We recently had the opportunity to sit in with our client, Grove City School District to observe a coaching session with Principals on how to promote thinking in their classrooms and throughout their school.

Michelle Ellis, an Instructional Specialist who provides professional learning and training to school administrators, offered some poignant thoughts on how teachers can focus in on an anchoring question they want the entire lesson to come back to –a question that will promote ‘reflection’ and deeper learning of content concepts. Michelle also shared some guidance on specific coaching steps principals can take to guide teachers in the planning of lessons that promote students thinking and deeper engagement during instruction.

  • Principals can use the pre-observation questionnaire to write intentional coaching questions and strategic feedback up front to teachers to direct the lesson to promote thinking and learning in a proactive manner as opposed to reactively waiting to provide this feedback in the post observation questionnaire.
  • Teachers can use the pre-observation questionnaire as a means to give the Principal a heads up on a challenging student and plans for engaging that student specifically.
  • Principals can coach teachers to narrow in on one overarching concept they want students to learn from the lesson to really provide a singular focus. Teachers should think about:
    • What do I really want students to learn?
    • How will the students think about that and then also learn it?
    • What evidence can be provided to prove they learned it? (Success indicators)
    • How will teachers communicate to the students the steps of success (what you want them to learn and how you’ll measure it?)
    • In what ways will students verbalize their learning so that the teacher knows they understand?
  • Another question for principals to have teachers think about is how will the teacher actively engage students through accountable talk? Will this be through the use of turn and talk? Will the use of a focused student group discussion to gauge understanding provide the teacher the opportunity to make instructional moves that focus the lesson differently to address areas of confusion? How has the teacher planned for this?

Grove City Principals felt strongly that having a universal structure/scaffold across the district, such as PA-ETEP gives everyone the same starting point and promotes consultation among principals and teachers, so that everyone is on the same page relative to the structure of lessons and expectations of performance across the board. Michelle Ellis, states that “PA-ETEP facilitates Principals’ ability to guide teachers directly in the software, to promote thinking throughout their classrooms and to identify common areas that need strengthened with their professional staff and then focus their professional development around those areas”.