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Virtual Coaching — Yes You Can! A Job-Embedded, Personalized Professional Learning Model

Explore and create

Explore and create : Creation lab

Friday, December 4, 1:00–1:50 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Dr. Martha Elford  
Dr. Suzanne Myers  
Dr. Amber Rowland  

Explore a virtual coaching solution for providing dynamic, personalized, sustainable and fiscally responsible professional learning to educators and instructional coaches. Bolstered by implementation experience and research, participants will have access to our model for successful virtual coaching to support future implementation in their own setting.

Audience: Coaches, Professional developers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Any web-enabled device with any Internet browser will suffice.
Topic: Coaching & mentoring
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Language arts, ESL
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Visionary Leadership
  • Contribute to the development, communication and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive use of technology to support a digital age education for all students.
For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Empower educators to exercise professional agency, build teacher leadership skills and pursue personalized professional learning.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Challenge/Solution: School districts in Kansas and across the nation are facing unprecedented challenges with teacher shortages including teacher attrition, lack of certification, and trouble filling vacancies. For instance, special education teacher vacancies continue to be an identified need and severe teacher shortage area in all states (US Dept of Education, 2017). Students in high poverty and high minority settings bear the brunt of teacher shortages. The Kansas State Department, in partnership with the University of Kansas have endeavored to find cost-effective solutions that do not sacrifice the integrity of adult learning best practice. Virtual instructional coaching has become a lifeline for many school districts and teachers who either have geographical or economical constraints that prevent them from accessing effective professional learning. Through the Literacy Network of Kansas (LiNK), teachers in Kansas now have access to a literacy expert who can conduct coaching sessions, perform in-depth classroom observations, provide feedback, and brainstorm individual student learning needs, all via free video conferencing and a video analysis platform.

In order to ensure that coachees experience an equal or better coaching experience as what they would experience with an on-ground coach, LiNK has pilot tested a model specifically designed for virtual instructional coaching. It is called VECTOR, which is an acronym for six phases of virtual coaching: Verify perspectives, Examine influence, Commit to Change, Take action, Operationalize performance, and Reflect/recommit. Participants in this session will experience all six phases and the various technology solutions that make virtual instructional coaching a powerful professional learning solution.

Session Relevance: Coaches, administrators, and educators will find value in examining their practice through the VECTOR lens. Current e-coaching, virtual coaching, or on-ground coaching programs will find value in the activities, guidelines, and protocols shared during this session, which can be transferred and used in one form or another to other contexts. Session participants may be trying to determine if aspects of current on-ground coaching could benefit from partial or even all activities going virtual and the VECTOR can help bolster progress. Many on-ground coaches across the nation are spending time traveling between sites and are unable to meet as frequently or as long as they would like due to time spent in a car. Even if attendees determine that virtual coaching cannot be accomplished in their context immediately, this session will help participants begin to build an argument for introducing virtual coaching into their context in the future.

As a result of attending this session, participants will:
- Have access to an innovative, field-tested virtual coaching model that they can bring back and implement in their own context
- Experience each phase of the technology-enabled VC model with examples and guiding materials
- Collaborate with fellow instructional coaches, administrators and educators sharing resources, strategies and best practice

Technology Interventions: This virtual coaching model uses technology to support coach and coachee understanding of the learning environment, set goals, and provide professional learning based on student performance data and evidence-based literacy strategies and technology solutions. Our instructional coaches use Zoom for our video conferencing solution, as well as YouTube, GoReact, Torsh, and Swivl platforms to perform video-based observations. The technology is agnostic and the model, strategies and best practice shared can work within any video conferencing and video-based observation platform. For this session, additional technology solutions will be shared per phase including the use of Padlet, Google Forms, Popplet, and ChatterPix, all free, open and available tools that can be used on-ground or online.

Model & Strategies Employed: The VECTOR virtual coaching model was born out of necessity, and it provided a feasible solution to many barriers traditional PL and face-to-face coaching had been unable to overcome, including barriers of time, money, and geographic isolation. The VECTOR process describes a 100% virtual coaching model. It is a six-phase process that can be (but is not always) linear, and allows a coach and coachee (either a teacher or a coach) the flexibility to move fluidly in and out of phases as needed. As shown in the outline below, we will guide participants through an abbreviated version of the model, highlighting the technology solutions that make virtual coaching feasible and effective. In addition, the VECTOR Collection is a database populated with coach and coachee tips, tricks, resources, and tools to support each phase of VECTOR and will be available to session attendees. Participants will get an overview of the LiNK program and the VECTOR model by experiencing and seeing it through video and their own use of technology during the presentation.

Evidence of Success:
Through surveys, coachees shared how the focused, personalized professional learning built their capacity in literacy instruction and thus, increased the capacity and sustainability of professional learning in their school and district. The majority of year one coachees have requested to continue into the following academic year. Indeed, the overall program was so successful that the year two experienced a tri-fold increase in both virtual coaches and coachees. Surveys with coachees, interviews and annual log data from coaches, as well as interviews with administrators will be shared. In addition, this year, we are conducting a single case design study to examine how virtual coaching, leads to teacher implementation and ultimately student achievement. Results will be available for this presentation.


