Learning Coach – A Philosophy, Not an Individual

My province, as part of the move toward a more inclusive education system, has posted the following definition on the Education Department website:

Learning Coach - a teacher who is knowledgeable about inclusion and curriculum, and is skilled at teacher collaboration and sharing promising practices. The learning coach works as part of the learning support team to build the capacity of the school, and works side by side with teachers to improve instruction and design learning experiences that are accessible, effective and engaging for all students.

Wow!  Who wouldn’t want a teacher with this kind of expertise at their school.  Imagine the growth and capacity building that would take place assuming the right person was assigned to a position like that.  Reluctant teachers would have the much-needed support to try new approaches and we would be well on our way to our province’s vision to transform the education system to one where students would become “engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit” within an inclusive education system.  Problem is that funding is not provided to hire learning coaches, leaving schools on their own to find creative ways to work them in.

So last spring, while preparing a very tight budget for the current school year, we decided it was worth the effort to rearrange staffing and assign a .5 LC for our school.  The individual we selected brings a strong literacy background and full complement of engaging and innovative practices to the position, but perhaps most importantly places great value on collaboration and risk-taking.  I must say that the level of student engagement is definitely improving as they participate in an array of new learning experiences. Perhaps the most important outcome of each project has been that the classroom teacher increased their own capacity to incorporate important competencies into their daily practice and better engage all learners.  This is making our already good teachers even better.

But what about schools that are simply unable to allocate adequate funds for even a part-time Learning Coach.  Many would see this as an ‘extra position’ that simply could not be supported by an already stretched budget.  Expecting them to forgo other necessary expenditures just wouldn’t make sense.  So does that mean they will be unable to improve instruction and design learning experiences that are accessible, effective and engaging for all students, as outlined in the definition above?  Does it mean they are not knowledgeable about inclusion and curriculum, or skilled at teacher collaboration and sharing promising practices?  Of course not.

A Learning Coach, in my opinion, is not an individual but a philosophy.  It’s about building a culture.  It’s about providing the trust to experiment with new approaches.   It’s about learning together by sharing best practices.  It’s about taking advantage of the untapped expertise right in front of us.  Don’t just wait around for a silver bullet that may never arrive.  Start building the Learning Coach philosophy in your school tomorrow morning.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Learning Coach – A Philosophy, Not an Individual

  1. I just came back from a two day learning coach training. All of the department facilitators in our district went to the training plus an English and math teacher from each high school. The training seemed very common sense and boiled down to these points:
    1. Don’t use evaluative comments in talking to a teacher about their craft: use self-reflexive questions and data based observations.
    2. Build empathy
    3. Be a facilitator, not a consultant

    Almost everyone there seemed vary nervous about appearing as a “know-it-all” or an admin who was doing evals, or there because there was something wrong with the teacher.

    I loved this line in your essay “A Learning Coach, in my opinion, is not an individual but a philosophy.” I agree. It’s about building a culture of self-analysis, sharing, and persistence.

    Have you tried learning rounds?

  2. Pingback: Learning Coach – A Philosophy, Not an Individual | Reading, Writing, and Thinking | Scoop.it

  3. DJ

    HI Greg,

    I really enjoyed your perspective on the learning coach. My district has just implemented learning coaches and I am lucky enough to be one. THe need to build a culture around experimentation and risk-taking in our practice is at the heart of refletive practice and in my opinion professional growth. One of my professors once asked a 10 year vetran teacher: “Have you taught for 10 years, or the same year 10 times?” I think that we can sometimes get stuck in doing the same thing over and over because “it just works” or “the kids really like it”. I wonder, does it work, or do kids like it because you like it and they can feed of your energy and excitement for the activity itself. A learning coach can help teachers review this and then expand the teacher’s capacity to stretch to even deeper learning and enhanve practice for all.

    Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: Learning Coach - A Philosophy, Not an Individual | Coaching Teacher Leaders | Scoop.it

  5. DJ,
    WHOA! That is a very impressive question!! Have you taught 10 years, or the same year ten times?!
    I think the concept of a coach is critical in these times of expanding technology. A lot of schools are going to have a tough time due to the lack of skills from some teachers. We need to start taking some action right away in order to improve student learning in all areas.

    Greg,
    Thank you for helping us see that this can be done without a specific person being paid to do it, as well. There is just not the money all the time to create the position. Teachers need to want to learn and have a admin that pushes them as well.

    –Elizabeth

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