The current context for development work
Teaching and learning coaches all over the country are working to engage colleagues with development work to improve learner performance and experience. In some settings and for some initiatives this is an easy process as teachers are keen, can see the benefits for them and their learners and are willing to participate. At other points in time and space, it can be really challenging to engage staff with development work, often due to the ever-increasing pressures and constraints they operate under at work. These include the amount of bureaucracy that has crept into the sector, the number of contact hours in the classroom and time tied up with marking and tracking processes. For teachers there is an ever-diminishing amount of actual time and mental space to devote to reflection and development. In this context, coaches need to be particularly sensitive to teachers’ mindset and motivation when engaging them with the latest development initiative.
Here are some of the approaches that I have used in my own coaching and CPD work as well as suggestions from the numerous inspiring T&L coaches I meet in my freelance training and consultancy role. Coaches and Advanced Practitioners may find it useful to discuss these approaches with their wider network or adapt them into a self or peer assessment tool for reflection and planning purposes. Thanks to the wonderful facilitation group at Bolton College for some great conversations on this very topic.
Approaches for engaging colleagues with development work
- Clarifying your approach to confidentiality and honouring it so colleagues can feel safe and open in discussions with you
- Asking them about classroom challenges they would like to tackle as part of the process (talking to individuals)
- Asking the group or team about common issues or areas for improvement they could work on together (group or team conversation) so they spread the workload
- Talking to individuals about one thing they would be curious or interested to explore (something new or innovative for them or just something they have heard of others trying successfully)
- Keeping their development goal small, focused and achievable by using your questioning skills to help people refine ideas into something manageable
- Sharing small things you have tried out and what the impact was on you and the learners; being honest about glitches and obstacles you encountered
- Signposting relevant things to read online (blog or article or teacher toolkit link)
- Printing out an article or a classroom idea that people may want to try out, related to their area of interest
- Suggesting people buddy up to work on related topics and making time for them to organise that within your meeting or CPD slot
- Being a positive, enthusiastic T&L advocate in your conversations – not getting pulled too far into moaning and negativity!
- Empathising with the pressures you are all under but then advocating the benefits of developing practice by small tweaks. Helping them feel it is doable and worth their effort by ensuring they identify something relevant and useful to work on for themselves
- Showing how you can support them by being clear about skills and expertise you can offer within your role
- Re-directing people who are moaning or feeling overwhelmed so that they focus on something useful for them and their learners. If necessary, being explicit about what you can help them with and what others can do. Offering to pass on messages emerging from meetings if it is appropriate and not something you can address as a coach
- Inviting people to come and see your lesson and then going to see theirs, to reflect on an aspect of teaching together
- Offering to have some of a lesson filmed so you have a video clip for reflection or discussion and then you can suggest teachers may want to do the same
- Linking up with the manager or an advanced practitioner to work out how best to engage the team
- Talking to other coaches or trainers about approaches they use, inside the institution or via Twitter or Teach Meets
- Meeting a senior practitioner or lead coach for a brainstorming session to identify approaches to try
- Having a joint CPD session with another team so they can share ideas beyond their immediate group. Collaborating with other facilitators or coaches to run that session together so you also learn about co-delivery skills
- Having a short, snappy sharing practice session where people bring along something they have tried in their development work and explain it to others
- Identifying slots when you can be available to help staff and publicise those; using email and or phone/ Skype or Face Time to overcome geographical barriers; harnessing the team meeting slots for regular updates or reminders
- Harnessing advocates to encourage others to join in
- Staying visible in your role as an advocate and support for T&L improvement
- Focusing on listening and questioning as opposed to telling people what to do. You can’t develop for them….
- Being patient, persistent and passionate without persecuting them!
- Not being demoralised or critical when action plans don’t always translate into actions; helping people to re-focus and find their motivation to take their next steps
- Working out who needs which approach and tailoring your style to them
- Learning about how your fellow coaches are engaging others through peer observation activities – with permission, sit in on a coaching conversation or meeting slot so you can see the approaches your colleague uses
- Noticing small successes with people and building on them