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Conferencing

Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia

Sharon Walpole University of Delaware

Todays Goals

Review the limited research on


conferencing with teachers. Recognize types of conferences and their purposes. Learn about effective conferencing techniques.

Back in School . . .
Conduct a conference with a reluctant
teacher employing techniques explored today. Make notes about the experience to share with this group next time. OR Choose one or more of todays strategies and apply them in several conferences. OR Do both!

What does research tell us?

Most of the research on conferencing has


concerned principals and other supervisors. Coaching is still too new to offer guidelines that define best practice. Much of the administrator literature provides lessons about what not to do!

Research shows that ineffective conferences tend to

be dominated by the conferencer be focused on narrow concerns provide a teacher with short, prescriptive feedback threaten teacher self-esteem be influenced by an unequal power relationship lack teacher reflection and self-evaluation lack reasoning and critical thinking
Summarized by Blase & Blase (2004)

Effective conferences, on the other hand, entail a set of skills that go beyond the conference itself. Lets consider them.

Effective Conferencing Skills


Conducting a focused observation during
which data are gathered Knowing about effective teaching methods Understanding how teaching relates to learning Analyzing data (both from an observation and from assessments) Knowing how to make a conference reflective and nonthreatening
Summarized by Blase & Blase (2004)

Effective Conferencing Skills

Applying communication skills:


Acknowledging Paraphrasing Summarizing Clarifying Elaborating on information

Summarized by Blase & Blase (2004)

Effective Conferencing Skills


Being aware of the teachers unique
attributes:

Stage of development as a teacher Philosophical stance toward instruction Personal and professional background Career status Level of commitment to teaching Receptivity to innovation Personality traits
Summarized by Blase & Blase (2004)

Now lets focus on coaching!

Five essential features of an effective coaching conversation


1. It is tied to a specific event that has just occurred. 2. It takes place in the context of a teachers attempt to learn a specific technique or concept. 3. It makes use of specific teacher actions as well as words. 4. It includes reciprocal reflection and constructive dialogue between teacher and coach. 5. It results in new learning and a plan of action to improve teaching. Lyons & Pinnell (2001, p. 141)

Three Types of RF Conferences


1. Pre-Conference before a Demonstration Lesson

Needs are jointly identified by teacher and coach Gives the coach a chance to model how to plan a lesson Dates are set for both the demo and for a follow-up conference Teacher is reminded to make notes and jot down specific questions.

NCRFTA Coaching Guide, Chapter 6

Three Types of RF Conferences


2. Post-Conference after a Demonstration Lesson

Ideally occurs within a few hours of the demo Coach and teacher discuss teachers notes and questions (Note the role reversal!) Provides a chance for coach to model how to reflect, adapt, and accept constructive feedback Coach and teacher coplan a lesson that the teacher will conduct

NCRFTA Coaching Guide, Chapter 6

Three Types of RF Conferences


3. Reflection/Post-Conference
(conducted after a lesson the coach observes)

Might be triggered by assessment data Might be repeated for every teacher at a grade level if data suggest the need Coach prepares by reviewing notes taken during the observation Coach encourages teacher to reflect on the lesson prior to conference Conference is centered on coachs notes Coach and teacher collaboratively identify areas for improvement, establish informal goals, determine next steps
NCRFTA Coaching Guide, Chapter 6

How should I conference with teachers new to RF?

Use the same three conference types, but you might want to embed some strategies used in mentor programs. Lets look at three.

Three Conferencing Strategies for Teachers New to RF

The teacher already possesses some knowledge of the



topic Coach may use probe questions to extend thinking Examples:

1. Extending

How do you think seating arrangement affected this activity? How do you think the lesson might have gone if youd tried ? Do you remember what you did when ?

Adapted from Helman (2006)

Three Conferencing Strategies for Teachers New to RF

2. Direct Teaching
The teacher possesses little knowledge of the topic Coach uses the conference to introduce a new approach Examples:

Define a technique: Reciprocal teaching is an approach that Make a suggestion: You might try putting the letters on cards. Tell: An approach Ive been successful with is to Show how: Heres how Id write up a lesson plan on this. Elaborate: You mentioned ___. An additional idea is ___ Explain why: Using an every-pupil-response approach, like one finger for yes and two for no, will help to monitor who does not understand.

