It was a room full of participants from diverse roles and disciplinary backgrounds, all curious about what a “strength-based coaching approach” looks like in providing feedback to their students.
“I will be more intentional in finding their strengths… for them to build on.” – a workshop participant’s takeaway
Through small group discussions, we surfaced and reflected on our intentions, assumptions, and current practices around why, when, and how we provide feedback to our students. We had generative dialogues around asking for permission in offering feedback, alignment of feedback and (student/course/program/etc.) goals, and our own comfort given feedback’s inherent relational nature. Given their own unique teaching contexts and (time) constraints, participants were critically considering the logistics of implementation and evaluating the value of this strength-based coaching approach.
Through a number of role-play scenarios, we challenged ourselves to incorporate some of the four core elements of this coaching approach:
This experiential learning activity illuminated for the participants the need to become more aware of the diversity in their students’ perspectives and experiences and to “stay curious about their students”. We also explored a few strategies to incorporate elements of this coaching approach through different modalities of feedback (e.g., written feedback, peer feedback, etc.).
I will “consider the student’s perspective and experience in receiving the feedback” – a workshop participant’s reflection on what they would do differently
Of course, this coaching approach is not without its limitations and risks: level of trust that exist in your relationship, student maturity and readiness to engage with constructive feedback, time and workload constraints, etc. are all important considerations as you experiment with a strength-based coaching approach in providing feedback.
To me, this is the core of a learner-centred practice that supports students’ holistic success.
The CTLT Summer Institute offers fundamental teaching development opportunities for new instructors at UBC. Many of the sessions on offer this year are developed and delivered in collaboration with faculty members, with aims to expose new instructors with diverse perspectives and experiences to reflect upon.
The parallel process of learning that I am engaging in this time around is the Offering Effective Feedback session that Pamela Rogalski and I will be co-facilitating – introducing a strength-based coaching approach to providing feedback.
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In this session, we plan to hold space for participants to reflect on their current feedback-giving practice and its alignment with their intention, to engage them in role-plays to experiment with a strength-based coaching approach in order to fully consider the perspectives of their students as they receive feedback. We will provide ample opportunities for our participants to reflect and to engage in incremental improvements through dialogue as ways to model a collaborative coaching approach to support students’ holistic success. We will also embrace the generative/emergent nature of coaching in our session and discuss the limitations/challenges that comes with taking this approach in our higher education context. Our hope is that our participants will come to appreciate the integration of a strength-based coaching approach to providing feedback in their classrooms.
I look forward to seeing how this experiment unfolds in September!
Institute Facilitators – faculty, staff, and students alike – contribute immensely to the professional development of our teaching and learning community at UBC. The Institute Facilitators inspire, engage, and challenge participants to improve their teaching practice and to enhance student learning and experiences. Other than saying “Thank You” in the most sincere manner I know and hoping that these words resonate with our Institute Facilitators, we did not have any real mechanism to acknowledge their commitment and dedication in sharing their valuable time, experience, and expertise over the years.
We have implemented a few strategies to make our appreciation more visible:
Facilitation Development Workshop Series
This is a creative space for me to deepen my own facilitation practice and to challenge our Institute Facilitators to experiment/explore with new facilitation techniques. My goal for hosting this workshop series is to provide a place of gathering for our community of Institute Facilitators to engage in meaningful peer-learning, knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and innovation around teaching and learning. The rationale for developing and delivering these facilitation development workshop series was discussed previously in Developing the Institute Facilitators post.
Session-Specific Participant Feedback Summary
Deep learning requires time to digest, reflect and practice. In order to contribute to longer term learning, we need feedback when there is a realistic prospect for us to do something with them. At the end of each Institute, I work to summarize participant feedback from each session and to share the synthesized feedback with their respective facilitator (team) within two-three days. We hope that our Institute Facilitators would use these additional information to inform their own reflections. We also invite them to connect with us, should they want to debrief their experiences and/or seek further support in deepening their own professional development.
