Professional identity & professional learning: Reflections on my TER podcast interview

identity is liquid (aka Little Lagoon, Shark Bay)

identity is liquid (aka Little Lagoon, Shark Bay)

Recently I was interviewed by Cameron Malcher for the TER podcast about my PhD. You can listen to the interview, which was released on Sunday (it kicks in at the 35 minute mark). My favourite part of the podcast was Cameron’s concluding thoughts that were sparked by the interview. Below is not a blow by blow account, but a reflection on what we discussed.

What is professional identity?

In my PhD I defined identity as “ongoing sense-making process of contextually-embedded perceived-selves-in-flux”. It is a process rather than a product, a constant state of becoming. It is fluid rather than fixed. It is constantly shifting, as suggested by Fred Dervin’s notion of identity as liquid. It is socially constructed and contextual; that is, identities are co-constructed with others, and we are different versions of ourselves in different situations, with different people.

Factors that make up our professional identities include our beliefs, values and assumptions. Our identities are created and rewritten through language, through the ways we tell the stories of ourselves, to ourselves.

On the blogosphere and the Twitterverse there have been arguments about the disconnect between who owns identity and labels, suggesting that some think that identity is superimposed on us by others’ perceptions, while some believe that we own and make our own identities. The socially constructed nature of identities suggests that both have merit. We write ourselves for ourselves, and our self-perceptions rely on how others perceive and interact with us (although this interactions can be rejection of others’ perceptions, as well as acceptance).

Why consider professional identity in education?

Teaching is deeply personal. Part of the reason I brought professional identity together with learning, leading, and school change is that I think they are inseparable. Looking at education reform through the lived experiences and identities of those in schools is key to understanding its impacts. Professional learning and the leading of schools need to take teachers’ and leaders’ senses of selves into account, and engage with them.

Focus of my research

I conducted research within my own school and examined the stories of 14 teachers and leaders, including myself. The background context was a school-based teacher growth initiative.

I used narrative research to explore how these educators’ professional identities interacted with their learning and with school change. I was interested in what it is that shapes and shifts educators’ professional identity perceptions and in what ways schools and systems might work with a greater understanding of educator identities when designing and implementing education reform.

My narrative approach involved interviewing participants in ways that encouraged storytelling, including using coaching protocols, and then storying those data. It required me to be reflexive as the researcher. The experience of my PhD was personally and professionally transformative for me. I loved it, and it was incredible professional learning. In particular, the luxury of listening to educators’ stories was a joy and a privilege. I presented at AARE last year on my creative, literary approach to storying data, and this Saturday I’m presenting on my ethical decision making at the researchED conference in Melbourne.

Research findings

My research found that:

  • We professionally learn throughout our lives. Our professional learning encompasses life moments that are professional and personal, formal and informal, in schools and out of schools, singular and collaborative. Professional are shaped by good and bad experiences, by role models and anti-models.
  • Learning which taps into who educators see and feel they are, has the most impact on their beliefs, thoughts, behaviours, and practices.
  • Coaching and being coached is identity shaping, shifting teachers’ and leaders’ beliefs about learning and teaching.
  • The Danielson Framework for Teaching can be a useful tool for teacher self-reflection when used by teachers for their own growth.
  • School reform and school cultures which trust the capacities of teachers to reflect and improve is empowering and capacity building.

Implications of my research

With the caveat that my PhD was highly contexualised (considering the nature of the school and individuals I studied) the findings have something to offer the education world.

Firstly, there is a need to broaden the definition of professional learning, to allow teachers and schools to think more broadly about what it is that transforms educators, and who drives the professional learning of teachers. In my own leadership practice I am wondering how professional learning might be more autonomous and individualised. About how professionals might choose and follow, with support and opportunity, their own growth trajectories. About how schools and systems might acknowledge and encourage heutagogical (self-determined) learning.

Secondly, schools and systems can work from their own contexts to design and slowly iterate models of professional learning, from the bottom up and the middle out. As many scholars point out, effective education reforms are contextual. They cannot be lifted from one school or nation and dropped on another. Change in schools should be at a slow evolution-not-revolution pace, and based in assessing available evidence and current context.

