Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey

December 10, 2018

This month’s Sustaining the Journey will only be two weeks in length. We know that you will be busy with holiday preparations and the approach of a long break period. We wish you a healthy, stress-free, and relaxed respite from the hustle and bustle of school.

A Review:
Itzchakov, Guy and Avraham N. Kluger. “The Power of Listening in Helping People Change.” Harvard Business Review. May 17, 2018.

This article is very connected to the work of Thinking Collaborative in so many ways. The first and most obvious connection is in the title: The Power of Listening in Helping People Change. One needs to think of the Norms of Collaboration and the pause-paraphrase-pause-pose question pattern of Cognitive Coachingsm. Or one can recall the Five Forms of Feedback and the importance of rapport to intersect the article to Thinking Collaborative.

The article begins with some provocative research on giving either positive or negative performance feedback in the hopes of helping “subordinates learn and improve.” One of the authors, Kluger reviewed 607 experiments of feedback effectiveness and found “that feedback caused performance to decline in 38% of cases” (2). This reverse effect was especially true when the feedback “threatened how people saw themselves” (2).

Recalling David Rock’s work around the acronym SCARF, status and autonomy were two major drivers in feedback failure. According to the authors, feedback “often backfires …because it signals that the boss is in charge and the boss is judgmental” which makes employees “stressed and defensive” (2). That limbic reaction or downshifting from the prefrontal cortex reduces consciousness and flexibility. It becomes harder for people to shift their perceptional positions and see things from another’s perspective. Matter of fact, people restructured their social networks to avoid feedback, (thus avoiding the feedback provider), to rebuild self-esteem.

The researchers wanted to explore “whether more subtle intervention, namely asking questions and listening, could prevent these negative consequences” (2). Itzchakov and Kluger ascertained that “experiencing high quality (attentive, empathic, and non-judgmental) listening can positively shape speakers’ emotions and attitudes” (2).

The researchers describe experiments with three types of listeners: trained, attentive listeners, untrained listeners doing their best, and distracted listeners. They found that subjects paired with good listeners felt less anxious, more self-aware, and reported higher clarity about their attitudes on the topics” (3). A surprising benefit of being paired with a good, undistracted listener was that subjects experienced greater “attitude complexity” meaning that their understandings and perceptions become more complex and less mono dimensional.

Another connection to the Adaptive Schools work is that people who participated in a listening circle, which sounds exactly like a small fire, “reported lower social anxiety, higher attitude complexity, and lower attitude extremity regarding various work-related topics” (3).

The authors write, “In concert, our findings suggest that listening seems to make an employee more relaxed, more self-aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and more willing to reflect in a non-defensive manner. This can make employees more likely to cooperate (versus compete) with other colleagues, as they become more interested in sharing their attitudes, but not necessarily in trying to persuade others to adopt them, and more open to considering other points of view” (4).

There is much more to this informative article. The authors point out barriers to good listening and offer tips to become a good listener. The tips include setting aside personal curiosity/inquisitive and solution listening, avoiding distractions like smart phones, resisting the urge to interrupt, and asking good questions to benefit the speaker.

How might you explore some of your barriers to good listening?

What are some ways you can incorporate tips for good listening to develop your listening “muscle”? How might you take advantage of this school break to practice?

What are some caveats to hold onto when you move to offer feedback?

December 3, 2018

This month’s Sustaining the Journey will only be two weeks in length. We know that you will be busy with holiday preparations and the approach of a long break period. We wish you a healthy, stress-free, and relaxed respite from the hustle and bustle of school.

Week one takes a look at some articles on how Gen Zers will be different from Millennials in the workplace. There are some interesting implications and connections to both Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools work. At the end of this installment, there are four of the many links to go deeper into this compare/contrast of generational attributes.

With Generation Z entering their mid-twenties this year, more and more of them will be coming into our schools to teach and in our work places. How might you define this new workforce? Some authors list up to eight major characteristics of this generation of workers and leaders. Here are five to consider.

