Blog Written by Marcia Rock, PhD
“One Third Fewer People Are Training to Become Teachers”. “Shortage of Special Educators Adds to Classroom Pressures”. “Who’s Teaching Our Most Vulnerable Students?” Alarming headlines such as these have become all too familiar in the popular press, in online publications, and in the academic literature. Faced with mounting accountability demands, increasing classroom complexities, and deteriorating working conditions, one thing is clear: pre- and in-service teachers want, need, and deserve more support. Without that support, they will likely continue to choose either not to enter the teaching profession, or to leave it prematurely.
Reversing this troubling trend and replenishing the education workforce pipeline with a rich supply of well prepared, dedicated, caring, and effective teachers requires many, varied, creative solutions – one of which involves digital-age coaching support. As the name implies, the eCoaching continuum is not based on random acts or piecemeal approaches, which tend to be unsustainable, promote dependence on the coach, and do not sufficiently transfer to classroom practice. Instead, the eCoaching continuum offers a series of customizable, connected, coordinated components identified by Joyce and Showers (1982) over 30 years ago—the study and observation of theory and practice, one-on-one coaching, and group or peer coaching—all of which are carried out within the context of everyday teaching and learning (see Rock, 2019), which is when and where pre- and in-service teachers need respectful, co-designed support the most.
Allowing for peer, expert, and self-coaching, the eCoaching Continuum facilitates cost-effective approaches for pre- and in-service teachers by harnessing the power of 21st century technologies to overcome common obstacles, such as removing the barriers of time, labor, distance, and cost. In this way, the eCoaching Continuum offers various kinds of coaching support to more pre- and in-service teachers at a reduced cost. Also, the eCoaching Continuum allows for gradual transfer of pre- and in-service teachers’ reliance on external coaching, prompting a cycle of reflective, self-coaching, which is an important aim of pre- and in-service teachers’ learning and support.
If we are to engage in co-designed support to pre- and in-service teachers that is economical, connected, and effective, then we must begin to think differently about it. To date, technology-enabled aspects of the eCoaching Continuum have been made possible through previous UNC Greensboro Teacher Quality Partnership grants, including fee-based and free video subscriptions illustrating best teaching practices, in-ear coaching technologies that allow for one-on-one, online coaching with real-time feedback, digital modules (content and coaching specific), and web-based platforms for group/peer coaching. These technologies are housed in UNC Greensboro’s School of Education’s Michel Family Teaching Resource Center (TRC) and available for check-out by teacher candidates, mentor teachers, and faculty.
Realizing the urgency of the teacher workforce crisis and the vital role of digital-age coaching in preparing, recruiting, and retaining pre- and in-service teachers, I knew the eCoaching Continuum could offer a powerful solution to universities, school districts and others in need. I contacted Impact Through Innovation (ITI) for support in expanding my project’s impact and reach. At this writing, I have engaged in individual, concept meetings with Dr. Scott Young, regarding how to pursue my project vision and dream to achieve a positive impact in the lives of others. Scott is a highly skilled facilitator –supportive, knowledgeable, creative, connected, and resourceful. I have also shared ideas with colleagues through ITI’s Incubator sessions. Wow! What a powerful, positive, helpful, productive experience with brilliant, forward thinking SOE colleagues. I highly recommend it! Impact Through Innovation and UNC Greensboro’s Launch initiative are providing ongoing guidance and support, including but not limited to developing a model for offering eCoaching beyond the university as well as consulting with an attorney regarding legal aspects that warrant consideration, as I consider the next steps for scaling up this work not only in education but also in other disciplines that are facing workforce issues and crises. Stay tuned for future blogs to learn about our efforts to bring an end to #OutOfStock and strengthen the #EdForce by improving #WorkingConditions in part through #eCoaching Support!