As a result of my reading and research, I advocate for distributed and empowering leadership in schools, and school systems that trust teachers. I am a card-carrying, flag-waving fan of the Flip the System movement, which champions the agency and voice of teachers within their own systems. Teachers and school leaders have the internal capacity for analysis, reflection and growth. The individual should be honoured, valued and supported, within the holistic collective of the organisation and the system.

On professional learning: My #AERA16 presentation slides

Yesterday I presented a paper in Washington DC at the American Educational Research Association national conference, in its 100th year. This particular paper outlines my PhD’s general findings around professional learning for teachers and school leaders. It was great that more than 50 people turned up to the session, in which four papers on professional learning, including mine, were presented. The papers were a complimentary combination that really spoke to each other; I learned a lot from my co-presenters. We had plenty of generous feedback and robust discussion which spilled out into the hallway for almost an hour after the session ended, and then beyond.

My full paper will be available in the online repository when the 2016 papers go live. In the meantime, here are copies of my presentation slides. The slides were designed for me to talk to, not read from, so much of the content is thin. That is, they’re light on text and light on references (see the paper for more depth), but you’ll get a sense of my main points. Of course I didn’t get through them all and ended up skipping over the participant quotes (19 slides in 12 minutes? What was I thinking? #overexcited #lessonlearned).

If you’re interested in more, my dissertation, which looks at professional learning in more depth, as well as its interactions with professional identity and school culture and change, can be downloaded here.

From my experience so far I can highly recommend the AERA national meeting. It’s a friendly conference with an impossibly wide range of interesting and important work being shared, and connections being made.




















Teacher efficacy, agency & leadership #aera16

iconic Abe

iconic Abe

This afternoon I spent 3 hours at two round table sessions at AERA in Washington DC, hearing about and talking about teacher leadership and agency. Then on the way home from drinks with Sarah Thomas, who I know through Twitter and Voxer, I stumbled across the #satchatOZ chat on Twitter which was talking about teacher leadership. So whilst I’m jetlagged and brain-exhausted from a day of conferencing, I want to get my raw thoughts down before they’re overrun with tomorrow’s thoughts (with some of my photos, because: DC).

Three terms that came up today in the two roundtable sessions I attended were: efficacy, agency and leadership. Self-efficacy is about how well someone thinks they can do something; a self-belief in their own capacity. Agency is the capacity to act as well as the acting itself; to be an agent is not just to have the internal capability to do, but to actually do the doing. I wonder, can someone be an active agent, capable of action and change, without the self-belief in their capacity to do so? Possibly. Can someone have a sense of self-efficacy, but without the agency to be effective? Probably.

Leadership, meanwhile, is a slippery word. People can be leaders by name or position, but this doesn’t guarantee that people are led by them. Leadership and agency are not just individual, but also collective. Can someone be a leader without a followership? A leader can be defined by their title, but more often they are defined by their influence on others, their organization or the system in which they operate. Teachers without official positions of responsibility can be, and are, leaders in their fields. They are active agents who effectively translate their beliefs and purpose into reality through deliberate and effective action.

In leadership and agency in schools, context is a key consideration. The holonomous* environment of a school is one in which the sum and the parts are inseparable. If schools want teachers to be reflective, growth-focused and agentic, they need to trust in their teachers and provide an environment in which risks and exposing one’s vulnerability are ok. In a culture of teacher-scoring and fear, teachers are less likely to be agents of positive growth and more likely to be compliant servants to a punitive system. Movements like #flipthesystem, which are explored in Jelmer Evers and René Kneyber’s book, advocate for further teacher voice and action in education reform. Localised reforms like my school’s teacher growth model are practice-based examples of in-school teacher leadership in action.

In the introduction to Linda Darling-Hammond’s presidential AERA address this afternoon, she was described as identifying as a teacher, but having become a researcher so that she could be a strong voice listened to by policy makers and powers that be. She saw research as a way enact and propel change.

