Home Educational Trends Coaching for Results, Part 3: Terminology

Coaching for Results, Part 3: Terminology

by Miguel Guhlin
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How do you blend technology into instruction while also providing coaching support? In this third installment of  Coaching for Results, we’ll explore several key concepts. Then we’ll put it all together. Before we do that, it’s important to clarify vocabulary, so let’s begin with that.

Overlapping Terms

The following list of words and phrases often mean different things to people. Let’s take a look at each one and define it.

  • Blended learning
  • Coaching
  • Evidence-based learning
  • Instructional strategies
  • High-effect size instructional strategies a la John Hattie
  • Technology integration
  • Strategic technology integration

As you might imagine, quite a bit of confusion exists around each of these terms and they do overlap each other.

Clarifying Vocabulary

Let’s revisit what some of the terms used in this blog entry mean to most of us:

  • Blended learning:  This term has resulted in much confusion. It is often seen as the successor to the term “technology integration.” Clayton Christensen defines the term as “not the same as technology-rich instruction.” It’s often seen as the way to blend technology into teaching and learning. Blended learning advocates incorporate the idea of active, engaged learning with a flipped classroom approach. Station rotation includes activities like small group instruction and group work. Advocates like Caitlin Tucker (see my Wakelet on her work) include online learning.  Collaborative projects are a key component of Caitlin’s brand of blended learning.
  • Coaching: Many coaching approaches are teacher-centric. That is, they are about building relationships with staff. The goal is that these will result in changes to teaching practice. When we shift our focus from the teacher to student, then we may get the results we seek. Many coaching models exist. Two worth your time include Knight’s The Impact Cycle and Diane Sweeney’s Student-Centered Coaching. Diane’s efforts focus coaches on student-centered change efforts which transform teaching practice.  We’ll come back to Diane Sweeney’s approach later.
  • Evidence-based learning: Many different kinds of activities find their way into classrooms today. Some are not evidence-based, or based on research that is in itself questionable. As Cathy Lassiter points out, “Many old assumptions about what works best in education have been disproven.” As a result, we have to rethink positions on certain instructional strategies. This requires accepting new research that challenges what we once believed to work. Evidence-based learning means no less than knowing how new research defines success. What we do as teacher and students must align to the findings of scientific research. This means new research takes precedence over what we would like to believe. Old, disproven assumptions offer opportunities for reflection and new learning.
  • Instructional strategies: This includes the entire collection of instructional strategies (sans ed tech) available to us. (Check out this extensive list here.) As educators, we’ve seen many instructional strategies. Some are research-based, many are not. How do you differentiate between cutesy activities and strategies that work?
  • High-Effect Size Instructional Strategies (HESIS): “We have no right to teach in a way that leads to students gaining less than d= 0.40 within a year,” says John Hattie (Visible Learning, 2009). These are research-based strategies that are shown to work. Now, when I say research-based, this isn’t your run of the mill research. You can learn more about these strategies online. As educators, why not use strategies that work best instead of those that are less effective? In particular, strategies that meet or exceed an effect size of >.40. These HESIS have the potential to accelerate student learning in one school year. Instead of one year’s growth that some instructional strategies offer, these accomplish more. For example, jigsaw has an effect size of 1.2, equating to three or more years of growth for a student in one year. If you focus on using high-effect size instructional strategies, students will learn faster.
  • Technology integration: This is an older term that many ed tech veterans have relied on. It is a catch-all phrase that involves using technology as part of teaching and learning. Some see it as an all-inclusive term that includes blended learning, while others dismiss it as first level use. Whatever your definition, the term is old, abused, and difficult to refresh. Many choose to abandon it in favor of “blended learning” (leading to confusion). Others use terms such as “technology-rich instruction” in lieu of it. Both replacement terms lack specificity.
  • Strategic technology integration: Weston Kieschnick coined this term. He refers to it as a merging of two components. That is, Hattie’s high-effect size instructional strategies with educational technology.  The term includes the use of both desktop and internet-based technology approaches. This includes blended learning as both Caitlin Tucker and Clayton Christiansen define them.

Three Aspects

Now that we have a clearer understanding of terminology, we can get to the heart of good teaching. Achieving academic standards is accomplished through the union of three aspects of teaching and learning. Those aspects include the fusion of the following:

  • High-effect size instructional strategies
  • Strategic technology use in the classroom
  • Pupil-centric coaching efforts

We merge these so that we may construct evidence-based learning experiences. These experiences lead to accelerated growth as John Hattie defines it.

  • High-Effect Size Instructional Strategies (HESIS). Past assumptions have not held up. Consider Natalie Wexler’s and Cathy Lassiter’s perspectives. Hattie provides definitive work on the subject of what strategies work and when it is best to use them.
  • Strategic Technology Integration (STI). The prevalence of technology in today’s society makes strategic technology integration critical. That is, as Weston Kieschnick says, technology integration that elevates high-effect size instructional strategies.
  • Pupil-Centric Coaching Efforts. This is Diane Sweeney’s student-centered coaching. It involves doing pre- and post-assessments of student learning followed by discussions with the teacher and student about both instructional strategies and strategic technology integration.

How do we combine these into a working model? To simplify the process, Weston Kieschnick offers five actions we can take. With some minor modifications, we can see how these three components can work together.

In part four of the series, I’ll share the fusion of these three aspects in a working model you can use in your K-12 or adult classroom.

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