Lessons Learned: Team Coaching Cycles During Hybrid and Distance Learning

Written by: Tom Ferrebee and Nicole Zito
Nido de Aguilas is an International Partner School and has been implementing Student-Centered Coaching for the past five years. If you’d like to learn more about our International Partner Schools, visit: https://www.dianesweeney.com/student-centered-coaching-international-school-partners/

Like most international schools, our coaching team at Nido de Aguilas in Santiago, Chile has been coaching from a distance for the past year. While this has been challenging, it has also opened up new possibilities for how we collaborate with teachers. This includes how we’ve approached leading team coaching cycles.

Our team includes five learning coaches that span grades PreK-12. We work cross divisionally to support curriculum, facilitate professional development, oversee our global teaching fellows, and facilitate coaching cycles. We meet on a weekly basis and offer a similar coaching menu across the grade levels, this includes Student-Centered Coaching Cycles and office hours where we support teachers informally. With a primary goal of our coaching program being responsiveness to teachers, especially during the past year of distance and hybrid learning, we feel strongly about giving teachers choice in how they engage in these offerings. 

Structure for Team Coaching Cycles
Figure 1 illustrates how we have organized our team coaching cycles. In this example, you’ll see that we worked as a pair coaches with two teachers throughout a cycle. We recognize that having two coaches partner throughout a coaching cycle is a luxury, but we felt it was an essential part of the process.

Figure 1: Team Cycles at Nido de Aguilas

We found that this approach supported team building, particularly in the secondary setting where teachers sometimes operate in isolation despite sharing courses. At the beginning of the cycle, we met as a group to establish a student-centered goal for our work. Then we co-constructed a set of learning targets that aligned with our goal.

We stayed organized by sharing a Google Doc to plan and modify the learning targets in relation to the goal. During our sessions with teachers, one of the coaches led the meeting while the other took notes and kept track of time. We used the same process in each of the teachers’ classrooms to collect our baseline assessment data. During these sessions, we paired up with a teacher and then reconvened as a group for our weekly co-planning sessions.

As coaches, we debriefed later about what went well and what we wanted to tighten in terms of our coaching moves. Figure 2 shows what our weekly schedule looked like across the team coaching cycle.

Figure 2: Weekly Schedule

Benefits for Teaching, Learning, and Coaching
Approaching team coaching cycles in this way opened up possibilities for resource sharing and the calibration of mastery of student learning across course sections. There were numerous moments when one of the coach and teacher pairs shared a tool for differentiating instruction in an upcoming lesson and the other made use of it. Co-planning sessions were also more beneficial with an additional coach present. This led to greater inter-rater reliability about students’ demonstration of meeting the goal. Everything felt tighter than it might otherwise have been with a single coach.

Team coaching cycles also develop consistency in terms of a shared vision and structure for the coaching program as a whole. In this modified model of team cycles, coaches are thought partners for each other, building and refining coaching moves. For teachers that have not ever participated in a coaching cycle, having another teacher involved in the process helps teachers feel a sense of safety in having a teammate onboard to live out the experience together. These processes help to build team efficiency over time.

Tips for Implementation
If you would like to try this at your school, we would recommend the following:

During the Goal Setting Conversation

  • Delineate the role of each coach
  • Have one coach work with one teacher for the entire time

During Lesson Planning and Co-Teaching

  • Provide time to examine evidence across sections of the course
  • Honor teachers’ time. We found it productive to sort evidence and plan the next lesson’s learning target together initially, split into pairs to plan, and return to dialogue around our plans and where we felt learning might get tricky.
  • Consider how to make voices in planning sessions equitable. We found Zoom breakout rooms useful in encouraging teachers to develop lessons independently for their students before reconvening to discuss the upcoming lesson.
  • Share what works. Often, teachers would use the other teacher’s lesson that had worked or part of it rather than recreating a new lesson.

During the End-of-Cycle Reflection  

  • Share and plan next steps for learning in the last meeting
  • Offer space for appreciations

In Closing
Throughout the changing landscape of distance and hybrid learning, coaching cycles remain ever relevant. This modification to the traditional team cycle offers benefits to learners and possibilities for growing robust coaching programs where coaches coach alongside one another.  At the end of this cycle, a teacher who was new to the model said:

The Student-Centered Coaching model was different from previous cycles because instead of being focused on my goals as a teacher, we focused on my learners. Our conversations revolved around student data, and the students had a voice during the process. We heard from them throughout the cycle, and we really took into consideration where they are in their writing. The cycle was worth my time. It generated conversations in my course alike team, and it allowed me to think of new ways to teach content and skills to students. During distance learning, it gave me a thought partner, and it gave me the opportunity to have someone in my classroom and to get feedback from them. Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I saw a lot of growth from students.

Testimonials like this are what keep us going as coaches. We hope this blog has been supportive of your work as well.

Tom Ferrebee and Nicole Zito work at Nido de Aguilas, a PreK-12 Independent School located in Santiago, Chile. The school serves over 1700 students from over 50 countries and is accredited by NEASC and the Chilean Ministry of Education. Instruction is primarily in English aside from Spanish courses. Like Tom, Nicole has been an instructional coach at Nido for the last two years. Prior to that she worked as an online coach for World Leadership School and as a middle and high school English teacher. Tom served as a literacy coach and high school English teacher at Colegio Nueva Granada before arriving in Chile.