Thursday, December 5, 2013

Coach in the Middle

The phrase "coach in the middle" has been on my mind lately. We still occasionally hear the phrase "sage on the stage" pop up, usually in reference to older, perhaps lecture-style teaching. I don't happen to know any teachers in elementary who thinks of themselves that way.  I did receive (and nod off during) lectures in university halls, though.

The counter phrase to "sage on the stage" is still "guide on the side," and for a while this one seemed to fit the way most of us teach these days. Desks are organized in groups, the classroom may or may not have a front (the closest to a front often being the projector screen). This phrase though implies more of an observational hands-off role, though, and observation is not really more than 1/3 of our assessment work (conversations and products, projects, or written work being the other 2).

We do know the guide steps in when needed, to talk to students and give advice, but perhaps "guide on the side" is not the best phrase anymore for what we do.  I came across a criticism of the "guide on the side in reading a recent work by Michael Fullan:

Speaking of a recent meta study by John Hattie on the effects of certain types of teaching, he suggests:

"...the guide on the side is a poor pedagogue; or we don’t want “a guide on
the side” anymore than we need a “sage on the stage.” More proactive partnership
will be required."

I've been thinking a lot lately about coaching as an analogue for teaching. A basketball coach, for example, might spend some time given direct feedback to the whole team during a practice, but probably spends a lot more time giving specific feedback to individuals (spacing on a drill, or form on a jumpshot, for example), or to small groups (a centre needs far different feedback than a point guard, for example). 

A coach is always active, in the middle of things.  Perhaps as instructional coaches we might think of ourselves as more "in the middle", than on the sidelines.  This new metaphor would also defuse one of the common arguments levelled at our system these days-that we simply just let kids go off to "discover" all that they will learn, at their own pace, and style. The ever-active coach is always talking, giving personalized feedback, and offering advice for how to improve.

No comments:

Post a Comment