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The Importance of Observation and Coaching in the Classroom
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City Year is constantly evolving and improving their service model. This year, City Year Philadelphia is focusing on improving corps member’s service impact through consistent observation and coaching. New service manager positions have been created to lead the corps to success through bi-weekly in-class observation and same day follow-up coaching. Program Managers and Team Leaders are also being trained in the necessary art of low inference note-taking and effective feedback to best ensure the quality of our interventions as we move forward.

As a standard this year, corps members are observed, at a minimum of, 15 minutes every two weeks. During these observations the Program Manager, Service Manager, or Team Leader takes low inference notes on everything that occurs during the 15 minutes.  Low inference notes cover everything occurring during the observation without drawing conclusions or making judgments. These are especially important to have on hand during the coaching session, so a corps member is able to reflect on the quality of their intervention and identify with their coach areas in which they could improve their interventions.

City Year is using six steps outlined in the book Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools to guide the post-observation coaching sessions. The six steps of the process ensures that the corps members are able to reflect on their past growth, identify a current weakness, and set up a plan with their coach to continuously improve their service. The consistent observation and coaching cycle is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Corps members are able to become better tutors with their students and enact even greater change on their student’s success in school and coaches are able to work closely and intentionally with their team to ensure the quality of service being provided by City Year at their school.

 

A Closer Look at the Six Steps for Effective Feedback

 

Step 1: Praise

· Coach gives praise to the Corps Member for a past problem being resolved

Step 2: Probe

· Coach asks pointed questions about the observation in order to draw the identification of the problem out from the corps member

· An important part of pre-work for the coach before the coaching session is to identify the problem and create probing questions around the issue

Step 3: ID Problem and Action Step

· Coach and Corps Member work together to identify the problem and create action steps around how to fix or improve the problem

Step 4: Practice

· Role-playing ensues to troubleshoot any concerns or issues

Step 5: Plan Ahead

· Consider how to implement the action steps into the next intervention

· Ideally use a pre-planned lesson plan

Step 6: Set Timeline for Follow-up

· Coach and Corps Member work together to establish when the action steps will be initiated

· Next observation is scheduled

 

Becoming immersed in the importance of observation and coaching is an added benefit for current members of City Year interested in becoming a future educator.  Understanding the benefits of consistently asking for feedback is a directly translatable skill future educators need. By recognizing the necessity for self-reflection and professional growth, teachers are able to continuously improve and in turn work towards the success of their students. Getting comfortable with observation and coaching and the idea of feedback in terms of growing and developing allows current corps members, and future educators, to better prepare themselves for constant improvement in the classroom.

While City Year corps members are more than just tutors, becoming an effective tutor is, without a doubt, one of the most important jobs a corps member has during their year of service. With the help of observation and coaching, the team and its leaders grow together in their service by creating a powerful, solution-oriented space to ensure success of their students.

In closing, the City Year value “Student’s First, Collaboration Always” goes hand in hand with effective observation and coaching reminding us that in order to better serve our students we must continuously better ourselves in our service!

 


Liz Robey is serving as Team Leader at Universal Bluford Charter School with City Year Philadelphia. She graduated from University of Delaware, majoring in Psychology and English. This is her second year with City Year Philadelphia.

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