One of the reasons I am such a strong advocate for virtual coaching is because teachers have a great deal of control across the coaching process: They choose to enter the coaching partnership, they choose the day, time and location they prefer to meet, they choose the goals they want to collaborate on and they choose the videos of their instruction they want to share. When done right, virtual coaching puts teachers squarely in control of their own learning.

Video tools are a powerful way to provide feedback on classroom practices and I have been using video in my in-person literacy coaching for years. As part of my coaching, teachers record clips of their teaching they would like feedback on. By recording and sharing, teachers are in full control over what I see and provide feedback on, lessening the angst that some teachers feel when inviting coaches into their classrooms. In virtual coaching, this is the only way you will interact with teachers. There aren’t opportunities to drop in live, to learn together in grade level meetings or to collaborate in professional learning. The coaching cycle is your sole form of coaching and therefore, must provide teachers with positive, effective and specific feedback related to their chosen goals. Therefore, feedback provided on these videos is incredibly important to the coaching process. Here are a few guidelines when giving this kind of feedback to teachers:

  • Comment frequently. It can feel risky to share a part of your teaching self with a person you will never meet in person. Earn trust by commenting frequently to clearly show you appreciate their efforts and are invested in their learning.
  • Use the time-stamp feature. The beauty of virtual feedback is that we can literally freeze time. If possible, insert your feedback in time-stamped comments to directly connect your comments to instruction.  
  • Tag your comments. Tagging not only provides feedback for teachers, but helps you learn about yourself as a coach. By tagging your comments with labels such as celebration, wonderings, student engagement, materials, etc. teachers can easily identify the purpose of your comment. As a coach, you can easily see patterns in your feedback and can set goals for your own coaching.  
  • Remain positive at all times. Coaching is just as much about teachers’ spirits as it is their expertise. Comment freely on each positive element you see, from instructional techniques and language choices to student engagement and wall decor. Teachers need to notice what they are doing well, something other overlooked in their busy days.
  • Keep the goal in mind. Since virtual coaching is limited to observation and feedback cycles, coaches can easily feel overwhelmed knowing their feedback on video instruction is the only form of feedback they can provide, often wanting to comment on as much as possible to give teachers the most out of the coaching cycle. But it is important to keep the teachers’ coaching goals in mind and focus constructive comments on those goals only. This will help focus your feedback and ensure the teacher is getting what he/she hoped for out of the coaching cycle.
  • Make it interactive. Coaching cycles are build on conversations and the only way to have conversation through video comments is to invite interaction. While comments are important, be sure to ask questions, wonder and hypothesize and generate a conversation. Coaching is not a one-way street where coaches only coach teachers. Coaches also learn from each coaching partnership as co-learners for the sake of students.
So, how do I remind myself of these important guidelines when giving feedback? I used to list them on a piece of paper and tack it to the bulletin board next to my laptop, but I would often forget to refer to them. Now, I create simple table tents (inspired by Jennifer Serravallo’s table tents for student conferences) and prop them up wherever I am when I review the shared instructional videos. These are instant, tangible reminders to remind me what I want to accomplish when giving feedback. Like what you see? Go ahead and download it for your own coaching space!  

This was the second post in a blog series on virtual literacy coaching as part of an exciting partnership with Sibme. Head here to read all posts in the series and join the conversation!

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