Needing a Framework to Facilitate Learning

I’ve been spending this morning planning my literacy coaching work for the year ahead, and I’m realizing that the way I approach technology integration as a coach has everything to do with how likely teacher efforts might truly improve student learning. Those in my learning network often question the effectiveness of leading these efforts by focusing on tech tools first, and I couldn’t agree more. Facilitating processes that enable teachers to identify the learning needs of students well, design interventions that attend to those needs, and measure the impact of their efforts is part of the much larger work to be done.

It’s impossible to make choices around tech tools until we understand where we need to support kids better as learners and create plans for accomplishing that. These plans have to be systemic in nature in order to effect change. This requires expertise in so much more than technology. For instance, it requires some understanding of systems-thinking. It requires that we know how to capture and make meaning from various kinds of data well, how to design strategic plans that will lead to growth in learning, how to measure progress, and how to align tech tools to this much larger vision in a way that will ensure they are being used purposefully. It requires that we are striving to define what literacy is even as the elements of it are changing shape and that we understand how curriculum design, instructional practice, and assessment work in concert with one another in order to produce it. Creating learning opportunities for educators that result in real change demands so much more from coaches than showing up with strategies, resources, and well-crafted demo lessons. The work of the literacy coach lives inside of larger organizations, and the work of that system determines the success of the coaching initiative, the teachers we aim to support as coaches, and the students who will benefit from their work in a thousand different ways.

I spent the better portion of last week considering the Communities for Learning Framework and how I might leverage it to enhance my facilitation of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio and my work as a literacy coach. Theresa and I chatted briefly about creating a separate protocol that might assist those who are eager to begin integrating the use of wikis, blogs, or other tools within their schools and classrooms, but what I’m realizing now is that the CFL Framework itself facilitates our thinking and action-planning around this process well. Integration requires us to consider and plan for alignment, representation, sustainability, and growth around the Dispositions of Practice. Continually growing the expertise necessary to use that framework in powerful ways is a substantial piece of what it means to call myself a coach and a teacher. I’m realizing it has everything to do with how I approach conversations around the implementation of technology as well.

8 Comments

  1. Yes! Would any other profession say I have this nifty tool, how can I use it?
    Rather than, I have to create this, or solve this problem, or develop this. What tools would best help me out?

    • Angela says:

      So the bigger work is helping teachers define what truly needs to be created, what problems truly need to be solved, or how to develop interventions that are aligned to needs defined by evidence rather than diving in and using stuff that is merely enthralls us or our kids. These are great points, Tracy. All of this requires a deep level of varied expertise.

  2. This is why the “drive-by” model of tech integration doesn’t work. “Show and Tell” is great, as long as you don’t mind the requisite “Gone and Forgotten” stance once the workshop is over!

    The better model is coaching–and we’ve talked about it before. Taking the content and skills that must still be taught and developing them in a new realm with new and appropriate tools to not only engage and motivate–but also to FACILITATE the learning–sustained–over time–creating second order changes.

    Everybody is temporarily blinded by the newest and flashiest thing–but how well are they REALLY used to have an affect on student achievement. How much is reflection (or data collection around the resource’s usage) a part of complete lesson track?

    If paradigms are really going to shift–then the shift has to be toward thinking and learning, not just how much technology we can sprinkle on a lesson.

    Nice post! (And glad you’re back!)

    -Mike

  3. Angela says:

    Hmmm…I appreciate all of that, Mike. However, I do think that there is value in a workshop-based approach as well, particularly when it happens in a timely way and is part of a larger vision that involves building capacity around practices that are new (like using evidence to define the needs that coaching work might be aligned to). Are there are times when coaching is altogether inappropriate or at the very least inefficient? I think I’d say yes, just as there are times when workshops or keynote speeches are ineffective.This gets at the bigger issue– the need for a strategic plan. It’s hard to know how to serve anyone best through any initiative unless a clear vision is in place, all of the right people are represented, a strategic plan for sustaining the work over time is articulated, and thorough program evaluation is being done. I’m finding that the Framework provides a great deal of clarity as I plan, reflect, and assess how to improve on work over time.

  4. Deborah says:

    Hi Angela.
    I love your post. Even though you did not explicitly mention RTI, your post reminds of what Response to Intervention should be at its best. In leading a process of implementation of RTI in my district, I have seen that using a systems approach to this mandate is often missing in districts. Unfortunately, the understanding of RTI as a model for, what at its base is really good instructional practice, is often misesed. I see instead, districts gathering around what tech tool they are going to use to store and display data or focusing on pieces of instruction or a level of service–without a process which looks at the whole of a system and its effects on students and staff first.

    As we talked about at the Institute, I am really pleased with what is happening at my district in regards to looking at RTI with a systems-thinking approach. We are developing a vision for how to improve our existing instruction and how to best support our struggling students (as well as give solid instruction to our higher level students–often missed but as important when one looks at how best to support all students). As our vision becomes more clear we are looking at how to align that vision with what is presently occuring in our district. At that level we will look at tech tools as a means to enhance and align our vision with our practice–as a means to the end–rather than an end in and of itself.

    As you get into the nitty-gritty of this in your consulting work, please feel free to brainstorm with me.
    Thanks for a well-written and thoughtful piece.
    Deb

  5. Angela says:

    Deb! I so wish we had more time to talk about this last week. I learned a lot from chatting with you over breakfast and can see myself sending some folks who are just beginning this whole process your way. You have tremendous perspective here. Thank you for continuing to share with me.

  6. What would be great is a HUB. Something in the Framework that directs everything either toward it or shows how it is interconnected. Like a wagon wheel. Even if there is “drive by” instruction, if it was connected to a larger purpose, then it matters in the context of more global objectives. Is that what you’re thinking? You make me think more than what I would have by myself.

    • Angela says:

      It’s what I’m thinking in the sense that leveraging the Framework helps us plan far more strategically and reflect in ways that lead to significant system-wide change, but I don’t know that a hub would accomplish this. It’s just a visual. Using the Framework to inform strategic planning….HAVING a strategic plan…that’s what I’m thinking about.

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