DC daffodil cityscape

DC daffodil cityscape

While I didn’t frame my PhD research through the lens of teacher leadership and agency, it could be seen through that lens. I explored teachers and school leaders’ perceptions of identity, learning and school change, within a particular context. That context was the coaching intervention I was leading at my school, a formative growth-based model of teacher growth and development.

What emerged from my study, when looked at in terms of teacher leadership and agency, was that teachers are deeply tied to their senses of self within their senses of their context. That is, teacher self-efficacy and agency develop when teachers feel an individual purpose, an alignment with context and that they are empowered with voice and influence in their own organization. In this case, the school empowered teachers to be active agents with a voice in school reform. Additionally, the formative aspect of the coaching model for growth was fiercely protected; teachers are not scored and judged, but are able to collect lesson data and participate in coaching conversations in order to grow themselves. This kind of trust requires some relinquishing of power from those at the traditional hierarchical apex.

As someone who connects with others on Twitter and writes on this blog, I think that technology and social media give us tools to develop our teacher voice and engage in conversations about education. I know of teachers who would be considered leaders both in their schools, and in the wider land of education, due to their public thinking, writing and advocacy. I also know those who are known more for their leadership in the social media or conference arenas, than in their own day-to-day school contexts.

As others have noted, Twitter flattens hierarchies and empowers users. Bonnie Stewart’s research into academic Twitter found that there are different spheres of, and criteria for, influence on Twitter than in higher education institutions. The same is true in other educational contexts. Government ministers are drawn into public conversation with teachers on the ground. Social media and blogging can be leveraged by teachers to allow them voice and agency, to advocate or agitate. As Greg Ashman and Rory Gribbell note in their recent blog posts, bloggers can and have been agents of political and educational change, a pluralistic chorus of voices to which people are listening.

Teachers can and should be advocates for their students and their schools. They can and should pursue research and opportunities to understand, revise and reimagine what is known in education. Those leading schools and systems in official roles can encourage teachers’ growth and leadership by questioning traditionally hierarchical power structures and considering more distributed and inclusive ones. In this way, teachers can be encouraged to lead within their contexts, instead of feeling as though they are fighting against the system or preserving their survival within it.


* Check out Costa & Garmston’s 2006 Cognitive Coaching text or my PhD dissertation for discussion of holonomy.

mural at the Library of Congress

mural at the Library of Congress

The power of data for learning and growth

My school’s coaching model for teacher growth uses lesson data as the ‘third point’ in coaching conversations and as a non-judgemental tool for reflection, self-direction and empowered development of teachers’ classroom practices. I was reminded this week of the power of data, of video in particular, for learning, growth and reflection on practice. This reminder came while I was at the skate park with my children. Bear with me as I explain.

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my little guy on the quad bike: confident, focused, wind in his shirt

my little guy on the quad bike: fearless, focused, wind in his shirt

My youngest son is pushing towards 4 and his brother is a year and a half older. In the last week, the youngest has begun to ride his pedal bike, which doesn’t have stabilisers, or ‘training wheels’. Watching my boys each approach this learning challenge has reminded me of the differences in learners. My eldest basically taught himself to ride. I turned my back to attend to his brother, and when I looked back, there he was, doing it without any need for assistance or encouragement. He wasn’t deterred by falling over. He desperately wanted to master the skill and could taste the freedom that the wheels offered.

My youngest, in contrast, is easily discouraged. Despite being a speed demon when beach quad biking recently, falling over or falling behind can send him into desolation. Part of his frustration comes from comparing himself to his older brother who is taller, faster, stronger and more experienced (although the younger of the two was the least cautious and most confident on the quad bikes). He also doesn’t like being told to do something, so any new skill is very much on his terms. It wasn’t until our New Year camping trip when he saw friends riding their bikes at the campground that he picked one up, deciding he wanted to figure it out.

The day after we returned from being away, we went to a local skate park. My youngest wanted to take his balance bike, with which he is comfortable, but we brought just the pedal bike along. If he wanted to ride, he’d have to ride the pedal bike. (You know, embrace your discomfort zone and all that.)

