Why Virtual Coaching is the answer to supporting teachers in the age of COVID-19

Now more than ever, everyone needs a coach! With schools no longer looking the same and instruction taking place in a brick and mortar building for every child, educators are having to figure out how to navigate instructing students both in face-to-face and remote learning environments.  Educators are asking… 

  • How can we truly differentiate instruction for students in a remote environment? 
  • How can we provide small group instruction through video conferencing? 
  • How can we administer formative and summative assessments using an online platform? 
  • How do we navigate designing in a learning management system? 

In order to support teachers in problem-solving these questions, it is imperative that teachers are supported by a coach with the experience and expertise in designing and facilitating in a remote learning environment. But since there is no way to know when or how often coaches will be able to be face-to-face with their teacher coachees, a planned pivot to virtual coaching is equally vital to ensuring teachers are effectively supported in the age of COVID-19.

Importance of Supporting Teachers Through Virtual Coaching

We know that school will not go back to normal in the fall.  In fact, many school districts are still trying to figure out how the fall will look.  Some school districts are providing the option of both in-person and distance learning, while others are considering a hybrid model where all students will have a combination of in-person and distance learning, and others are considering all distance learning. Regardless of the model chosen, the common theme in all approaches is offering some sort of distance learning, whether it’s a choice for all students or just the most vulnerable. As a result, teachers are going to need support in how to mitigate learning loss, truly differentiate learning for the most vulnerable students, and reduce inequity in a distance learning environment. Ongoing, job-embedded coaching has consistently been demonstrated to yield teacher growth, which it is important to continue with coaching regardless of the learning environment. Check out the blog on The Long-Term Benefits of Comprehensive Coaching and Why Coaching Works Best to Grow Educators for research and results on coaching. Particularly in the age of COVID-19, coaching is not a luxury; it’s a necessity!

Components of Effective Virtual Coaching

Within a week of COVID-19 hitting Texas, engage2learn was able to pivot and shift all of our onsite coaching to virtual coaching sessions. As a result, this past spring, e2L coaches have facilitated hundreds of effective virtual coaching sessions in multiple districts such as Abilene ISD, Arlington ISD, Castleberry ISD, Dallas ISD, El Paso ISD, Iraan-Sheffield ISD, Marshall ISD, Midlothian ISD, Spring ISD, Victoria ISD, and Winters ISD. 

The reason e2L was able to transition overnight is because our coaching model, the eGrowe Coaching Model, relies on evidence of growth and not lengthy observation cycles. Paired with eSuite, e2L’s comprehensive coaching platform, Teachers are able to share evidence virtually, just as they would in-person.

The key components incorporated into the eGrowe Coaching Model–listed below–are universally applicable to improve teacher practice regardless of an onsite or remote learning environment. 

  • Clear standards with growth indicators
  • Evidence-based coaching model
  • Personalized coaching sessions
  • Project management system for documenting coaching and reporting

If you are a public school educator, you can learn more about the eGrowe Coaching Model by becoming viewing the free resource, Coaching Questions for Building Capacity.

Why Using an Evidence Based Coaching Model Yields Teacher Growth

I could give you a list of reasons why using an evidence-based coaching model yields teacher growth, but I will let the districts who implemented virtual coaching through e2L coaches, campus instructional coaches, or Virtual Professional Learning Support Team during Spring 2020 share testimonials and anecdotal evidence of the teacher growth they experienced as a result of virtual coaching.

e2L Coaching

Abilene ISD began their partnership with engage2learn (e2L) in December 2019 with a goal of improving Tier 1 instruction at five of their elementary campuses. In order to realize this goal, Abilene ISD strategically provided coaching for all teachers at principals on these campuses. Each month the e2L coach met with the teachers and principals for a one-on-one coaching conversation using the eGrowe model and documenting the conversations through the eGrowe Coach app. The coaching conversations were so valuable that when the district moved to remote learning in March 2020, the teachers and principals were eager to continue with coaching.

