The goal of a brand-new website developed by Brock University researchers is to develop "change agents" who may assist other educators in improving their instruction in particular subjects.
The website, which offers materials for teachers and educational coaches across eight professional development themes, is the result of multi-year research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which looked at the role of educational coaches and determining ways to enhance their work as peer mentors and facilitators of professional learning.
"There is a lot of literature that shows the greatest way to provide teachers professional development is not to ask them for a day to sit in a big conference room and talk at them," said Tiffany Gallagher, a professor in Brock's Faculty of Education, who oversaw the project with Arlene Grierson, a former adjunct professor in the Faculty. Going deep with select teachers who later function as change agents in their schools is the best approach to have an impact, according to them.
Coaches are specialists in a given field, such as technology, who support their fellow educators in improving their instruction. They frequently collaborate with teachers from different schools to provide one-on-one support over the course of weeks or months, depending on the particular needs of each instructor. According to Gallagher, coaches are successful because of their individualized methods.
She compared it to differentiated education, which individualizes instruction based on a child's requirements. "You differentiate based on each student's reading ability, hobbies, and preferred subjects of study. The teacher acts in this manner. For teachers, the same procedure is followed. Since you are varying their professional development, no two teachers will have the same requirements.
According to Gallagher, coaches provide a special remedy for a variety of issues that instructors encountered. There isn't always enough time for teachers to engage in professional learning, even though they must stay up to date on advancements in their field. For instance, school boards might not have enough part-time instructors to let instructors attend workshops or conferences for professional development.
The demands of teachers can alter from year to year depending on the pupils in their class, changes in the educational landscape, or modifications to the curriculum. In a given year, a teacher might have multiple English language learners in their classes, or themes like technology use in the classroom might gain importance over time. Teachers can find the best solutions for their circumstances by working with coaches to manage these changes.
According to Gallagher, the model is less popular in Canada than it is in the United States, most likely because it is more expensive than other professional development models. She hopes that by conducting this study, administrators and educators would have a better understanding of how coaches can enhance professional learning.
Gallagher and Grierson first got interested in the model when seeking more efficient ways to engage educators in their research. In 2016, SSHRC provided funding for the project. The study was prolonged by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was finished in 2022.
The newly launched website provides resources curated by the research team relating to eight categories of coaching looked at throughout the study, including digital technologies, resilient readers, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and design thinking, disciplinary literacy, English language learners, reading evaluations, and cross-curricular instructional approaches.
The research team focused on gathering useful Ontario and Canadian materials that teachers might use to advance their professional development and instructional strategies. Teachers can use the resources on their own or with a coaching professional.
For more details, visit the Supporting Coaches as they Facilitate Teachers' Professional Learning website.
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