He was fantastic as he rode around the skate park, over the smaller rises and along some bike paths. After a couple of hours, he began to tire and his technique began failing. I offered to carry his bike back to the car but he refused. He was torn between wanting to conquer the bike and feeling like a failure. He collapsed and stomped and cried and wailed that he couldn’t ride his bike; that he was terrible at it. Not good enough. Not fast enough.

We got back to the car, one false start at a time, and I told him that he had done a great job and I was proud of him, to no effect. When he continued to be inconsolable about his riding I tried a different approach. I said, “I took some video of you riding your bike. Would you like to see?” All of a sudden, he perked up. Yes, he did want to see.

He watched the videos of he and his brother riding that I had taken on my smart phone.

“So, what do you think about your riding?” I asked.

“Good!” he beamed.

It was only in seeing informational evidence of his performance that he was able to reflect that he could ride his bike and was actually quite good at it. Of course, there was some selection of detail on my part – I didn’t video him crying and falling over – but the raw data allowed him to reflect on his performance.

My eldest son also watched the skate park videos. He was interested in watching the much older riders, scooters and skaters, who weren’t the purpose of filming the video, but emerged in the data. He was looking for their confidence and their technique. How did they get up the steepest ramps? How did they execute their tricks? So video was useful for analysing the mastery of others who do something well.

my boys at the skate park

my boys at the skate park

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This skate-park moment took me to my experiences as a cognitive coach, coaching teachers on their practice. Our school coaching model is based around non-judgemental paraphrasing and questioning, and around non-inferential lesson data. There is no critique or praise from the coach, and the data comprises of facts and information, not judgements, suggestions or critique. It is not the coach who reflects critically on the teacher’s teaching, but the teacher, with the coach guiding their cognition.

In my role as coach, it is always interesting to hear teachers’ reflections on their data, which might be scripts of classroom talk, maps of classroom movement, audio or video recordings. Often their feeling of how it went, post-lesson, is initially nebulous or contrasts to what they see in the data. Sometimes they are very critical of small details on their lessons, or unexpected information leads to fresh insights. Often, a teacher will find a video affirming, allowing them to see the positives in their practice, perhaps those things which have been automated over time or which they don’t even realise they do. I’ve yet to see a teacher who doesn’t find video a useful tool for their own professional reflection and learning.

Taking video footage of lessons, or excerpts of lessons, is a great way to allow teachers the opportunity to reflect on their craft. It is a seam rich with potential for improvement of instruction and professional discussions around practice. This data should be owned by the teacher and not used for performance reviews or appraisals. The thing about lesson data is that it can be a reward in itself; an opportunity to learn and see one’s practice and one’s teacher self in new ways, without the need for external praise, affirmation or critique.

5 things I learned in 2015

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~ Socrates

Epiphanies and moments of clarity can be simple and, on reflection, obvious. The following list of ‘5 things I learned in 2015’ may seem like statements of the bleeding obvious. They are nothing new, and yet this year I’ve seen new refractions from, and noticed more minute details of, these simple truths. They have been affirmed for me this year through my experiences of being and becoming. Of teaching, leading, parenting, coaching, being coached, researching and writing.

local café wisdom

local café wisdom

1. Doing many things at once can work, but it’s also important to take breaks.

In the last few years I’ve been working 0.8 of a teaching and leadership job at a school, parenting two pre-schoolers and working on my PhD (now submitted – woot!). While I always had a sense that this was working for me in its strange busy way, it wasn’t until my first writing retreat this year that I understood how much. On my retreat, I found it difficult to stay on my one task – editing the PhD thesis draft – for a full weekend. I realised that my routine of intense short bursts of PhD, in among the other many things in my life, worked for me. These short, regular, time-constrained bursts of energetic PhD work were intensive and focused. They felt like an indulgence, some intellectual ‘me-time’ in which I could luxuriate, a brain-bending haven from my other responsibilities. It helped me to love my PhD, while also appreciating the specialness of my teaching, leading and parenting roles.

Yet, as I discovered, relentless busyness is not sustainable. Breaks are required. Real, curl-your-toes-in-the-sand, unplug, breathe deeply and love abundantly kind of breaks. Nourishment for wellbeing. Care for self and others. Time to breathe.