1. They are more entrepreneurial than Millennials. They recognize that the planet needs work and they are global-minded; they are well-traveled; they solve problems creatively and are not afraid to take the initiative to do so. They also seek autonomy and ownership of their work. Think of Daniel Pink’s Drive: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. These are the forces that motivate this generation.
2. Pragmatism. Gen Zers are more practical and realistic than Millennials. Their childhood was marked by global conflicts, radically changing industrial landscapes, and rapid and sometimes unsettling changes. As a result, this new generation will seek more economic stability and security. They will look for improved benefits. They will be more goal-oriented than the previous generation who might have seven or more jobs in their lifetimes.
3. Collaboration and Community. This generation truly embraces diversity and different lifestyles. Through social media, Gen Z has connected with people from all corners of the globe. And, this global community is now the labor pool. They will expect gender, racial, religious diversity in the workplace. They will expect to work in a collaborative culture where conflict is embraced as a source of growth and innovation.
4. Technologically Innate. This generation is not just tech savvy; they have grown up their entire lives with high speed internet and the ability to connect in an instant. They are also comfortable meeting and working in a virtual world. They work remotely; they are adept with online meeting platforms. They expect to collaborate even with people who are in far flung places.
5. Face-to-Face Communication. Despite number 4, Gen Zers highly regard face-to-face communication. You can text them, instant message them, or email them, but they will want more face-to-face communication either in person or via platforms like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. They like one-on-one performance conversations. They like goal-setting conversations and they like to have their input solicited.

What Adaptive Schools concepts, protocols, and strategies might engage Gen Zee professionals?

How might this generation of professionals respond to Cognitive Coaching? What might they be looking for in a coach?

https://www.businessinsider.com/gen-zs-habits-different-from-millennials-2018-6

https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/#60f0b65a76e5

https://growingleaders.com/blog/generation-z-differs-generation-y/

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/careers/management/article-how-gen-zers-will-distinguish-themselves-from-millennials-in-the/

Reading Non-Verbals: Racial Bias

Non-verbals communication is a critical facet of what we read in others, even greater than verbal communication. Recent research informs us on the way we may misread or misinterpret facial expressions, especially for black students. In Halberstadt and Sims study of those entering education, they considered what factors might contribute to the discrepancy in the number of black students facing disciplinary action compared to white students.

After viewing video of black and white men and women and black and white boys in school settings, she found participants were 1.5 times more likely to be accurate at in interpreting white faces compared to black faces.

…black faces were three times more likely to be perceived as angry even when they were not.

Additionally, hostility was more likely to be attributed to black boys. On a 5-point scale with 1 being not hostile and 5 being very hostile, the average for black boys was 3.37 and 2.12 for white boys.

As a coach, how might your cultural background impact the way you attune to and adjust for human uniqueness?
How do the findings of this study fit with your experiences in schools?
What is most important to you in this research that you might become more conscious of in your interactions with black students and coachees?

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0361476X17301649

Update on Learning Styles and Eye Movements

For many years, educators have been taught to attend to students needs to learn as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. More and more research in recent years has shown that most effective learning matches the style to the task rather than to the style of the learner. Consider this recent publication in the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/opinion/sunday/visual-learner-auditory-school-education.html

In Cognitive CoachingSM, for many years, we have taught coaches to pay attention to eye movements as a means for assessing how a person might be processing information. That research from Neurolinguistic Programming is also being called in to question. More recent research at the University of Wisconsin by Kevin Hogan and others is informing our current work. An important Cognitive Coaching Capability is, “Attune to and adjust for human uniqueness.” Watching eyes may not accurately reflect how a person is thinking, but movement or staring or closing of eyes indicates there is thinking occurring. Attuning to these nonverbal cues assists the coach in knowing when to be silent, allowing the thinking to continue until the person returns to the center point to reengage in conversation. That is when the coach would paraphrase or pose a mediative question.

How does this new information fit with your own schema for learning styles and coaching? What modifications might it suggest to you in your work?

Things and Energy Matter

One of the principles of complex systems invites us to attend to both things and energy. We know energy propels things getting done, however, things rarely create energy. How do we, as leaders, collaborators, inquirers and mediators, be certain we are attending appropriately to both?  One way is to keep a simple record of your daily work on a three- column chart.  Here is an example which can be adapted to your needs.  My phone is now telling me how much screen time I average per day for a week at a time.  This triggered this idea for me to begin collecting data on how I am working in balancing these two critical functions.  I discovered some things, like emails, can also go in both columns.

 

I now use this for weekly reflection, noticing trends and patterns and reflecting on cause and effects of my choices, and letting it inform me on making choices for the coming week.

 

Activity Things Energy
Making charts for training X     45 minutes
Phone call with TA X 40 minutes
Meeting with Asst Supt X 2 hours

 

What might be some ways you can become more conscious of how you are investing in being certain energy takes precedent over things in your life?

What’s the Best Size for Making Meetings Productive?

Stanford researcher, Paul Sutton, found that when meeting size exceeded 8 people, productivity was decreased. 5- 8 is most productive. Often, we attend meetings and wonder why we are sitting through agenda items that are not in our work sphere. Instead of inviting everyone, think about who really needs to attend and keep the numbers to 8 and under. Shorten meetings to only include a few agenda items that concern all of those attending.

