A literacy coach can help schools provide consistency in programs, improve teaching models and achieve better results.
Education consultant Bobbie joined literacy expert Sharon Callen on Episode 50 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy to discuss the power of a literacy coach in turning around results in schools.
Bobbie has been running a successful consultancy since 2017 and made a big impact on schools in Melbourne.
“From a school-wide perspective, it is very much about building a culture of collaboration and getting staff to commit to being a team,” Bobbie said.
“There’s a lot of time and energy that goes into supporting staff at ground level, through the likes of literacy coaches or learning specialists as they’re called now. And their role is really to get everybody on the same page.
“It gives teachers the power to use their own minds but not sway away from the school’s overarching goals. There’s freedom to explore, but there’s also quite intense rigidity.”
Through her experience, Bobbie has discovered that consistency is one of the biggest changes a coach will bring to a struggling school.
“One of the things that I find working with schools straightaway is that there’s a lack of consistency, and one of the biggest things to success, in terms of improving results, is developing (that) consistency,” Bobbie said.
“So what I typically will do when going to a school is meet with the leadership team, hear what they have to say, look at their current reality and help them identify where they want to be. And then I’ll look directly at ground level in the classrooms and see what is actually happening.
“Principals don’t have time to get into classrooms and really see it firsthand to understand what is happening. They have a vision and they trust that vision is going to be executed when staff are left to their own devices. Without a clear vision being shared, that divides staff and they start clutching at straws to do their own thing.
“So it’s about finding out what’s happening, finding out the level of consistency and bridging the gap, and that’s about creating that demand of getting everybody on the same page and then almost working backwards by design.”
A big part of achieving this is setting up an Instructional Model, which should include a number of ‘non-negotiables’.
“So to minimise the inconsistency across schools, part of the work that I’ve done in schools to support growth is implementing things like an Instructional Model,” Bobbie said.
“This is so that every teacher is able to work collaboratively with their colleagues to come up with meaningful learning intentions and explicit success criteria, to set the students up for success, to execute meaningful and relevant Mini Lessons using the tools at hand like quality mentor texts, and to develop skill sets to pull apart what’s in their mentor texts and analyse reading elements or writing elements.
“Then, you can really empower students to take that back to their own work. So the kids get the skillsets, but they can also apply it to their own learning.”
Bobbie went on to explain a typical day for a coach entering a school.
“So I will get into classrooms, run observations, provide timely, explicit and relevant feedback, and then I’ll shift that to a modelled approach. So I will go in and mark the best practice,” she said.
“And all my work supports the work of the department as well. So making sure we hit the high-impact teaching strategies, and then monitor and support staff in a non-threatening and engaging way to help execute their vision.”
Bobbie also emphasised the importance of tailoring the consulting process for the school’s needs.
“I don’t want to provide my schools that I am so lucky to work in with a ‘one size fits all’ model or program, because education is not one size fits all. And I think when you can start by working with a school and identify their specific needs, then that opens the door to movement.”
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