2. Welcome resistance & engage in respectful disagreement.

On my blog, which is now 16 months old, as in Twitter and in my professional life, I have been becoming more comfortable with, and encouraging of, disagreement, although I prefer dissent to be served in a respectful, articulate and reasoned manner. And I prefer disruption which emerges from deep purpose, rather than trendy buzzwordification. Last year I completed the Adaptive Schools Foundation course, which champions graceful disagreement as a key element of high-performing groups. I’ve written a few blog posts which err on the side of controversial. I’ve engaged in Twitter debate. I’ve experienced my first peer review comments from academic journals, and attempted to take critique as an opportunity to strengthen my work. And in my role leading and implementing a school coaching initiative for teachers, I have welcomed the contributions of those who are resistant to the change.

I’ve found those individuals who might be dismissed as ‘resistors’ or negative voices, to be important ones worthy of close listening. I find myself asking those who disagree to take the time to explain their view to me. I listen intently, wondering, ‘What can I learn here? How might this help me to make what we’re doing better, stronger, and meaningful for a wider range of people?’

I am reminded of this line of Richard Bach’s from his novella Illusions:

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.

It is often in engaging with those who disagree with us, that we are taken to new places in our own thinking, helped to consider alternate perspectives, or are able to find solutions which we may otherwise not have reached.

3. Trust individuals. Believe in their capacity. Choose empowerment.

Punitive accountability measures which promote fear and compliance can only undermine teachers’ and school leaders’ professions, identities and practices. Through my experiences of coaching, my PhD research into school leadership and organisational change, and my observations of systems of teacher evaluation around the world, I have become increasingly convinced of the need to focus on empowerment and growth, through support and trust. It’s the belief upon which my school’s coaching model is based.

4. Connections with others are powerful.

We know that connecting with others is powerful. One of my ‘three words’ for 2015 was ‘sharing’ and another was ‘presence’, both words which speak of connecting with others and being present in relationships.

This year, not only have my personal and face-to-face professional relationships been impactful, but so have connections I have made online. For the first time this year, I began to meet ‘in real life’ individuals I’ve connected with on Twitter and through my blog. Catching up over drinks, breakfast or the conference room had been a seamless transition from tweet, blog post or Voxer message, to in-person banter, support and inspiration. I’ve engaged in wonderful blogging conversations. I’ve become bewitched with the potential of our interconnectedness and the ways in which technology might help us grow support networks and knowledge webs.

5. Teeny regular steps add up to a long journey.

My PhD was the thing that brought home this truth to me. Over three years I plugged away with little step after little step, finding stolen moments of doctoral time in the cracks in my days and nights. Regular, persistent effort. Sometimes forward; sometimes back; but maintaining forward momentum. And then I looked back along the path I’d walked and found that it added up to a thesis. So my big lesson was, just put one foot in front of the other. Keep going!

sunset, Gnarabup

sunset, Gnarabup

Coaching: My state of play ~ #educoachOC

Let’s open the door for teachers to power us forward in defining the most promising paths for public school improvement. ~ Kim Farris-Berg & Edward Dirkswager, Flip the System

MET rooftop, by @debsnet

Tonight’s inaugural #educoachOC Twitter chat, of which I am a co-moderator, is titled ‘State of Play’. That is, my co-moderators and I are intending to gauge where our professional learning network are at in their coaching journeys and contexts, and to facilitate the sharing of stories.

In the lead up to the chat, I thought I would consider my own ‘state of play’; where I’m currently at with coaching.

My current role in my school involves, in part, bringing current research literature into the school context, and making it accessible to staff, leaders and the school board. My main brief has been to research, design and enact a bespoke, context-specific teacher growth model which brings that research to life. That is, I’ve been working with teachers, leaders and consultants to tailor evidence-based school-aligned professional growth practice, for and within my school’s context. This work has come both from the top down (initiated by the principal, and emerging out of the school’s vision and strategic intents) and the bottom up (driven, designed and piloted by teams of teachers).

