Tag Archive for “coaching hat”

Tips for Formal Observations

This week’s #educoach chat was on Effective Pre/Post Conferences with Teachers for Observation and was a great discussion that all principals could benefit from.  If you would like to read the archives of the chat, you can find a link at the end of this post.

I’ve previously written about leading with a “coaching hat” and try to do so even in the formal

observation/evaluation process. While principals can get into classrooms with a coaching hat on, we are still ultimately responsible for evaluating teachers.  Yes, each school/district/system has its own evaluation requirements for the formal observation process, but I still believe it is possible to utilize the process with a coaching mindset as much as possible.  When a principal approaches the formal observation as simply an evaluatory task, they are more focused on judging teachers and completing the necessary paperwork.  In this situation a teacher will feel like they are simply “under the microscope” or become too nervous for it to be an opportunity for reflection and growth.  A principal completing formal observations with a coaching hat on puts the opportunity for conversation first and the necessary paperwork second.

I know that it is not possible to truly approach a formal observation as an Instructional Coach does, because the principal ultimately has the formal evaluation paperwork in the end; however, teachers will see much more value if the principal puts the emphasis on dialogue and growth first.

Unless you have a concern that is so significant that it warrants an improvement plan, the post-conference should be an opportunity for reflective dialogue.  Ask reflective questions that allow the teacher to do most of the talking.  Two of the easiest questions to ask are “What went well?” and “Was there anything that didn’t go as you had intended?” The ORID Framework provides a variety of sample question stems for different purposes. ORID questions are: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional.

Here are some of my tips for principals on the formal observation process:

  • Before the school year starts, create a year-long schedule spacing out the formal observations month by month.  When creating this schedule plan more or less formal observations based on busier or calmer months (i.e. December holiday, state testing month, etc).  Give all teachers a copy of this schedule so they can see how many are being observed each month.
  • Email teachers a reminder at the end of each month if they are “up” for their formal observation in the following month. This gives them a reminder and allows them to schedule an observation with you.
  • When scheduling an observation, schedule the pre- and post-conference all at once.   If possible, schedule the post-conference for the same day as the formal observation. Save yourself a lot of time by having your secretary in charge of your calendar. 
  • Give all teachers a pre-conference form ahead of time so they know what questions to be prepared to discuss during your meeting. Some recommended questions include:  1.What are the objectives/outcomes for this lesson? 2. Describe the population of the class and what differentiation is planned for this lesson. (Once you know your classes well from frequent walkthoughs, you will no longer need to ask for the population of the class). 3. What will be observed? What instructional methods will be used? 4. How will student performance be assessed throughout or after the lesson? What evidence of success/student achievement are you looking for? 5. Is there anything in particular you would like to be observed during the lesson for you to receive specific feedback on? 6. What do you believe to be any areas of concern?
  • Complete as much of the observation form as you can while you are observing in the classroom, but include questions you’d like to ask the teacher in the post-conference and wait to finish it until after you have that post-observation discussion.

If you would like to read the full archive of the chat, you can find it HERE. (*Note-If you’re new to reading storify, it shows some tweets several times based on the number of times it was retweeted by others).  Throughout the #educoach chat I favorited several tweets, here are the “nuggets” from the chat:


My "Coaching Hat"

Here’s another cross-post of my Friday Focus post for staff, in which I openly reflect for them on how my practice impacts their reflection. I’d love to hear feedback from other administrators trying to balance between the coaching and evaluating hats.

In a previous Friday Focus posts I have shared with you my goal to get in classrooms and provide feedback and questions encouraging you to reflect. I also shared with you in this post that I want to act more like an Instructional Coach than a supervisor to help improve instruction and learning. Throughout this year, I have networked with other administrators (both on twitter and in “real life”) and had conversations around evaluations and coaching. In addition, I recently joined DPI’s Teacher Design Team-the committee that is developing the teacher rubric to evaluate teacher practice. Throughout these formal and informal conversations, I have struggled with trying to figure out how I can formally evaluate teachers, yet be seen as someone to give non-evaluatory feedback in a coaching manner to help your reflective process in the classroom. I have read books on instructional coaching and read books geared towards principals, though none that combine the two roles for an administrator. I’m sure by now, you’re probably wondering why I am sharing my own personal reflection with you?

Because I recognize that when I come in your classroom and send you an email or talk to you afterwards, that it may make you feel nervous or worried…which is NOT my intent! As I reflect, I realize, I have probably never clearly explained (or maybe I never clearly understood myself) what my intent is as I come in classrooms and give feedback. When I am come into classrooms for informal walkthroughs I am coming in with a “coaching hat” on, so to speak. Quite honestly, I feel like I’m doing the same when I come in for the formal observations (for the evaluation process) and meet with you afterwards to discuss how the lesson went. I may pose a question to you that stretches your thinking that is not meant to be intrusive or evaluatory, but is a question to have you reflect on why you do what you do. When you are reflective and consciously aware of why you do what you do, you will continue to utilize effective strategies for students in your classroom. I can share with you from my own experience that when I had a guest administrator with me a while back, she asked me ma ny questions for her learning, but as I explained my answers to her, I realized how much it made me reflect on why I do those things she asked about. So, my key message to you is that unless I specifically say, “I have a concern…” then you have nothing to be concerned about, I am just in there wearing my “coaching hat.”

In the future, I would love for us as a staff to begin collaborating even more for our learning and student learning as a result. We have had several staff members be recorded and reflected while watching their own lesson. Several staff members have o bserved each other to gain new ideas and we have even had teachers from other districts visit us. I have recently begun to read about other schools taking this even one step further and putting in the practice of “Instructional Rounds” in which teachers go together in groups to observe and have follow-up discussions. Here are some of the posts I’ve read on this topic:
Teachers Observing Teachers: Instructional Rounds
Walking the Learning Walk
Engaging Teachers in Instructional Rounds
Don’t worry, this isn’t something we’re starting tomorrow 😉 However, if you are interested in taking some walks through classrooms, just let me know and I’d be happy to cover your class for you!

For your reflection this week...how do you engage in conversations with others to reflect on instructional practices and student learning? What are your thoughts on if I’ve had an impact on your reflection process as a result of walkthoughs (this question you can actually hold on to, because in a few weeks I’ll be asking for your anonymous feedback on a survey to help me reflect).

Image by Kathy Cassidy