicle in the culture change process.Table 1 illustrates how the teaching and learning initiative, driven by the coaching program, more thandoubled the opportunities for Network members to be exposed to the innovative teaching and learningpractices.Table 1:Teaching and Learning (T & L) Related Workshops Offered at the GtCNN Annual Peer Learning Conference Conference Percentage of Of T & L, Of T & L, percent Of T & L, percent Year T & L related percent peer- offered by GtCNN-led workshops led workshops coach/guest-led workshops workshops 2006 25% (8/32) 89% (7/8) 0% (0/8) 13% (1/8)Prior to 2007 29% (10/34) 70% (7/10) 20% (2/10) 10% (1/10)coaching 2008 31% (9/36) 77% (7/9) 22% (2/9) 0% (0/9)Coaching Y1 2009 63% (25/40) 56% (14/25) 36% (9/25) 8% (2/25)Coaching Y2 2010 50% (20/40) 55%(11/20) 40% (8/20) 5% (1/20)Coaching Y3 2011 62% (32/52) 53% (17/32) 38% (12/32) 9% (3/32) 3Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  4. 4. Table 2 illustrates that as the coaching initiative matured, there was a large increase in peer-led sessionsoffered by participants who were receiving the coaching service. In 2009, this percentage was modest. Onlyfive colleges had been receiving coaching services for less than 6 months leading up to the conference. Ascoaching continued, a more “grass-roots” level of change took hold. Faculty and leaders who were receivingthe coaching service were encouraged to offer workshops. They offered sessions in line with the innovativeteaching and learning methods that they were being coached, providing a diverse array of case studiesothers in the Network could learn from and be inspired by. Participants and program teams set individualand team goals based on conference “take-aways” further adding to the change momentum.Table 2: Teaching and Learning Related Workshops Led by Peers fromPartner Colleges Receiving the Coaching ServiceYear Percentage of Of T & L, percent Of peer-led, Colleges in the peer-led percent who Network Receiving workshops received Coaching coaching2009 20% (5/25) 56% (14/25) 14%(2/14)2010 46% (14/30) 55%(11/20) 81% (9/11)2011 74% (23/31) 53% (17/32) 100% (17/17)Paying it Forward“Our coach provides individual professional and personal development to every staff member. It’s a lowcost, high yield strategy. Think about what it would cost to send people away to do that.” –Jill Marks, RCCProgram DirectorA derivative impact of coaching was the establishment of the Riverside City College (RCC) demonstrationsite. RCC, the only mature program involved in the original coaching pilot, was developed into a Networkdemonstration site in order to reach additional college personnel. Demonstration site visitations allowvisiting teams to learn key concepts and innovative practices in a training setting, observe those practices inaction in a “live” classroom, and then debrief the experience afterwards using the “rounds model” adaptedfrom the theory-to-practice approach to learning pioneered by medical schools. RCC’s coach wasinstrumental in preparing them to transition into an instructional leadership capacity for the Network. Bythe end of the 2011, ten partner college teams will have had the opportunity to visit a demonstration sitelike RCC. Riverside City College is an example of how GtCNN has been able to leverage the initial expense ofthe coach for the benefit of many. This “learn it, do it, teach it” model is now being further piloted in a newGtCNN project called Innovation Collaborative in which faculty are first trained on the GtCNN Principles ofTeaching and Learning, supported by a coach during an initial implementation and refinement phase, andthen taught skills allowing them to support additional faculty using the same manner in which they werepreviously supported.The Impact of Coaching for Participating College TeamsOver the course of the three-year instructional coaching initiative, GtCNN identified a set of conditions thathelp increase the success and deepen the impact of coaching for participating Gateway to College andProject DEgree teams. 4Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  5. 5. 1. Intensity. Impact is greater when the intensity of coaching work is sustained over time. Programs that benefit most set clear goals for the coach, receive regular visits from the coach (2 visits per term on average), and sustains the effort in between visits through the establishment of goal- related work groups and communities of practice. 2. Planning. Impact is greater when expectations with staff have been set from the beginning, extra meeting time has been scheduled, tight visit agendas have been crafted, and part time faculty have been compensated for the extra time needed to collaborate around coach-led work. 3. Deep Reach to Carefully Selected Personnel. Impact is greater when coaching work is limited to a small, focused group of college professionals with the capacity and interest in undertaking the change process at a deep level. Care should be taken in choosing college faculty better positioned to further transfer their new knowledge and skills to others throughout the institution, such of full- time faculty; faculty chairs, teaching and learning center coordinators, and college opinion leaders. 