Some advantages of smaller size meetings include:

• Greater participation by all members
• More opportunity for true dialogue
• There is less need to bring outsiders up to speed on issues they do not understand.
• People feel safer and are more willing to share.

How might you streamline your meetings to increase your productivity? How might you use the strategy of small fires to enhance authentic face-to-face communication?

Source: “The Most Productive Meetings Have Fewer than 8 People.” by Paul Axtell

Developing the Mentors/Coaches

This past month, we’ve talked about how we mentor and develop others. So what about support that we, as mentors/coaches, might need?

Coaches serve with eagerness and with a passion for developing others. And yet that’s not enough. Successful implementation of a coaching program is dependent on a systemic vision and a commitment to support coaches in fulfilling that vision (Wong and Nicotera, 2003).

To start, a full description of your job expectations needs be outlined and frequently revisited to review effectiveness of the coaching program. Your job expectations should be based on best coaching practices and research. Schedules should be refined and adjusted as needed. Clarity is imperative.

For you to develop as a skilled coach, schedule regular support meetings to plan, reflect, and problem resolve with other coaches. Seek help when needed!! Ask to be meta-coached with feedback (see previous Sustaining the Journey about feedback) and practice, practice, practice! Recognize that your continued growth is important and that training to build coaching skills isn’t a one-shot opportunity. Create a long-term plan for your program.

Monitor yourself. What percentage of your day are you coaching? Collaborating? Consulting? Evaluating? What other tasks are you performing that might not be part of your job description?

As you consider your current skill set (and mindset) as a coach, what are your hopes for yourself? In what ways might you actualize your hopes? What specificity might you need to achieve your vision?

Sanford, C. (1995). Myths of organizational effectiveness at work. Battle Ground, WA: Springhill.

Wong, K. & Nicotera, A. (2003). Enhancing teacher quality: Peer coaching as a professional development strategy. A preliminary synthesis of the literature. Publication Series No. 5. Philadelphia, PA: Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory.

Mentoring Using Feedback, Part 2

This week, we look at the effectiveness of offering positive feedback prior to offering negative feedback. This has typically been a pattern for feedback and there’s even a name for it. Sometimes it’s called “A Glow and a Grow.” It’s also been called “A Star and a Wish.” We want to believe that positive feedback will generate a feeling of safety and we hope that following the positive feedback with corrections will motivate the person to change. According to the research of Green, et al., “A Glow and a Grow” doesn’t have the intended effect and instead leads to the construction of self-protection structures that will prevent “A Glow and a Grow” from ever working. As human beings, we have an innate drive to search for support that will build us up.

So what works? Green found that the people who survive and thrive are those who can sit down within a confirming environment with confirming relationships where feedback won’t lead to a state of threat. Sound familiar? You learned on Day 4 of Cognitive Coaching Foundation Seminar® that there are five forms of feedback—Judgment, Personal Observation, Inference, Data, and Mediative Questions. You also learned that the coaching behaviors of offering Data followed by Mediative Questions provides structure within the safety of a coaching conversation. As a result, the coachee develops his/her own insights and is then motivated to commit to applying that new learning.

As you consider your own patterns of offering feedback, how might this information support your work?

Berinato, S. (2018). Negative feedback rarely helps people improve. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 32-33.

Mentoring Using Feedback, Part 1

In this early part of the year, there is a whole range of “new” that you might encounter. “New” might mean new to the profession, new to the building, new to the content area, or new to the grade level. All “new” requires guidance, support, and feedback. Certain types of feedback, though well-intentioned, can do more harm than good.
Paul Green, et al., discovered that negative feedback or disconfirming feedback rarely leads to improvement. Negative feedback is seen as a threat. The more negative the feedback, the further the employee will go to forge new networks and find a new supporting partner. Green, et al., calls this “shopping for confirmation.” If we don’t have connections that help us sustain a positive view of ourselves, we’ll actively seek a connection that does.
In traditional performance appraisals, the intent has been to initiate growth and improvement. There’s an assumption that offering the brutal truth will motivate someone to improve. The realization from Green is that people will be motivated to find others who will not shine a light on their shortcomings but that they will instead make an intentional shift toward people who will give them more positive reviews. It’s not to say that people don’t want to improve when/if they recognize a personal weakness, it’s just that they are now dealing with dueling motivations. “I need to feel I’m valuable, and I need to improve.” As human beings, we struggle with this dichotomy and prefer to seek those who value us.
So what about coupling positive feedback with negative feedback? Does the traditional “A Glow and a Grow?” work? We’ll look at that next week.

