Yesterday and today, I have had the pleasure of attending the first two days of the cognitive coaching professional development course taught by Sarah Baird and Amy McCarthy. Before attending the course, I had hear about this professional development opportunities and heard that it was one of the most valuable learning experience offered by my district. I could not agree more. While it is easy to get wrapped up in the content itself (which is incredibly valuable for anyone who engages in coaching conversations), I wanted to highlight some incredible strengths of the presentation itself that could and should be replicated whenever possible. This by no means constitutes an exhaustive list.
Each element reminded me of my infographic on Knowles’ Andragogy. It is clear that this course has been planned with incredible craftsmanship. This brings me to my learning from the course.
While I have had the pleasure of interviewing many teachers for teacher-coaching positions, I lacked the academic background necessary to articulate what made a mock feedback conversation effective or ineffective. This course not only allowed me to put words to my observations, it also enhanced my understanding of what good coaching looks like. Cognitive Coaching is a coaching methodology that focuses on the reflection and thinking of the coachee. Coaches serve as mediators of thinking, allowing teachers to engage in deep reflection that allows them to work thought their goals for themselves and their students. This is grounded in the idea that people must change their perceptions before truly transformative change can occur. The goal is to support people in becoming self-sustaining learners capable of continuing the work after the coaching conversation has ended. It’s an ambitious goal, but one Cognitive Coaching makes entirely attainable with the guiding supports and structured practice provided.
It is impossible to share everything I have learned in just the first two days of this training, but there were a couple of takeaways that I have found myself wanting to explore more deeply and practice with others. First, is the 5 States of Mind that provide coaches with the context needed about coachee strengths and opportunities for support. Below is a gallery of the posters we created about the 5 States of Mind: Consciousness, Flexibilty, Efficacy, Craftsmanship, and Interdependence.
Next, I would summarize the entire approach to Cognitive Coaching to be one of spotlighting the coachee. It is difficult for a problem-solver to take a step back and guide another person to their own solution instead of simply providing their own expertise. The course makes a clear distinction between these two kinds of conversations. Once you move to giving advice, you are either working in collaboration with a colleague or you are moving to a consulting role. While this may have a place in a conversation with a colleague, it is important to make this shift very clear to all parties involved and invite for this change to occur instead of forcing it on a person. Most importantly, the default mode of a coach should be one of facilitating ideas, avoiding a shift of focus whenever possible.
This is just a tiny sliver of the knowledge and skills I have gained from this impressive training. Hopefully, I have provided just enough insight to convince you that you need to take the course for yourself. I believe that all people would find the information useful and directly applicable to their context - almost all of us are in situations where we need to work with other people. In addition, you may find yourself being a total nerd like me and taking notes on what PD done right looks like. Cognitive Coaching definitely sets the bar high.
Mattea Garcia is a passionate educator dedicated to improving instruction by utilizing technology. This blog is dedicated to reflections on educational technology tools, instructional coaching, and educational equity.