How do we evaluate our coaching work?

The school year is wrapping up for me. Like most of you, the end of the year is a time of reflection for me. I’m thinking about the professional development and coaching work and I did this year and what revisions I want to make for next year.

In doing this, I started thinking about how I could assess myself. If I were working with students, I would give a final exam or project that allows students to demonstrate what they have learned all year.

But the last thing I want to do is add more work onto teachers’ already packed schedules. Plus I’m not sure what a final exam or project looks like for teachers. At the same time, I need their feedback in order to improve my practice for next year.

So I started thinking about what data I already collected that I can look at. Here’s what I have:

  • My notes from visiting classrooms throughout the year
  • My notes from my meetings with teachers individually and in teams
  • Their observations from principals and other feedback principals gave me
  • Emails from teachers
  • Students work they’ve shared
  • Exit tickets from PD
  • Surveys
  • Mid-year reflections

This gives me some rich data about how their thinking and teaching has changed throughout the year. But I also wanted to send out an anonymous survey just to get some direct feedback on my work with them.

I’m working on a draft of the questions I’m going to send out next week. Probably through survey monkey unless any of you have a better platform you’ve used.

Here are the questions from my initial brainstorming.

General questions:

  • In what ways do you feel that you grew as a mathematics teacher this year?
  • How have your beliefs on student learning changed? On teaching mathematics?
  • What types of support did you receive from Nicora this year?
  • In what ways did the professional development and coaching offered this year by Nicora impact your teaching and/or your students?
  • What types of support would be helpful during the days Nicora is with us next year?
  • What topics would you like additional professional development on?
  • If someone else wanted Nicora to work with their school…what would you say in the way of recommendation? Why?

Questions specific to lesson study

  • What is one word you would use to describe lesson study?
  • What have you learned or what have you thought about differently as a result of our lesson study work? Try to be as specific as possible.
  • What have you tried out in your classroom because of our work in lesson study (outside of the lesson we planned together)?

I’d love your feedback and any other questions you use!

2 thoughts on “How do we evaluate our coaching work?

  1. Michael Pershan

    Very cool set of questions. I know I would love for my change as a teacher to be judged by the sorts of evidence that you’re thinking of analyzing. Since you’re in the business of fostering change in teachers, it sure sounds like you’re on the right track!

    About surveys: I’m somewhat queasy about using surveys for feedback on my teaching. Or, more to the point, I’ve realized how cautious I need to be in interpreting those survey results. I think their results are completely relevant, but only for some of what I’m interested in. I am very interested in knowing if my students enjoyed their time with me, and I’m also interested in whether they think they learned a lot. I can’t really push anybody unless there’s a foundation of contentment with our time together.

    Beyond that, I’m not willing to put much stock in student surveys. My students lack the mathematical knowledge to judge whether my teaching this year exposed them to core mathematical concepts, instead of frivolous ones. They also lack the perspective on the whole class to judge the decisions that I made while trying to balance the needs of lots of different kids. I’m also generally suspicious of our ability to judge an entire semester or school-year without being overly biased by whatever happened most recently in class.

    On the other hand, I think your survey could be really useful at some sort of meta level. How do your teachers perceive their growth? What do they see as their next steps? These sorts of survey questions could reveal your teachers thinking about their teaching, and I think that could be a rich source of data to use in reflecting on your coaching.

    1. Nicora Placa Post author

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. I’m glad you brought up your uneasiness about surveys. I have similar concerns. I’m not sure how much to trust them or what kind of value to place on the responses. I think you are right–they provide another data point and give some insight into teacher thinking but I wouldn’t feel comfortable judging whether or not my work was impactful from them. I’m still struggling with what kind of evidence is valuable to collect in order to document progress with teachers. My most recent thinking involves creating teacher portfolios that are updated throughout the year. I need to think more about how this works but it seems to me that without rich data, I’m not going to get better at my understanding of what it means to foster learning with teachers. I’m realizing I’m much better at examining student thinking and knowing what to look for in it to assess change than I am at understanding teacher thinking. Furthermore, I’m not even sure how to develop this type of understanding. I’m hoping that writing about it and having thoughtful conversations like this will help me make progress.