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Coaching Cycles

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Coaching Cycles are helping share knowledge across a 2,500 student campus by enabling teachers to collaborate with their peers as part of their professional development cycle.
Tilson Crew
Primary School Vice Principal (Grades 4-5), UWCSEA East

Tilson is the Vice Principal of the Primary School for Grade 4 and 5. She joined UWCSEA East as the Primary School Mathematics Coach in 2012 after nearly 20 years teaching children and leading learning in the United States and Germany.

Tilson feels a congruency with UWC’s holistic learning and her strong beliefs about educating students to find identity, meaning and purpose. Further, she considers the relationships between students, parents and teachers to be integral to the success of a school community.

She and her husband, Randy, have four children, three of whom are currently pursuing university degrees. Mary Bowen, the youngest, is a student at UWCSEA East

Tilson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Arts in Education, Administration and Supervision. Her interests include cooking, camping, exercise and travel.

Coaching Cycles

Supporting learning with collaborative professional development for teachers


Planning, teaching, reflecting: this is what teachers do moment by moment, day by day, week by week and year by year. At UWCSEA, a culture of collegial collaboration is well ingrained. But what if we could go one step further? 

What if teachers could plan, teach and reflect with a colleague, over a period of several weeks, on a specific student-focused goal or a personal, professional goal as a practitioner? What if students’ learning was transformed because the learning relationship between colleagues was transformed?

Since January, teachers in the Junior School on East Campus have been doing exactly this; volunteering for one of four six-week ‘Mathematics Coaching Cycles’: a teacher-directed, one-on-one professional development opportunity whereby a classroom teacher and the Mathematics Coach collaborate closely to improve with professional skills and student learning.

This structured, in-depth study requires the teacher and coach to attend a pre-conference, a team teaching opportunity with video evidence and a post-conference with a goal-based reflection each week for six weeks. This three-part process allows a teacher and coach to specifically analyse a particular element of their practice in order to transform classroom learning.

During the first pre-conference, the teacher and coach focus on the intended learning of the upcoming lesson or unit. A learning goal is identified and then a lesson is co-planned to help reach this goal.

The teacher and coach then move on to the second element and team-teach the lesson. This powerful component of the Coaching Cycle allows for collegial interaction focused on meeting the learning goal. By the teacher and coach sharing components of the lesson, conferring with students, and guiding the learning together, learning is improved for all participants in the goal-focused lesson. Guiding the learning based on what students are currently showing us in a lesson, is an imperative, yet difficult part of teaching. Team-teaching allows the teacher and the coach to make deliberate guiding choices based on the evidence students are showing. Often, during a team-teaching lesson, a teacher or coach will call a ‘teacher time out’ to allow for a ‘sidebar’ discussion regarding next steps. This short conversation allows the teacher and coach a moment to discuss next steps in learning, and also demonstrates to students how teachers intentionally collaborate to solve problems. 

The third component, the post-conference, involves a reflective dialogue which takes place after the teacher and coach have viewed a video of the lesson, looking for evidence of the learning goal. During this conversation, the teacher and coach both analyse the evidence of learning and commit to an action plan for further growth. 

At UWCSEA, teachers continuously improve learning for all students by improving practice, and Coaching Cycles provide another important platform for teachers to sustain improved practice and offer the additional benefit of a colleague-supported and goal-directed process for improvement.

What if we could transform the way students learn by transforming the way teachers learn? We are doing it, together with our colleagues.

6 Apr 2015
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