Online professional development site to expand virtual coaching model
- BetterLesson, which provides lesson plans and online professional development for teachers, has received $10 in investment funds to expand its virtual coaching program to K-12 teachers across the country. Owl Ventures is the leading investor, along with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, New Markets Venture Partners and Reach Capital.
- In a press release, BetterLesson co-founder and CEO Alex Grodd said the company’s coaching model assists teachers “in making the shift to learner-centered instruction — where students set their own learnings goals, monitor their progress, and are consistently engaged in collaborative problem solving.”
- In the model, district administrators choose focus areas that are connected to their instructional priorities and then match teachers with coaches based on experience, subject area, grade level and the specific strategies teachers are practicing. BetterLesson’s current customers include the Tennessee Department of Education as well as small and large school districts.
Technology has changed the way teachers learn and, just as much as it has for students. A 2011 Educational Leadership article called virtual coaching a promising strategy for helping teachers to connect what they learn in workshops and other professional development sessions with their everyday practice in the classroom.
Virtual coaching can enable many more teachers to receive individualized support than can be accomplished by relying on in-person coaching at the district or school level. When virtual coaches join a teacher’s classroom through Skype or another platform, teachers are also modeling their use of technology for students, according to a recent paper by the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University.
Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, adds that virtual coaching is effective as long as the coaches have the information they need to help those they are coaching. It can be especially helpful as an educator is implementing a new program or strategy as well as for data analysis and ongoing feedback, she says. “Coaching has been shown to provide the essential support educators need to transfer new learning into regular and sustained practice,” she says.
As with other forms of professional learning, however, virtual coaching might not work for every teacher, and virtual coaching programs should include the same elements as effective in-person models, such as trust between the teacher and the coach, providing teachers descriptive and timely feedback, a “nonthreatening environment,”and helping teachers set one goal at a time.
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