Adapted from Helman (2006)

Three Conferencing Strategies for Teachers New to RF 3. Focus on Standards and Requirements

Coach orients part of the conference around the curriculum Coach uses strategies to focus on standards, objectives, or RF requirements Examples:

Questioning: What was the core objective for this lesson? Telling:

The Georgia Performance Standard for fluency is Reading First expects us to

Researching: Ill look at the GPS and relate them to the core scope and sequence.

Adapted from Helman (2006)

How should I conference with reluctant teachers?

Theres no sure-fire approach, but RF has some suggestions.

Strategies for Reluctant Teachers Begin by working with teachers who are receptive. Include reluctant teachers in large-group activities

(e.g., study groups, grade-level meetings). Check in with reluctant teachers at least once a week. Ask how things are going and what you can do for them. Try having the reluctant teacher observe or coplan with a teacher she or he trusts. But remember that all RF teachers are eventually expected to participate by conferencing with you!
NCRFTA Coaching Guide

Is peer coaching allowed in RF?

Yes, and it can be an effective way of making a coachs efforts go further when it is facilitated and monitored by the coach.

Tips on Conferencing

Use nonverbals.

Maintain eye contact Lean forward Remain relaxed Keep facial expressions neutral

Avoid frequent interruptions. Use nonjudgmental reflection statements that spare feelings

Youve really tried to incorporate this strategy. No wonder youre frustrated.


POOR: You werent very effective using Strategy A. BETTER: Lets see if Strategy B works better with these kids.

Focus on student learning, not the teacher.

NCRFTA Coaching Guide

Tips on Conferencing

Ask open-ended questions that encourage a climate of collaboration

Can you tell me more about ? What are your concerns about using this strategy?

Summarize occasionally, especially if the conversation rambles.

NCRFTA Coaching Guide

Tips on Conferencing

Remember to listen and that listening is more than hearing. You must actively process what the teacher says to make sure you understand. You must also provide feedback to the teacher to ensure youve gotten it right. Ask the teacher if you can paraphrase (Let me make sure I understand ) Adopt the other persons vocabulary (Dont dispute terms.) Remember that silence works dont feel you must respond immediately. Waiting often leads to more input from the teacher too. A request like Say some more about that gives you time to think. Asking What do you think? also gives you time to think and honors the teachers opinion. Dont be afraid to say, I dont know lets find out. Its a refreshing admission. Nobody said you were supposed to be a guru!

Based on Toll (2004)

Some GARF assumptions . . .

Conferencing is an important means of


providing professional development. Conferencing has the potential to build a positive professional community. Conferencing, because it is linked to more effective practice, is also linked to student achievement.

Coaches Corner

What advice can you offer other

coaches based on conferences youve conducted?

National Center for Reading First Technical Assistance. (2005). Improving instructional effectiveness. In An introductory guide for Reading First coaches (Chapter 6). Washington, DC: USDOE.

Read pp. 19-39 of this chapter. Weve summarized the first part of the chapter already; these last pages provide conference scenarios and planning forms that can be very helpful.

What have we learned?

How would you respond to each of the


eight teacher remarks listed on pp. 1718? Critically evaluate the planning forms on pp. 27-39. Which would be most useful?

Lets Plan . . .

Reviewing the slides from todays


presentation, select strategies that you think would improve your effectiveness at conferencing. Think through how you might apply them with your teachers.

Back at School . . .
Choose one of your more challenging teachers
and plan either pre/post modeling conferences or a conference based on an observation you will conduct. AND/OR Implement the strategies presented today that you have selected to improve your conferencing. THEN Whichever you choose, make notes about your experiences to share next time.

References
Helman, L. (2006). Whats in a conversation? Mentoring stances in coaching conferences and how they matter. In B. Achinstein, & S. Z. Athanases (Eds.), Mentors in the making: Developing new leaders for new teachers (pp. 69-82). New York: Teachers College Press. Blase, J., & Blase, J. (2004). Handbook of instructional leadership (2nd ed., Chapter 2). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Lyons, C. A., & Pinnell, G. S. (2001). Systems for change in literacy education: A guide to professional development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. National Center for Reading First Technical Assistance. (2005). Improving instructional effectiveness. In An introductory guide for Reading First coaches (Chapter 6). Washington, DC: USDOE. Toll, C. A. (2005). The literacy coachs survival guide: Essential questions and practical answers (Chapter 5). Newark, DE: IRA.