1. Introduction and Session Format Description (5 minutes)
Participants will be encouraged to open the online handout and will be introduced to the federally funded LiNK Striving Readers project, the free VECTOR Collection website, and the research guiding our efforts. We will use AnswerGarden to poll the group for demographics and interest, which will help guide our emphasis and focus. The cyclical format of the presentation will also be explained.

2. Description of Phase 1: Verifying perspectives (2 minutes)
The Instructional Coach (IC) will introduce the highlighted phase of virtual coaching and show a quick video of the coachees and coach during the phase. The IC will share what ISTE Standards and specific coaching challenges are being addressed by this phase.

3. Demonstration of Specific Strategy and Associated Resource (2 minutes)
The presenter will do a brief demonstration of the technology tool and strategy basics. For example, in order to Verify perspectives, a coach and coachee will use ChatterPix to introduce themselves to an alien who has come to earth to take over their body. The Chatterpix describes the person, their context, what a day in the life looks like, and how they interact with their colleagues and students. In addition during this phase, coaches and coachees video a tour of their classroom/office so that they both practice use the video-based observation platform online, but also get to know one another better.

4. Exploration of Specific Resource (2 minutes)
Participants will be given time to use the resource or strategy independently asking questions and troubleshooting issues. The IC will roam the room to address individual concerns and questions.

5. Reflection (2 minutes)
Attendees will be encouraged to crowd-source, swapping additional ideas and resources with other neighbors and crafting easy action steps to support implementation of new ideas into their own educational settings. Participants will be encouraged to post their reflections on a Padlet in order to maintain a repository of ideas and resources shared.

6.-9. Repeat Phase Cycle (8 minutes)
Repeat steps two through five, so that a total of six phases will be explored:
E - Examine influence - participants will watch a video of a coach or coachee tour of their space use the associated checklist to determine what questions need to be asked in order to further Examine the influence a coachee has.
C - Commit to change - participants will use a provided web-based checklist with a partner to write a goal
T - Take action - Participants will search the VECTOR collection for models of practice to see how VCs model virtually and to glean ideas they can take home and use with their coachees
O - Operationalize performance - Participants will watch a video of a teacher implementing a strategy and complete a scaled questionnaire, designed to support teacher review of their own practice.
R - Reflect and recommit - Participants will complete an online graphic organizer using the 4 Fs of Active Learning, just as a VECTOR coachee would

10. Summary of Session and Ensure Participant Access to Resources (2 minutes)

11. Participant Questions (5 minutes) Questions and whole group discussion.

Supporting research

Funding cuts have disproportionately affected high-needs schools, and have caused budgets for teacher PL to be drastically reduced or to be cut entirely (Yadavalli, Waldorf, & Florax, 2017). Recently, the Westat Equity Team found that “thirty-five states identified insufficient educator support and professional development as a root cause of equity gaps” (Williams, Adrien, Murthy, & Pietryka, 2016). Even more compelling is research stating that without job-embedded, personalized, ongoing support that includes classroom observations and feedback, transfer from knowledge to practice rests at an abysmal 10-15%, compared to 80-95% transfer for PL that includes those features (Tkatchov & Pollnow, 2012). These specific features were among those recently confirmed in a 2017 study from the Learning Policy Institute, which identified seven key features typically present in effective professional development (Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner, 2017). The seven features include: (1) A focus on content; (2) Incorporation of active learning; (3) Collaborative opportunities; (4) Use of models of effective practice; (5) Coaching and expert support; (6) Opportunities for feedback and reflection; and (6) A sustained duration (Darling-Hammond, et. al., 2017). Unfortunately, the task of ensuring these seven features are present in teacher PL usually falls to one or two administrators who have many other responsibilities – including student safety, state and federal compliance, and discipline, to name a few.

As Internet access has become more ubiquitous and teachers have sought out new strategies and methods for engaging learners (Hough, Smithey, & Evertson, 2004), the cost challenges of providing high-quality in-person professional learning for teachers in particular may accelerate a more widespread and centrally-organized use of online learning experiences in schools and districts (Kraft, Blazar, & Hogan, 2016). “The lack of any statistically significant differences in effect sizes between in-person and virtual coaching suggests that virtual coaching models may be able to maintain quality while increasing scalability. This finding is consistent with Powell et al. (2010), who did not find any meaningful differences in outcomes across teachers randomly assigned to an in-person coach versus a coach who met with teachers virtually (573).”

It is important to note that while the overall program was designed to reflect the specific features needed for effective professional development (Darling-Hammond, et. al., 2017) this session is also designed to model effective PD. Due to the nature of the conference, the content is technology-centric and it cannot necessarily be ongoing (although participants can join the social network to engage beyond the conference), but we are purposefully incorporating active learning, collaborative opportunities, the use of models of effective practice, expert support, and opportunities for feedback and reflection.

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Dr. Martha Elford, University of Kansas
Dr. Suzanne Myers, University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning
Dr. Amber Rowland, University Of Kansas, ALTEC

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