4. Consistency of Action. Impact is greater when the coach consistently meets with each person they are coaching each time the coach makes an onsite visit. In turn, each individual experiences a greater amount of professional growth. 5. Strength of Relationships. There is a fine balance between providing top-notch customer service to program leaders and staff and asking the difficult questions necessary to move those being coached to a higher level of performance. This balance is accomplished through trust building, transparency, direct communication, and providing invitations for feedback.The Impact of Coaching for Participating Individuals“[My coach] and her knowledge….awesome. Having her as a coach has been the best part of Gateway.”In addition to the pilot evaluation undertaken in 2009, partner college instructors in the Gateway to Collegeand Project DEgree programs who had received coaching during the 2010-2011 time period had anopportunity to provide written comments via a confidential survey at three separate points. Several broadthemes emerged from their feedback.Coach Skills and ServicesParticipants valued certain skills and services that coaches provided them. Receiving constructive feedbackfrom a coach and opportunities to obtain an outside perspective in various areas of instruction, curriculumplanning, and collaboration was consistently ranked as a primary benefit of coaching. Comments included, “I was able to get feedback about weak areas in a specific lesson plan and strong points.” –PDE participant “[My coach] provided me with a perspective no other colleague has offered. Consequently, the feedback I receive from her is unique and very rich. I love working with [her] and hope to work with more instructional coaches.” –GtC participant 5Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  6. 6. Survey respondents often tied the worth in receiving constructive feedback to the specific skills and areasof knowledge that coaches brought to the table, such as their facilitation skills, knowledge of techniquesand strategies in alternative assessment (e.g., knowledge of rubrics), classroom delivery, classroommanagement, student engagement, and new approaches to lesson planning. Remarks included, “We sadly met with our coach for the last time as required by GtC. She helped us with setting up PBL, establishing co-curricular assignments, creating rubrics and ways to use them, cognitive strategies, and great ideas on new approaches to existing lessons.” –GtC participant “I marveled at [the coach’s] depth of understanding of what strong classroom teaching looks like and how fluidly she conveyed this understanding to faculty and support persons.” –PDE participant “I like how [my coach] brings our group back together as an effort to have us focus on the task at hand. We often times get sidetracked and she certainly has patience and holds her composure with us.” –PDE participantParticipants noted the expert advice and guidance that they received in implementing many conceptsembodied in the Gateway Principles of Teaching and Learning, such as implementing project basedlearning, receiving support with integrated design, backwards design, and curriculum planning in general.Comments included, “Amazing insight. Affirming and helpful in terms of understanding the dynamics of students’ interaction with the material.” –PDE participant “The instructional coach has been helpful right from the inception stage and gently led us in the direction we needed to go based on our needs.” –GtC participantSome survey respondents mentioned other services that were of benefit as well. Some mentioned thesignificance of their coach’s ability to provide tailored services that fit their individual needs, being heldaccountable to “promises I’ve made to myself,” having a partner to brainstorm with, and having resourcessuch as cutting edge research being made available to them. Several observations were, “She had articles and activities that were relevant to the student’s learning” –PDE participant “[I was] held accountable to make changes I already know are a good idea.” –GtC participantOpportunities for GrowthAbove and beyond the specific skills and services that coaches were able to provide to partner collegefaculty and staff, many survey respondents mentioned that their coach helped them to grow and developas professionals. On one hand, many mentioned that the coach provided them validation for the strengthsthey already brought to their teaching, which some described as “empowering,” or “reinforcing what Ialready know.” Others commented that the coach helped them to take risks in the classroom, feel moreconfident as an instructor, and feel less overwhelmed. Finally, there were several comments made by lessexperienced instructors who felt that the coach gave them a solid foundation for instruction. Some specificremarks were, “The instructional coaching program really helped me grow. It challenged me to take risks in the classroom and to think beyond the ‘norm’ and reach for the extraordinary.” –GtC participant 6Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  7. 