Instructional Leadership in Action

5 tips for setting up and sustaining coaching in your district

by Joanna Michelson Apr 28, 2016

I recently visited two elementary school instructional coaches in a district where we are providing support to all K-12 coaches. Rebecca used to be a teacher at the school and is now in her first year as a full-time coach. Cheryl is in her second year as a district-based coach and spends a week a month at the school.

"I work here all the time and I know these teachers so well, I think I am overly casual sometimes," Rebecca described her main challenge. "I don’t want to be too pushy but I do want to do more coaching. How do I strike that balance?"

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Better Teacher Feedback Can Accelerate Student Learning

by UWCEL Jan 12, 2016

Think about it: As educators and support professionals, how often do we hear our teachers report that their administrator is often in their classroom, and really knows them and their students? Not often enough. Teachers in general are skeptical that occasional and cursory observations mean that their supervisors are knowledgeable about their skills as an instructor and understands the needs of students as learners.

“Targeted feedback” can change this perception. It’s a powerful approach to teacher feedback that aims to enhance formal observations with ongoing, meaningful feedback that has the potential to improve teacher performance and student learning.

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How Principals Can Support Teachers in Assessing Goals Midyear

by Joanna Michelson Dec 7, 2015

For teachers and principals, the run-up to the winter break can seem like a mad dash to a (first) finish line. Time is short and instructional improvement goals slip down the priority list.

What to do? Mark your calendar for January. The time after the winter break is perfect for everyone to take stock of progress toward the instructional goals set in the fall. It’s a great opportunity to step back and reflect on how students have been growing and what teachers and principals can do to continue to support them.

Principals often ask us how to talk with teachers about their professional growth since the start of the year. Typical questions include How can I help teachers reflect honestly on their instruction in light of student learning and our school’s goals? and How can I best prepare for conversations about goals with teachers?

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One Key Ingredient For Successful Content Area PD: Include Instructional Leaders

by Joanna Michelson Nov 30, 2015

It’s a familiar professional development experience for many educators: Seven middle school math teachers gather around student work and content area standards in preparation to observe an experienced consultant teach a group of eighth graders how to talk about their own learning, which today includes how to graph on a coordinate plane.

The teachers are eager to hear their students talk about their learning in the classroom. They are also eager to try out some different instructional strategies to support math discourse. By the end of the day, they leave the session excited to take their learning back to their classrooms.

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New Midyear Teaching Tune-up to Analyze Impact and Refine Goals

by UWCEL Nov 13, 2015

In January, teachers and principals often take stock of progress and make plans for the rest of the school year. At the Center for Educational Leadership's (CEL) new Midyear Teaching Tune-up on January 21, 2016 in Seattle, Wash., educators get the chance to analyze impact and refine their goals with the help of CEL experts.

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Learn How to Give Targeted Feedback - Five Two-day Institutes Across California

by UWCEL Nov 4, 2015

Giving targeted feedback is a crucial component of instructional improvement and an important support for helping teachers grow their practice throughout a school year. Starting in December, educators in California (and beyond) will have the chance to improve their targeted feedback skills in five two-day institutes across the state.

Hosted by the San Diego County Office of Education - Learning and Leadership Services Division, the specialized leadership institutes help school leaders implement structures and processes for providing teacher feedback and growth. The institutes support principals, teachers and central office leaders in developing the skills and tools for strengthening teaching practice through a collaborative feedback process that results in the improvement of student learning.

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3 Important Ways to Connect Teaching Practice to Student Learning

by Jennifer McDermott Oct 13, 2015

Raise your hand if you think you’re keeping students at the center of your work.

We all do. It’s why many of us went into education and it’s what motivates us to do the best we can every day. In my 23 years as a teacher, instructional coach and educational consultant, I have not met an educator who didn’t want their work to ultimately help students.

Unfortunately, we often lose sight of the student. Caught up in our day-to-day work, we assume that programs, initiatives and curriculum will result in student learning, but that is not always true. Sometimes we get so focused on implementation that we forget to see if the result is helping our students learn.

How does this happen? Let’s look at an example.

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Keeping One Foot in the Classroom: Developing Teacher Leaders in Pittsburgh

by Joanna Michelson Sep 16, 2015

As a teacher leader in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Monica Wehrheim wanted the teachers she worked with to be inspired by her feedback, to mature as instructors and to improve their practice. But initially, some teachers didn’t understand Wehrheim’s newly created role and weren’t as receptive to her suggestions as she’d anticipated.

So at the start of this past school year, Wehrheim turned to her coach from the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) for advice on introducing herself to the handful of teachers she would mentor that year.

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What Great Sports Coaches Can Teach Us About Effective Targeted Feedback 

by Sheeba Jacob Sep 8, 2015

Photo by Ronnie Macdonald / CC BY 2.0

This summer, I enjoyed watching the U.S. women’s soccer team play their way to World Cup victory and Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic win the Wimbledon tennis finals. Watching these great achievements, I couldn’t help thinking: What kinds of coaches did these athletes have and what kind of feedback did the coaches give them that ultimately led them to success?

Looking for insight, I found Sarah Green Carmichael’s article in the Harvard Business Review in which she interviewed five well-known sports coaches to hear their thoughts on what it takes to coach effectively.

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How to Find the Right Data to Support Professional Goal Setting

by Joanna Michelson Aug 20, 2015

When teachers return to their classrooms in fall, one question at the top of their minds is this: How do I know where my students’ skills are, and how can I adjust my instructional practice to meet their needs?

Setting professional goals anchored to the needs of students ­— what we call "finding an area of focus" — is a difficult task. As we work with districts on establishing professional goal-setting processes, we often hear from teachers and principals that they are unsure about what kinds of formative assessments of students’ learning they should use to set and assess their professional goals related to instructional practice.

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