Reagan Elementary Principal, Leslye Roberts, shared, “ Just as in-person coaching provides a framework and a thought partner to improve classroom instruction, virtual coaching provides a framework and a thought partner to improve virtual learning. As we transitioned from in-person learning to virtual learning, virtual coaching was vital to navigating the new territory of virtual learning. The coaching sessions looked and sounded very similar in process, but with a shift to providing best practices in a virtual environment. Teachers appreciated their coach as a thought partner to develop virtual learning opportunities and to support students and families during virtual learning.” One of the kindergarten teachers, Kristi Luckenbaugh, from Reagan Elementary, said, “ Virtual coaching helped me to utilize different forms of technology to teach my students. My coach and I identified the greatest needs of my students. She helped me find resources, programs, and apps that would be most beneficial with teaching virtually. With her help, my teaching techniques greatly improved over the course of online learning.

Campus Instructional Coaches

Spring ISD made the decision to build internal capacity with its own instructional coaches through the e2L Coaches Academy (CA) in 19-20. Through the CA Model, campus instructional coaches have the opportunity to shadow an engage2learn (e2L) coach coaching one of the campus teachers and are also coached by the e2L coach to improve on their own coaching practices. So, when the city went into shelter-in-place, the instructional coaches that were part of the e2L Coaches Academy were ready to support their teachers through virtual coaching. Nidia Galvan, Instructional Coach at Beneke Elementary in Spring ISD, recently had a conversation with some of her teachers who implemented blended learning and received support through virtual coaching sessions. Nidia said, “Since they were already using rubrics with their scholars, the students were familiar with them. I had them modify what they had already created to align with the PBL projects their scholars were working on at home. Through virtual coaching, I was able to work with them to modify their goals to transition to virtual learning. For example, they already had systems and routines in place in the classroom. We discussed coming up with norms for online learning to keep students engaged similar to their class rules.” As a result of teachers seamlessly transitioning to a distance learning environment, Beneke Elementary scholars continued to receive the support they needed to thrive in a virtual classroom.

Beneke Elementary Principal, LaTracey Harris, shares that “This year we had the opportunity to partner with Engage2Learn after receiving a Math Innovation Zone grant from the Texas Education Agency. The focus of our work was to implement the blended learning model and empower students through self-advocacy, independence, and autonomy. Teachers and scholars thrived in this environment! By providing our scholars the space to flourish, in a style that was student-centered, we witnessed them grow by leaps and bounds. Little did we know that we would face a pandemic where a virtual school would be our only platform. Our first and third-grade teams were familiar with virtual learning, as it had been embedded in the blended learning approach. The precursor to this transition had already been established earlier in the year with the Empowered Learning Model. Our teachers were prepared and equipped to transition seamlessly. Our scholars rose to the occasion and continued the learning process without skipping a beat! I am thankful for the groundwork that occurred before the school closure. We are preparing to gear up for the 2020-2021 school year and to build on the foundation already laid by the pioneers of the blended learning model at Beneke Elementary.”

Virtual Professional Learning Teams

El Paso ISD has partnered with engage2learn for the past four years to responsibly roll out their locally designed framework, Active Learning Framework, to all campuses over five years. When COVID-19 hit in March 2019, El Paso immediately realized the need to provide direct support to all campuses and not just the campuses implementing the Active Learning Framework. Therefore, district leaders had the foresight to make the decision to provide coaching to all 80+ campuses through Virtual Professional Learning (VPL) Teams. This approach gave the VPL teams consisting of instructional coaches, librarians, assistant principals, and even principals the opportunity to share their goals and questions about remote learning to an engage2learn coach and then collaborate during that coaching conversation to come up with options for the campus to implement to reach their goals. An e2L coach was able to meet with each campus Virtual Professional Learning Support (VPL) team to provide just-in-time resources and support to the VPL team who will provide ongoing support to teachers to ensure the district’s plan for acceleration and mastery learning to create equity-centered SEL and engagement is monitored, supported, and continuously improved. 

Dr. Tamekia Brown from El Paso ISD testifies to how Virtual Professional Learning teams gave every campus the opportunity to learn how to best support teachers as they implemented remote learning. Dr. Brown said, “This pandemic has really caused us to think differently about our work. The good news is it has presented a challenge our teachers have been open to jump into . . . that does not mean they were equipped with the tools and skills to do it well. We knew that partnering with engage2learn providing virtual coaching was key in helping all of our teachers make this transition. It has gone significantly well. ” Listen to Dr. Brown’s full testimonial on this video.

Next Steps

The way to provide ongoing support during COVID-19 is to offer virtual coaching to teachers.  If you are interested in how to get started with virtual coaching, check out these ways to learn more.