Coaching in Educational Development

I have recently completed my UBC Certificate in Organizational Coaching program through Extended Learning. I was consistently invited to lean into the discomfort in the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1935) and this learning journey has been powerfully transformative for me.

Zone of Proximal Development by Lev Vygotsky (1935).

Bringing in my lenses as an educational developer, a distress services provider, a scientist, and a life-long learner, my evolving conceptualization of coaching is a mutual commitment to the process of learning that ultimately enhances my client’s internal capacity to make meaningful and sustainable changes toward their stated goals. I strive to show up as my authentic self, with presence, curiosity, and vulnerability that support my clients to dive into the learning zone, or the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1935). As a thought partner, I bring integrity, honesty, and accountability into conversations to explore, discover, collaborate and design the pathways to my clients’ intentional success.

It is exciting to learn how others draw on their expertise to incorporate coaching into various educational contexts (Lofthouse, 2019). At UBC, there is a growing coaching culture and I have access to a wealth of resources as an internal coach. I am committed to gathering stories from fellow internal coaches to learn how they leverage their coaching skills to affect change within UBC.

As an early career educational developer, I will have to continue to increase my level of self-awareness and self-regulation within my work context as I try to bring a coach approach to my work. I am eager to integrate this newly developed coaching skills to partner with faculty members to “develop teaching quality, to enable inter-professional learning, and to facilitate positive and productive relationships through cultural change in educational communities” (Lofthouse, 2019). I hope to deepen relationships with educators by creating intentional learning spaces for dialogue, modelings a strength-based practice, and extending their skills and knowledge through co-construction!

References

  • Lofthouse, R. (2019). Coaching in education: A professional development process in formation. Professional Development in Education, 45(1), 33-45.
  • Vygotsky, L. (1935 [2011]). The dynamics of the schoolchild’s mental development in relation to teaching and learning (trans. A. Kozulin). Journal of Cognitive Education & Psychology, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 198–211.

A few thoughts to wrap up the year

Well, that’s a wrap! After a full year working as an educational developer (ED), I think it is a good time to take stock and to reflect on my learning journey so far.

Departure Platform, SubwayPhoto Credit: Free-Photos, via Pixabay, CC0

Overall, I think I leveraged my strengths well in streamlining the process of planning, coordination, and execution of the CTLT Institutes. With the implementation of a Call for Contributions process, we were able to invite proposals from a broader community of educators and to select quality proposals that supported participants to engage in innovative, evidence-based approach of teaching and learning within their own contexts. As well, we collected relevant information for marketing (e.g., Twitter handles) and event logistics (e.g., technology requirements) to minimize internal communication load. We also designed session evaluation forms that invited balanced participant feedback, with language that aligned with our institution’s tenure and promotion criteria to better acknowledge the invaluable contributions of our Institute Facilitators. My hope is to continue to clarify expectations and to improve these processes in order to elevate the brand of CTLT Institutes within our teaching and learning community.

I enjoy the freedom to be creative and to initiate new projects on my own with goals to contribute to our teaching and learning community; my role continues to evolve and shift as I stretch into different learning zones. I also appreciate the various invitations to collaborate on projects with my colleagues; to me, these aren’t just another learning opportunity, these are my colleagues’ recognition of my skills and gentle encouragements to deepen my ED practice. While I have the energy and enthusiasm to inject into my role, I am also learning to pause, observe, activate my curiosity (rather than reacting with judgment), and ask more questions before diving in. One of the biggest learning curve is navigating the complex organization, along with its own historical contexts and invisible cultures. My manager, colleagues, and collaborators are important resources that I need to seek out more strategically in supporting my development as a novice ED. I am grateful for the patience, generosity, and kindness that they have shown me as I stumble and fall. It is my intention to be more mindful of and to develop more awareness around the impact of my presence and behaviour on others.

Our Pop-Up Community of Practice

The lifespan of community of practice moves through a series of predictable and overlapping phases: identifying questions or issues, recruiting community members, learning and sharing, implementing changes in practice, and reflecting on and sharing results.
The Community of Practice Life Span. Developed by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC). CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

The opportunity to collaborate with Sue Doner (Instructional Designer; CETL @ Camosun College) and Ruth Fraser (Director; Services for Students with Disabilities @ KPU) on an accessibility session during the 2018 Festival of Learning came about by reaching out to Sue at an Open Education event last year to share my interests in Universal Design for Learning; I never imagined that a simple introduction could transform into something so fulfilling and meaningful! 