7. “Our coach has helped all of us here at the college to learn techniques and skills needed for a learning community. She has a gift of bringing out the best of us.” –PDE participant “This has been a wonderful experience for me. I wish that my colleagues had this opportunity to grow and improve. Thank you very much!!!” –PDE participantCoaching Program LimitationsSurvey respondents also commented on the limitations to the coaching program. There were a fewcomments that indicated a participant found little value in the coaching that they received. Othercomments included lack of preparedness, limited expertise in a specific content area, too theoretical, toorushed, or too much breadth and not enough time to dig deeper. The primary limitation mentioned, in fact,was time. There was a consistent theme that participants wanted a greater frequency of visits.Respondents wanted more one-on-one time, more observations, and more time allotted for follow-up inbetween visits. Several remarks were, [The coach] was “only available for a very limited amount of hours so she has not been as much of a resource as she could be.” –PDE participant “One on one sessions were brief. I would have benefitted from getting more feedback from her.” – GtC participant.Likewise, some respondents mentioned that their own time was a limitation, and felt challenged to beprepared leading up to a coaching visit. One respondent said, “Time is always the issue – with the budget limitations our classes are large and there is so much to do – sometimes it is easier to go back to what you used to do and not try to take time consuming risks to make things better.”Coaching Program Challenges, Responses, and RecommendationsIn addition to the coaching limitations mentioned above, a set of challenges arose during earlyimplementation of the coaching program, including site readiness, staff turnover, varied coachingapproaches, misperceptions of the coaching program, and segmented support. Further discussion of thesechallenges and responses to each have been provided below. 1. Staff turnover. Staff changes were very common during the first 1-2 years of implementation. The coaching investment sometimes ‘left’ with the personnel. Response In response, GtCNN has begun requiring the participation of full-time faculty in the Innovation Collaborative and strongly advising the hire of full-time faculty for the Gateway and Project DEgree programs. Future Recommendations While some progress has been made, especially with Project DEgree, staff turnover remains the largest challenge to the coaching program. For the future, it is recommended that the training and 7Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  8. 8. technical assistance strategy for faculty hiring be completely redesigned. Further hiring requirements such as the use of full-time faculty, the creation of new tools to help colleges identify and assess the right person for the job are needed. In addition, targeting coordinators of teaching and learning centers for the service with a “train-the-coach” component would provide an embedded person on site to handle new staff training and sustainability needs once the coaching service sunsets. 2. Varied approaches. Coaches differed in approach based on their experience, background, and strengths. Response GtCNN has been successful in minimizing this challenge. Starting in 2010, a detailed list of deliverables was added into the coaching contracts to clarify expectations. The deliverables helped guide the work being done onsite. Twice annual in person coach meetings and quarterly conference calls facilitated by GtCNN provided an opportunity to further clarify required approaches versus preferred approaches. Open communication and idea sharing among the coaches turned diversity of experience into a strength as opposed to a challenge. Furthermore, as coaching transitions from being contracted to being offered ‘in house’ by GtCNN staff, common practices, tools, and strategies are being identified and refined as needed. Future Recommendations As GtCNN’s in house coaching capacity develops, it will be useful for coaches to shadow each other onsite to provide each other continuous improvement feedback as well as to learn from the strengths of one another. 3. Misperceptions of the coaching program. Some college leaders didn’t make full use of their coach, canceled scheduled visits at the last moment, and may have viewed coaching as ‘another requirement’ versus a ‘benefit to be fully utilized.’ Response GtCNN has been successful in addressing this challenge. As an initial response, GtCNN created a request for coaching services document that clearly outlined the coaching program expectations for the director, the coach, and the GtCNN partner support lead. Furthermore, the document indicated the number of days of the services they were able to take advantage of, and then asked directors to request the number of days of the service they wished to receive. Each program director completed the request including their signature. The completed requests were then used to create the new contracts with coaches prior to the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year. For Project DEgree, this challenge was greatly minimized from the beginning. During the discovery phase with Project DEgree candidate colleges, coaching was discussed proactively. Faculty as well as college administrators had an opportunity to respond to concerns and ask any questions early on so that expectations were clear well before start-up contracts were signed. In addition, colleges were required to budget for faculty collaborative planning times. This ensured that faculty would be adequately compensated for time spent doing coach-related activities such as curriculum design retreats. Future Recommendations As GtCNN expansion continues, it is recommended that the expectations of the coaching service be communicated early and often, starting with discovery meetings. As program directors/leads and 8Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  9. 9. faculty are hired, expectations should be newly communicated. Likewise, GtCNN should continue to require colleges to use budget start-up seed money to pay for collaborative planning time. 4. Segmented Support. Coaches have worked in tandem with GtCNN partner support staff who offer ‘generalist’ support with program start-up and continuous improvement to a college while the coach focused specifically on instruction-related matters. Since coaches worked as independent contractors, there was sometimes a disconnect between the coach and partner support lead in working on behalf of a partner program. Response This challenge was fully solved during the 2010-2011 academic year. A deliverable was added to the coaches’ contracts requiring them to communicate directly with a GtCNN partner support lead prior to and following an onsite visit. Future Recommendations There are no further recommendations at this time. 5. Site readiness. Coaching primarily focused on supporting new programs. Some sites were still too focused on basic implementation issues and were not ready to receive coaching. Others exhibited more readiness. Response For Gateway programs, this has remained a challenge. Ease of basic implementation varies from college to college and includes factors such as director competence, healthy K-12/college partnerships, and state and local regulations which impact program operations. Under the contract coach model, the coaching package needed to be more rigidly defined, creating greater difficulties when readiness issues arose. GtCNN’s transition to an in house coaching model will offer far more flexibility in responding to a partner’s readiness to receive coaching. Site readiness has not been a challenge for Project DEgree partner colleges. Future Recommendations It is recommended that the coaching program remain focused on supporting new programs. However, if readiness issues arise, the coaching timeline and goals should be tailored according to each partner’s needs.ConclusionGateway to College National Network’s contract coaching program has been an important means to an end.At the organizational level, it has been integral in supporting a cultural shift that has helped the Networktransform its identity from an innovative support model to an innovative education model with equalstrengths in support, curriculum design, and instruction. For organizational change to take hold, change atthe individual and program levels was critical. While some limitations existed, many coaching participantsvalued the coaches’ expertise, services they provided, such as constructive feedback, and appreciated theopportunities for growth. In order to increase the effects of coaching at the team level, certain conditionsneeded to be met such as high intensity, deep reach, adequate planning, consistency of action, and thepresence of strong relationships.While the establishment of the coaching program included a number of challenges such as staff turnover,variance among coaches, program misperceptions, segmented support, and site readiness, many of the 9Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011
  10. 10. challenges were successfully solved as the program evolved. Staff turnover remains the greatest challengeto sustaining the coaching investment. It is recommended that new strategies be developed in order tobetter ensure that colleges take ownership of the innovative teaching and learning practices that coachespromote.Finally, it is recommended that an additional qualitative study be undertaken in order to further evaluatethe impacts of coaching for partner colleges and the individuals working for Gateway to College and inparticular, Project DEgree. 10Prepared by Stephen Rice, Director, Project DEgree Initiatives6/20/2011

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