In 2012, when I wrote a research paper for my school on how to improve teacher quality, I began looking seriously at coaching literature. In addition, in October 2012 I began my PhD study (I’m hoping to submit my thesis next month!) which asks what it is that shapes teachers and school leaders. What transforms professional identities and practices? What incites growth and change in educators? Part of the answer to these questions lies in coaching. I’m about to submit an article to an academic journal which outlines my research findings around coaching as a tool for professional growth.

As part of the training for the enactment of our teacher growth model, in 2013 I did the Cognitive Coaching Foundation course for the first time, as this was the model of coaching my school decided upon. I did the course again in 2014, and again this year. While I have repeated the course mainly for team-building reasons, I have found that re-visiting the material and the conversations has allowed me to add nuances and layers of complexity to my coaching practice. It has allowed me to internalise some of the skills and tools, and to refine others.

Our Teacher-Coaches (a small team of teachers trained and practised in Cognitive Coaching, lesson observation techniques and the Danielson Framework for Teaching – my elite squad!) and I began with piloting and iterative design-and-refine stages in 2013 and 2014. Across 2013-2014 there were 19 Teacher-Coach team members and an additional 11 teachers who volunteered to be coached; 30 teachers – from across year levels, subject areas and career stages – experienced the pilot model.

This year we have moved to a fully implemented model in which all teachers at our school are involved in a coaching cycle every year. The cycle is three-yearly, so in Years 1 and 2, teachers are coached by a Teacher-Coach, and in the third year, teachers are coached by their line manager. This third year is based in coaching, but managers also draw from consultative and evaluative toolboxes as appropriate.

My coaching dream is twofold. I have a ‘future perfect’ for myself as a coach, and also for my school. For me, I hope to continue to grow my own practice, to become a masterful coach who is able to paraphrase and craft questions in ways which clarify and extend a coachee’s thinking, while paying attention to where a coachee is operating and where they might be able to cognitively move. I’d like to be able to help even the most reflective practitioners to experience what Cognitive Coaching calls ‘cognitive shift’, in which the coachee has an ‘a-ha!’ moment of realisation which allows them to move beyond their current state.

For my school, I hope to see the continued development of a coaching model of teacher growth which is based in a positive belief in the capacities of teachers to choose their own trajectories of learning, to analyse and grow their own practice, to reflect deeply.

This year I have seen teachers take their own lesson observation data and share it with colleagues and line managers in order to start important conversations and share practice. I hope to continue to see the power of data to transform, not only individual practice, but collective capacity and professional community as an organic learning mass.

So, that’s a little about my own ‘state of play’. I look forward to hearing more tonight about where others are in their coaching journeys. The chat’s questions can be found here. Happy coaching!

Observation to transformation: The power of classroom data for teacher growth

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. ~ John Lubbock

In my posts about my school’s teacher growth model, a growth-focused coaching initiative which sits alongside other professional development and evaluation work at the school, I have tended to focus of our use of Cognitive Coaching and the Danielson Framework for Teaching. As our model is being implemented this year, however, another aspect of the process is emerging as transformative in its own right: classroom data.

To explain how we use data in our collaborative coaching cycle, a one-year cycle looks like this:

a visual look at our coaching-observation cycle

a visual look at our coaching-observation cycle

  1. Self-reflect: Complete self-reflection against Danielson Framework for Teaching.
  2. Touch base: Pre conference with Teacher-Coach, identifying possible foci, deciding on type of lesson data to be collected.
  3. Collect data: 2 x 20 minute observations.
  4. Reflect & Plan: Post conference with Teacher-Coach following the Cognitive Coaching reflecting-into-planning conversation map and using Danielson Framework for Teaching.
  5. Repeat 2, 3 and 4.
  6. Self-reflect: Complete self-reflection against Danielson Framework for Teaching.

In this post, I would like to focus on Step 3, data generation.

You’ll notice that we use multiple short observations and the Danielson Framework for Teaching, as supported by the findings of the Measures of Effective Teaching study. A number of short observations mean that teachers build up a series of snapshots of the kinds of lessons in their classrooms, liberating them from feeling like ‘this 20 minutes is representative of all of my teaching all of the time.’ It is a moment in time on which to reflect.