How might this new information about negative feedback influence your thinking regarding your work with students and adults?

Berinato, S. (2018). Negative feedback rarely helps people improve. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 32-33.

Mentoring/Coaching the Veteran Teacher

Last week we talked about mentoring the new teacher and that your default behavior is to coach. This week we consider how to mentor the veteran teacher.

It’s likely that YOU are an experienced teacher. You have reached this point because you have a full repertoire of skills that you have used successfully. To perform the delicate dance of mentoring a colleague who is likewise seasoned requires sensitivity and a readiness to learn from them. A coach needs to approach this relationship with respect and appreciation.

Teachers who have years of experience have encountered many initiatives and are aware of what makes an innovation successful. They hold a wealth of wisdom that cannot be underestimated. They are leaders who influence the intimate workings of the school.

So it is critical to build a relationship first. Trust takes time and is initiated by active, respectful listening. And as with the new teacher, your default is to coach. If they are unfamiliar with coaching, be explicit about how coaches mediate thinking. Avoid giving the impression that you intend to change them though your styles and experiences may be different. Be aware of your tone and demeanor.

Discover what they value and offer abstracting paraphrases. Offer to observe a lesson and collect data on an area of their choosing. As your relationship grows, trust yourself to tap into their deep structure.

What beliefs do you hold about mentoring that are living through your work with the veteran teacher?

Mentoring/Coaching the New Teacher

It’s that time of year when we welcome students and teachers new to our organizations. We generally feel prepared about how to provide for the needs of new students. We may not always feel as ready to provide for the needs of new teachers.

The sad news is that between 40-50 percent of new teachers leave education within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2012). The good news is that teacher mentoring has been shown to effectively reduce teacher attrition (Lambeth, 2012).

So how do you mentor new teachers? After making sure they are accustomed to their surroundings and are familiar with building procedures and protocols, the obvious answer is to coach them! Offer to plan, reflect, and problem-resolve with them! You can also choose to provide the other support functions (collaborate, consult, and evaluate) when needed. The key phrase here is when needed. When someone asks your advice, it can be so very tempting to move straight to consulting and to tell them what to do. Granted, you have an amazing repertoire and have been quite successful in your work, but you likely gained your skills and knowledge through experience. Experience is marvelous, especially when someone skilled (like you) serves as a coach for the new teacher as they set big goals, consider options, make comparisons, chew over data, and wrestle with challenges.

For the times when a new teacher asks you to tell them what to do, a “go to” response is to honor their current thinking and say, “I’d love to hear your thinking first and then if you still need my ideas, I’d be happy to offer some.” This automatic response indicates that you believe that they have the capacity to be self-directed and to make good decisions. Most times they won’t need your ideas!

As you mentor the new teacher, how do you make decisions about when to coach them and when to move out of coaching into another support function?

Next week we’ll consider how to mentor the veteran.

Ingersoll, R. (2012). Beginning teacher induction WHAT THE DATA TELL US. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(8), 47-51.
Lambeth, D. (2012). Effective practices and resources for support of beginning teachers. Academic Leadership 10(1), 1–13.

September 24, 2018

In the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learning (2016), Costa and Garmston “distinguish four functions intended to support teacher development: evaluating, collaborating, consulting, and mediating/coaching” (9). The authors assert that the “skillful coach will ultimate default to Cognitive Coaching as it is most likely to support self-directed learning” (9). With the new school year starting, professionals will need to make decisions about who they want to be as they serve students and colleagues. The Adaptive Schools Focusing Questions would serve as reminders: Who are we? Who do we need to be?; Why are we doing this?; Why are we doing this, this way? Professionals need to be clear about their intentions before selecting a Support Function. This month’s Sustaining the Journey will look at each one of the Four Support Functions.

Cognitive Coachingsm: The intention of Cognitive Coachingsm is to “transform the effectiveness of decision making, mental models, thoughts, and perceptions and habituate reflection” (13). At the heart of Cognitive Coachingsm is self-directed learning that encourages individuals to be self-managing, self-monitoring, and self-modifying. There are four maps that a coach can utilize to mediate thinking: planning, reflecting, problem-resolving, and calibrating. A coach’s tools include rapport, paraphrasing, posing questions, and full attention listening skills. Garmston and Costa assert that “Cognitive Coaches focus on the thought processes, values, identities, and beliefs that motivate, guide, influence…” (14).

An important capability is to know what support function to use at appropriate times. At the heart of that decision is to promote self-directedness in the individuals that we support.

What might be some instances when you might coach a colleague?
How might you make your intentions clear and signal your role with explicit behaviors?
What are some ways you might seek permission to coach?
How might you make Cognitive Coaching your default support function?