Institute Facilitators Recognition Website
While it is great to express our gratitude by directly engage with our Institute Facilitators and supporting their professional development needs, we need to help the larger teaching and learning community at UBC to value and appreciate their work and service. One of our first steps is to create a Facilitators’ Recognition Page on the CTLT Institute Website, featuring a curated list of our (almost 300) facilitators, a Q&A section for individuals considering to become an Institute Facilitator, and a growing resources portal for our Institute Facilitators.
We continue to explore ways to show our gratitude and welcome your suggestions!
Hord and colleagues identified key features of collegial learning communities: supportive and shared leadership, collective learning, shared values and vision, supportive conditions, and shared personal practice (1998). Our Institute programming integrates many of the features mentioned above to invite changes in participants’ teaching practices and offers relevant and diverse professional development opportunities; however, participants’ need to be connected with one another and to engage in conversations with their peers does not seems to be adequately addressed in its current format as a series of workshops.
Seeing that the participants have already committed their time to attend the Institute, one strategy to maximize the value of these face-to-face meetings is to build-in opportunities for meaningful interaction to foster a sense of belonging to the larger teaching and learning community – with goals to increase faculty interest in teaching and learning, as well as to provide a supportive space for faculty to explore, evaluate, and adopt new instructional practices and tools (Cox, 2001). As well, Palmer (1999) strongly supports collegial socialization as a core component of professional development programs.
Thus, the Space of Connection was developed to provide an unstructured space for participants to continue to engage in the rich teaching and learning conversations that emerged during workshops, to integrate their learning into their own contexts before returning attention to other commitments, and to simply connect with one another throughout the Institute.
The general features of the Space of Connection include:
reflection question on flipcharts relating to sessions on offer that day to invite participant responses,
a general handout designed to support participants’ process in implementing new teaching techniques/strategies in their teaching contexts, and
chairs in pods for casual conversations and connections.
For the upcoming Summer Institute, I will facilitate a networking session in the Space of Connection to encourage participant reflection (for their learning during the week and relating to their teaching practice beyond the Institute) and to set the tone for the week – inviting peer-to-peer learning, promote relationship building, and knowledge sharing in an unstructured space. I am eager to see how the participants utilize this space and to hear their thoughts/experience/feedback!
I thoroughly enjoyed myself during the Institute Facilitation Workshop – it was good fun to facilitate and to connect with our Institute Facilitators in person!
Overall, I think the workshop went well and met the Institute Facilitators’ practical needs in developing a more robust workshop plan for their sessions in the upcoming Spring Institute. Many Institute Facilitators were appreciative of the structured opportunity to draft, revise, and receive feedback from their peers on the workshop plan. Feedback has long been recognized as a vital requirement for professional development with aims to support practitioners develop new skills and integrate them into practice (Joyce & Showers, 1982). Through modelling effective facilitation practices during the workshop, I was glad to observe that all of them were grappling with various factors while (re-)designing their sessions and were willing to experiment with new techniques in their facilitation practices! Fine tuning this aspect of the workshop would be worthwhile to support Institute Facilitators, especially for those who are new, in developing well-aligned interactive workshop plans. This professional development workshop for the Institute Facilitators has the potential to become an essential component of quality assurance for sessions offered at the CTLT Institutes. I am hopeful for active integration and change implementation in their workshops during the Spring Institute, where they will be able to receive specific feedback from their participants and have the opportunity to debrief their facilitation experiences with me.
In the feedback received, an emerging theme spoke to Institute Facilitators’ desire to share stories, to gain insights from others’ experiences, and to belong to a community of facilitators. Their needs in sharing personal facilitation experiences – both spectacular failures and triumphant successes – went unmet with the informal, unstructured format provided before and after the workshop. I’d imagine a more structured opportunity, perhaps in the format of the World Cafe, would offer a safe and inviting space for the Institute Facilitators to connect and to learn from one another. Not to mention, providing these opportunities for the Institute Facilitators to connect would be in alignment with Guskey’s recommendations (2002) in creating more sustainable behavioural changes! I’m eager to initiate this process and have the Institute Facilitators design and shape their community of practice!