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What classroom data is generated?

Generating lesson data is a crucial part of our coaching teacher growth model. While all teachers are expected to have classroom data collected for the purposes of their reflection on practice, this is differentiated in the sense that the teacher decides what sort of data will be collected, depending on what they would like to know about their lessons. Below are the main types of lesson data we have been using.

Non-inferential observation notes

These notes usually look like verbatim scripting. That is, the observer takes down what they see and hear in a lesson. No judgements. No praise. No criticism. Just observed sights and described sounds. They include times and may also include mapping of students or classroom movement. Our coaches are trained in this kind of observation note taking. It can be challenging to take self and own biases out of lesson data, leaving just what happened for the teacher to do their own reflections and evaluations.

Observation notes are useful for looking at instructional clarity, questioning, student discussion and student group or individual work. In the case of the latter, the observer may go to students or groups and observe them or interact with them, recording interaction and responses. This means that observers can record those parts of the classroom where teachers are not. It also means that an in-class observer can glean details of student work and conversation which a video would not pick up.

A caution about this kind of note taking is that the observer bias does appear in what the observer chooses to take down. For instance, in a fast paced classroom discussion, often an observer needs to make a choice between capturing the teacher’s or the students’ responses.

The benefit of notes is that the run of the lesson is written down in black and white, without the distractions of watching multiple elements in a video.


We have a few video options available to teachers for the purposes of lesson data collection. Still video. 360 degree video. SWIVL video. These each have their pros and cons, and require choices to be made, such as whose audio is picked up, or whose movement is tracked.

The 360 degree video is a more obvious piece of equipment in the classroom, but it simultaneously shows teacher and students. The SWIVL makes it easy for teachers to collect data on their iPhone or iPad, but as the camera follows the audio lanyard it privileges the person wearing it, usually the teacher.

Video is great for teachers wanting to see their own teaching, including movement and wait times. Our Physical Education, Music and Languages teachers love it, but so do those in other learning areas and various year levels.


Some teachers want laser like focus on what is said in their classrooms. They are keen to listen closely to their questioning or instructional clarity, and to their students’ responses, for instance. Like verbatim scripting, by isolating audio, teachers can pick up on very specific aspects of their teaching, although others will be missed.

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Supplementary data include planning documents, goals and reflections, student work samples, student feedback and student achievement data. All data have their inherent biases, benefits and disadvantages. We are finding that mixing up the data so that teachers experience their classrooms in a variety of ways may be more effective than continually repeating the same data collection strategy for the same teacher.

Importantly, all data are owned exclusively by the teacher for their reflection and use. They are not for coaches or managers to use or publicise outside of the coach-coachee relationship. Focus groups with coached teachers at the school have revealed that teachers appreciate the choice and ownership over their classroom data. The trust in the coach-coachee relationship is @debsnet

So while I have been focusing my own practice on refining my coaching skills, something else has been happening alongside. The data has been a tool for teacher learning and development, both in its own right and as part of the coaching cycle.

I’ve noticed that when, as coach, I get the data right, the conversation seems to almost take care of itself. The data, in these cases, has set off the teacher’s thinking, reflection, planning and action, before I turn up for the post conference.

In other conversations, looking at the data in detail, with well-crafted questions, can bring teachers to the point of an ‘a-ha’ moment or a change in practice. At times it is looking closely at the Danielson Framework for Teaching rubrics which allows teachers to see alternative teaching and learning possibilities, and refines their precision of language around practice. Other conversations require deeper coaching questions which drill into why lessons went the way they did, how teachers made decisions in their classrooms, what criteria they used to make those decisions, or what might have be going on for particular students in the lesson.

The data also provide an important ‘third party’ in the coaching conversation, allowing the conversation to be depersonalised and focused on the data, not the person.

Data is powerful stuff. And lesson data ‘done right’ – owned by the teacher, objective and giving the teacher a new perspective on their classroom, themselves and their students – can be transformative.

Good One, by @debsnet