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When Virtual Coaching Go Hand in Hand with Professional Development

Author: James Rujimora; info@ciddl.org

Digital Literacy (DL) is a teacher’s ability to integrate and use technology critically, wisely, and meaningfully within a classroom. The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) 2016 from the Department of Education challenged educators (e.g., teachers, school administrators) to integrate technology more thoroughly in their classrooms through DL. COVID-19 has accelerated the need and process of integrating technology into educational settings. However, since the onset of the pandemic, a primary issue related to teacher DL is the lack of adequate preparation for pre-service teachers and professional development (PD) for in-service teachers. This blog describes how a virtual coaching-based PD model could be used to support pre-service teachers in their transition to becoming in-service teachers as well as strategies that teacher educators and PD providers can use to foster DL development.

Virtual Coaching Based Professional Development

A recent study in Teacher and Teacher Education provides a novel PD program for teachers to support technology integration in the digital age. For effective PD to occur, there are four critical components: 1) intensive, thorough, and integrated practice, 2) content grounded in student learning and curriculum, 3) alignment with school priorities and goals, and 4) strong collaborative partnerships with teachers. The study’s authors added personalized coaching and virtual delivery to their PD model. 

The coaching-based approach provides a professional collaboration that shifts learning from an isolated event toward a partnership that centers reflection and connection toward a stated goal. Unique to this coaching model is the consideration of teachers’ background and experience, which gives teachers both choice in PD and fosters empowerment. The coaching then becomes tailored to a teacher's background and experience which fosters a lifelong learning process. 

The ongoing pandemic has triggered a growing need for digitally competent teachers who can stay current with changing technology. Meanwhile, teachers are calling for individualized support in the ever-changing digital environment. Virtual coaching provides a way to individualize support by enhancing teacher autonomy over how to apply, implement, respond, and choose content relevant to their classrooms. 

What Are The Takeaways?

Takeaways from this study to better structure future PD opportunities include:

  • Adding a virtual component for frequent access and communication (e.g., email)
  • Adding a coaching-based component that enhances reflection and collaboration
  • Include an option for self-paced individualized learning resources to counter busy schedules and give teachers flexibility and freedom to work
  • Setting goals related to learning experiences with weekly check-ins from coaches
  • Focus on specific digital literacy tools and skills, such as Google Classroom and HyperDocs

Conclusion

As teacher educators and teachers at all levels learn to adjust to the digital age during the ongoing pandemic, there will be more opportunities to integrate technology. One such way is to better design and provide PD programs that support coaching of technology integration skills. As teacher educators, have you designed or implemented any virtual coaching-based PD programs for in-service teachers? What strategies and tools do you think would also benefit pre-service teachers’ development of technology integration skills? Join the CIDDL community and keep the conversation going!