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desired states

May 11, 2013


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Much about teaching is revealed within an inquiry process where the practitioner persists in learning about learning. Tricky territory: As students, we observed numerous teachers practice what was deemed standard teaching; considering ourselves objective, we critiqued their style. Views were formed along the lines of what works and what is ineffective. As teachers, we further develop a learning practice in response to numerous  classroom interactions. Feedback loops shape our ongoing decisions and manifest in beliefs.

Then – according to the logic of vertical progression – after years of practice, we become experts

Wait – what’s the problem with this assumption?

One fixed view of quality teaching emerges.

As a graduate, I recall being told I would not be allocated a (high status) Literature class because I was young, unproven. My colleague informed me that he was “at the top of the profession”.

If expertise is set aside, and we see ourselves primarily as learners who engage others in the learning-cause, embrace as purposeful the role of abetting their journey, whatever the point of departure, shifts occur.

First, we maintain a beginner’s mind. Second, we learn with, or interdependently, in relation to others. Perhaps this is horizontal progression. For me, it is a desired state.

blue flowers

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As a neophyte at cognitive coaching, I know that learning with others in my school community is critical. According to the definition:

Cognitive Coaching is a non-judgmental process of mediation applied to those human life encounters, events and circumstances that can be seized as opportunities to enhance one’s own and others’ resourcefulness. Cognitive Coaching also serves as the nucleus for professional communities that honour autonomy, encourage interdependence and strive for high achievement (Costa & Garmston, 2012, p. 5).

Relationships, then, are paramount, and will be nourished through tuning a considered skill-set:

  • listening
  • paraphrasing
  • adopting intentional practice
  • building purpose
  • collaborating
An easier list to document than actualise, perhaps.
Maintaining focus could seem like hard work or extra. It is, undoubtedly, a humbling responsibility to mediate others’ thinking whether during formalised coaching conversations or in corridor chats where the conversation templates (reflective, planning, problem resolving) seem to insinuate themselves by happenstance.
Maybe a sense of playfulness is more fitting here:
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Searching for more desired states?
…teaching like a pro is about improving as an individual, raising the performance of the team, and increasing quality across the whole profession. It is about developing, circulating, and reinvesting professional capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 23).
I noticed during this week’s hurly-burly that coaching opportunities proliferate while you are attending to others’ – colleagues’, students’, daughters’, husband’s, friends’ – thinking.
With gratitude to our Cognitive Coaching facilitator for inspirational modelling during recent holiday workshop sessions, along with lots of collaborative peer-practice, I learnt that enhancing relationships is bound by paradox, assumptions and constraints. Thus:
  • Long term, life-changing praxis is required
  • Sharing  necessitates a safe working/ learning environment
  • Benefits – like trust and consciousness – grow
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Selected references
Costa, A.L. & Garmston, R.J. (2012). Cognitive coaching seminars foundation training learning guide. Moorabbin, Vic: Hawker Brownlow Education.
Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. Teachers College Press: New York.
Useful video illustration
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