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Stances: Do you have them?

As leaders, research tells us and we know that teachers play an integral role in how our students learn.  Teachers are key participants in the act of learning and it isn’t about how much they know but how well they can be both a learner and a catalyst for inspiring students in understanding how they learn.  As a leader, I suggest that we make connections and draw similar parallels to how our staff learn and how we must be catalysts in their learning.

Currently, I am participating in a leadership workshop series sponsored by HWDSB entitled Cognitive Coaching. The mission of Cognitive Coaching is “to produce self-directed persons with the cognitive capacity for high performance both independently and as members of a community. ” This eight day training positions four “stances” when working with staff / adults:

  • Cognitive Coaching
  • Collaborating
  • Consulting
  • Evaluating

It is most effective when we remain in the coaching and collaborating stance as these stances encourage self-directed and interdependent learners.  Learners who take charge of their learning.  At times,  consulting is needed to offer suggestions and recommendations  based on student needs, pedagogy, policies and procedures.    Lastly, leaders do evaluate and rate performance according to standards.  As leaders, we will adjust our stance depending upon how the interaction evolves with our staff.   In order to be an effective cognitive coach, one must first build rapport and trust with people.  To date,  I have participated in two full days of training and look forward more days.  My intent is to share further learning and reflections with you.

Upon reflecting after the first two days of training about how as adults, we will  and do alter our stance when we interact with others,  I began to draw parallels with how teachers must do this with our students even more in today’s web-based learning ecology.  Students learn anywhere, anytime and in many places and it is essential that learning conditions and adults (all staff) are flexible and responsive.

Last month, I had the privilege of  collaborating with a superintendent in our jurisdiction, Sharon Stephanian, reworking a component of  a  document being launched this week entitled “Education in HWDSB.”  We were asked to rework a chart in the document in order to position it to be more inclusive of instructional strategies and responsiveness to students needs.  In addition, the rework would illustrate how learning involves a blend and balance of instructional strategies.

Here is an image of the chart:

Sharon and I met and began collaborating together.   As it turns out, we are both participants in Cognitive Coaching and our discussion brought in the stances and how they are responsive and relevant for not only how we as adults interact with each other but how these stances with modification could create a model that responds to today’s teacher – student learning relationship.

We began to whiteboard our thoughts and take the elements of the chart and connect them to the cognitive coaching stances.
Our work:

Our thinking:
Our diagram began with putting the students in the centre in a tier format.  We then included the words personalized, customized and choice around the tier to underline the importance of students having choice in how they learn, when they learn and where they learn.  They must be able to chose from a variety of approaches that best suit their needs, learning style and pathway.

This then led us to include the “stances” that the teacher will chose based on knowing their students and how best they learn.  The teacher must be in tune and shift their stance based on responding to the needs of students.

The Teacher Stances:
Instructing – This is where explicit teaching is required. The teacher is focusing on curriculum content, knowledge and skills. (in Cognitive Coaching Model it is consulting)
Collaborating – Facilitating students working together, face to face or over distances, recognizing the norms of collaboration among various cultures, engaging in collaborative inquiry, on projects that have meaning for the learner.
Coaching – The teacher is supporting the student as the driver of his or her learning. This includes goal setting, problem-solving, practice and self-directed learning.
Monitoring – This is the ongoing formative assessment that the teacher engages in in  order to determine what the student needs and thus whether there is a need to the stance. Based upon established success criteria, students engage in peer assessment and frequent feedback from the teacher. Teachers ensure high expectations for all and create conditions that ensure time on task. (in the Cognitive Coaching model, it is evaluating)

A learning environment, with students at the centre, where teachers vary their “stance” given student needs creates a balanced environment focused on learning for life with attention to content, product and process in the learning.

All stances are circled by trust and rapport.  Learning is about building relationships with people and knowing the needs of our students as well as ourselves.  Teachers and all staff are just as much a learner in the process of learning as the students. We must see ourselves as learners too!  Learning is social and most reliant on how we connect in the moment as we learn together.

Here is the diagram that is included in “Education in HWDSB”:

For me, this model illustrates that learning involves action, participation and responsiveness.  We must shift our stance and  are learners alongside students.

A few questions:
Do you have “stances”?  Are you mindful of them when you work and learn with others?

Your comments and questions are welcome and please let’s  continue the discussion.


2 Responses

  1. I found this post very interesting and I agree with much of it, however as a high school science teacher I wonder how students can gain skills without knowledge, how do you think about stuff if you do not know the stuff you are thinking about? How do you move from theory to practice if you do not understand the theory?

    Now if the idea is that you gain knowledge and the theory ( which is part of the knowledge ) and move beyond these to gain skills and practice I would fully agree. It seems to me that many times the basic content is skipped over for more complex skills. Without the content how can the student gain the skills?


    • Hi Len,
      It is important for teachers to understand when explicit instruction is needed. It’s about knowing your students and shifting your stance. The teacher is responsive to where the students are in their learning.

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