Our intimate session allowed for collegial exchanges of personal stories and experiences relating to ensuring accessibility to a diversity of learners in an online learning environment. We were able to draw upon one another’s knowledge and expertise, examine our own blindspots, and begin to identify important considerations and approaches when grappling with accessibility concerns in an online learning environment. There was an open invitation to our participants at the end of this brief session: to continue to engage with one another beyond this pop-up community of practice and to nurture the connections that we created here.

I am looking forward to see how this pop-up community of practice take shape with time and to learn how we help shift the conversation around accessibility in higher education one baby-step at a time!

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ― Mother Teresa

You may find a copy of our session plan. Please reach out to share your thoughts and become a member of our pop-up community of practice!

Reflections: identifying gaps and emerging ideas

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.

By geralt via Pixabay. Public Domain.

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!

References:

Teaching Practicum Reflection – Vancouver Summer Program 2016

I had the wonderful opportunity to co-design and co-instruct Package J: Medical Laboratory Science at the Vancouver Summer Program this summer with Dr. Amanda J. Bradley – it was my first experience of being so intimately involved in all aspects and stages of the teaching process; it was so energizing and exciting!

In the few months leading up to the program, we collaborated in tailoring the course curriculum to international students from diverse (cultural and disciplinary) backgrounds, with special consideration given to our learners’ varying competence with the English language (Course Syllabus). We created numerous opportunities for peer teaching and learning through in-class small group discussions, student team presentations, and use of two-stage quizzes and final exam; all with the intention to offer ample formative feedback through active learning and varied formats of assessment. We maintained an asynchronous learning environment through forums and discussion boards using an online platform (e.g., Blackboard Connect) with goals to facilitate transparency in communication and to empower students to engage in self-directed learning. Moreover, we spiced things up with a hematological laboratory session to offer unique hands-on experience for students to anchor and to integrate their knowledge, a presentation skills workshop in preparation for one of their summative assessments, and site visits to Pathology Education Centre and Canadian Blood Services Network Centre for Applied Development facilities to highlight the real-life relevance and clinical impact of course material.

Despite having a structured framework and having articulated our teaching intentions for the course, I found it challenging to simultaneously zoom in and out on as I prepared individual lesson plans to ensure alignment between intention, beliefs, and action. In preparing teaching materials (PowerPoint slides, visual aids, handouts, assessments, etc), I was surprised to find how crucial every minute detail and how impactful the phrasing of instruction are in making each lesson as clear and accessible as possible for our learners. This was especially transparent in implementing in-class small group activities, perhaps due to differences in what academic behaviours are valued culturally and differences in English competency – the learners seemed hesitant in verbalizing their understanding and in sharing their opinions with one another without step-by-step structured instruction and clear expectation of what will be shared back with the class at the end of each activity. Risk-taking was not embraced or welcomed by them. It was interesting to experiment with different facilitation techniques to fine-tune our mutual definition and expectation around participation; it turned out to be a rather collaborative process when I informally inquired about their emotional reactions to the classroom dynamics. I think the pre-assigned teams allowed a more even distribution of diversity and “expertise” throughout the classroom, which created a more supportive environment and challenged student to step out of their comfort zones in becoming more active participants in the classroom. The two-stage quizzes and the team-based small discussion activities also seemed to help build individual confidence and a sense of camaraderie between each student team; the shifts in group dynamics were intriguing to observe over time – peer-teaching organically took place without explicit direction or influence from the instructor half way through the course!

What stood out to me in this teaching experience was how integral and impactful transparent communication of my high expectations, of my believe in their ability to achieve high standards, and of my sincere effort in helping them deepen their learning were in motivating my learners. I found it extremely rewarding to engage my students beyond the classroom and to be connect with them individually with authenticity and beautiful vulnerability; their words of appreciation made all the hard work worthwhile (and yes, including the dreaded marking of the final exam!).