September 17, 2018

In the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learning (2016), Costa and Garmston “distinguish four functions intended to support teacher development: evaluating, collaborating, consulting, and mediating/coaching” (9). The authors assert that the “skillful coach will ultimate default to Cognitive Coaching as it is most likely to support self-directed learning” (9). With the new school year starting, professionals will need to make decisions about who they want to be as they serve students and colleagues. The Adaptive Schools Focusing Questions would serve as reminders: Who are we? Who do we need to be?; Why are we doing this?; Why are we doing this, this way? Professionals need to be clear about their intentions before selecting a Support Function. This month’s Sustaining the Journey will look at each one of the Four Support Functions.

Collaborating: Collaborating literally means to work together. Costa and Garmston write that the intention of collaborating is “to form ideas, approaches, solutions, and focus for inquiry” (13). The processes are marked by balanced participation, equal voices being heard, mutual work, and shared leadership and responsibility. Collaborators may come together to solve a problem, brainstorm possible solutions and best practices, research a problem of practice. They ask questions like, “What might be some possible approaches for us to pursue?” “What might be some relevant research or case studies for us to examine?” Because of the shared nature of inquiry and collaboration, this support function supports self-directed learning. Having and utilizing shared Norms of Collaboration and knowing structures, strategies, and protocols makes the process smoother and more productive.

What might be some instances when you are asked to collaborate?
How might you make your intentions clear and signal your role with explicit behaviors?
What might be some of the options you have to embed for self-directed learning?

September 10, 2018

In the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learning (2016), Costa and Garmston “distinguish four functions intended to support teacher development: evaluating, collaborating, consulting, and mediating/coaching” (9). The authors assert that the “skillful coach will ultimate default to Cognitive Coaching as it is most likely to support self-directed learning” (9). With the new school year starting, professionals will need to make decisions about who they want to be as they serve students and colleagues. The Adaptive Schools Focusing Questions would serve as reminders: Who are we? Who do we need to be?; Why are we doing this?; Why are we doing this, this way? Professionals need to be clear about their intentions before selecting a Support Function. This month’s Sustaining the Journey will look at each one of the Four Support Functions.

Consulting: Consultants serve as information specialists and they may have valuable expertise to share with colleagues. Too frequently, individuals default to the support function because they believe it is quick, easy, and expeditious. Costa and Garmston write that “consulting skills include clarifying goals, modeling expert thinking and problem-solving processes, making suggestions based on experience, offering advice, and advocating” (11). A consultant needs to work towards developing self-directedness in his or her colleagues. If not, the colleagues will be unable to be resourceful without the direction of the consultant. The “expert” or the consultant “informs” about these best practices, research, or policies, and hopefully offers a menu of options instead of advocating for one. The consultant might say, “Here are some possible ways to do this. Which ones sound most promising to you?”

What might be some instances when you are asked to consult?
How might you make your intentions clear and signal your role with explicit behaviors?
What are some ways you can seek permission to consult?
What might be some of the options you have to embed for self-directed learning?

September 3, 2018

In the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learning (2016), Costa and Garmston “distinguish four functions intended to support teacher development: evaluating, collaborating, consulting, and mediating/coaching” (9). The authors assert that the “skillful coach will ultimately default to Cognitive Coaching as it is most likely to support self-directed learning” (9). With the new school year starting, professionals will need to make decisions about who they want to be as they serve students and colleagues. The Adaptive Schools Focusing Questions would serve as reminders: Who are we? Who do we need to be?; Why are we doing this?; Why are we doing this, this way? Professionals need to be clear about their intentions before selecting a Support Function. This month’s Sustaining the Journey will look at each one of the Four Support Functions.

Evaluating: If the intention is to assess whether an individual is conforming to external standards, rubrics, or professional standards that have been adopted by an organization, evaluating is the support function of choice. Evaluating may be used to assess teacher performance, provide constructive feedback, or provide direction for staff professional development (10). Conversations might be around pedagogy, adopted rubrics, school expectations, or other pre-established criteria. Here the feedback may take the form of judgment, personal observations, advice, or collected data. The support person takes on the role of “boss” and evaluator. In the Cognitive Coachingsm Foundation Seminar, we stress: Carl Glickman says the same person can coach and evaluate IF:
• Trust exists in the relationship and the process;
• The behaviors are distinct;
• The teacher knows which is happening when.

What might be some instances when you are asked to evaluate?
How might you make your intentions clear and signal your role with explicit behaviors?
What might be some of the options you have to embed for self-directed learning?