With Coaching Via an Earpiece, Teachers Get Feedback in Real Time
For the most part, teacher observations involve a mentor teacher or academic leader sitting in the corner and taking notes on various aspects of the class. The observation is then followed up by a conversation between the observed teacher and the observer. There is often little follow-up or talk of implementation based on the feedback from the observation. More recently, another approach to observations and coaching is being used, coaching via an earpiece, that combines feedback and implementation into an immediate feedback loop.
What is Coaching Via an Earpiece?
Coaching via an earpiece has been used in other fields for a while, and now with the integration of more technology in education, it is being incorporated into instructional coaching. The primary difference between traditional classroom observations and this approach is, “that the feedback is immediate, rather than being given after the lesson.” This approach highlights the importance of immediate, actionable feedback in the process of professional development as it allows the teacher to make changes and see the results in real time.
A research project with preservice teachers found that coaching via an earpiece helped them to notice small things they had not yet thought of as well as how to view things from the perspective of a more experienced teacher. The advice can be as simple as giving students more time to respond to questions or varying the tone of voice so that it is more engaging to students. Another positive effect of immediate feedback is that it prevents incorrect practices from becoming a habit.
At first thought, this type of coaching may seem like an intrusion and perhaps even a bit distracting to have someone’s voice in your ear, but teachers report it as being supportive. As one teacher pointed out, having the coaching come via an earpiece is less disruptive to the class as a whole than having somebody give the advice in front of students during a class observation.
As with other types of coaching, one of the keys to virtual coaching via an earpiece is that it is important for the coach to point out strengths the teacher has and not to focus only on their areas of weakness. This will help to ensure that the teacher does not perceive the virtual coach as a spy or a someone trying to catch them doing something wrong.
Getting Started with Coaching via an Earpiece
When it comes to implementing this tool, coaching via an earpiece will likely take some practice for both the teacher and the coach. Teachers will need practice distinguishing the voice of the coach from other noises in the classroom and incorporating changes into a lesson that is in progress.
For virtual coaches, there are four main skills to master. The first is knowing how direct to be with the teacher. This will depend on the relationship that the coach has with the teacher and will likely evolve as the relationship between teacher and coach develops. Another is setting goals with the teacher who will be observed and to keep those goals in mind during the coaching session. This will help the teacher to trust that the coach’s comments are connected to her areas of development in the classroom and not the coach´s own agenda.
The next skill is tailoring the feedback to the teacher. For example, it may be helpful to come up with code words that serve as reminders for a teacher. The final skill is to remain positive during the coaching session so that teachers feel supported and recognize what they are doing correctly, instead of only being reminded of mistakes.
I think all teachers would agree that instructional coaching works. It works for students because it helps teachers to serve their students´ needs better by incorporating the perspective of another education professional. Instructional coaching via an earpiece is a great tool for teachers and coaches to explore as instructional coaches often split their time between schools and cannot always be at a school to conduct the in-person observation.