Performance coaching and feedback at CCW

Every now and then I wonder whether other organisations have as many meetings as schools. The potential to run meetings for events, pastoral needs of students, curriculum direction, professional development and strategic & operational activities abound.

In a school of 1100 students and 150 staff, meeting schedules are a part of the life of a school. The key is to make sure these meetings have a purpose, are linked to the strategic direction of the school and lead to action.

Our 2014 Insight SRC data highlighted that the leadership of CCW needed to improve communication and role clarity. With this in mind we established the Combined Leaders Meeting, which runs three times a term. To do this we rationalised the meeting calendar and linked the new meeting to the leadership meetings.

The creation of this team was an attempt at bringing our key leaders together to discuss strategic issues and initiatives. It was envisaged that all of us would be on “the same page” and we had an opportunity to depth our understanding of our roles related to the programs or initiatives we were undertaking.

The membership of this team includes our leaders of learning (Learning & Teaching Leaders; Learning Coaches) our leaders of Pastoral Wellbeing (Learning Community Leaders; Wellbeing Leader) and the College Leadership Team. As many of us know, pastoral wellbeing and learning and teaching go hand in hand. If a student is engaged in their learning, they are less likely to create issues that need intervention from those who work in wellbeing.

One of the key focuses of this combined group of leaders has been the delivery of coaching and feedback program. Over this year we employed the services of Group 8 to assist us in setting up a structure for the coaching of professional performance amongst our teaching staff.

Prior to 2015, Catholic College Wodonga had ventured out on its own to develop a healthy culture of professional feedback via a process called the ‘Feedback Loop’. The move towards the Group 8 structure was to allow all our leaders to take a significant role in developing a coaching and feedback program. A key component of the Group 8 model is the use of student feedback, which each staff member receives. Our leaders and the staff that they coach design feedback and observation protocols, which reflect the needs of the individual teacher.

Each of our combined leaders is responsible for coaching three other staff. In my case I am responsible for coaching our Year 8 Learning & Teaching Leader, MacKillop Learning Community Leader and our VCAL Leader. My initial coaching session with my three staff was a reflective activity that focused us on establishing goals for professional and classroom practice. Each of the three staff selected goals, which were specific to their needs and area of growth they had identified.

Over the past weeks I have been observing each of the three teachers in the classroom. Each teacher has focused on a specific goals related to their teaching. One great benefit of this program, which was highlighted to me by a colleague, was that the observer has the opportunity to not just reflect on the teaching they are observing, but also reflect on their own practice. I certainly have taken away ideas that will enhance my teaching.

This journey into professional coaching and feedback is a commitment that is part of our strategic plan for the next two and half years. As we progress, it is our hope that the program evolves into a process, which reflects the needs and beliefs of our school community. Therefore it would not be Group 8 Performance Development and Coaching program or the “Feedback Loop,’ but instead Catholic College’s own coaching and feedback program which addresses the needs of each individual staff member and our students. The work of the Combined Leadership in shape this will be critical over this period of time.

I was recently reading the Grattan Institute report by Dr. Ben Jenson “Making time for great teaching” in which Jenson (2014) highlights”

“Improving teachers effectiveness outweighs the impact of any other school, education program or policy in improving student performance.”

Clearly at Catholic College Wodonga we are on the right track to developing a coaching and feedback program, which will improve our teachers skills and student outcomes. I looking forward to sharing feedback received from my classes in the future.

“An organisation is only as good as it’s conversations”

Earlier this year Brendan Spillane, a consultant who the Sandhurst Diocese has employed to work with Leadership Teams and staff, discussed the “Forum Board” which was being used at a school in New Zealand.

The concept behind the “Forum Board” is a simple one. If a staff member believes the school is moving away from their vision, then the staff member may list the item/issue on the board. If enough staff sign their initials next to the post then it will be discussed with members of the Leadership Team.

For myself, I believe it was Brendan’s quote, of which there are many, that brought the concept of the forum board to life.

“An organisation is only as good as its conversation.”

So, with this in mind, at our Leadership and Combined Leaders meeting we discussed how the Forum Board would look at Catholic College Wodonga.

I presented the following information at a staff briefing and via an email.

  1. If a staff member would like to place an item on the board they must be able to discuss how this item is moving our College away from our Vision.
  2. The staff member who posted the item needs to place their staff code next to the item and the date.
  3. The item will remain on the board for one week.
  4. 10% of our staff would need to support the item for it to move to the next stage. Therefore, 8 staff will co-sign the item with their staff code & date.
  5. Once the required number of staff initials have been gathered we will then convene a meeting on the next Friday at 8:10am. This meeting will be chaired by two members of the Leadership Team.
  6. A decision will be then made by the Leadership Team, they will/will not deal with the issue/make the suggested change.

Before we held out first meeting I made contact with Brendan to explain where we were up to. He suggested I make contact with Mike Gillett from Hutt Intermediate School in New Zealand. Mike and Brendan’s advice was important and allowed me to consider my role in chairing the meeting.

In the first instance, I informed staff that any items that needed further discussion would go to the Leadership Team. On reflection this was wrong. If an organisation is as good as their conversations, then taking the conversation to just the Leadership Team is not transparent.

It was very clear from the first Forum Board that some issues were easy to solve; therefore the decision could be made on the spot. For example, this year we have one preparation day before all students returned for 2015. This placed pressure on staff that were working in new teams as well as the new staff who started at CCW (we had 17 new staff). In 2016 we will revert back to two days for team meetings and preparation before students return.

For myself, it was wonderful to hear staff discuss how we, in their eyes, need to align ourselves back to our vision. Importantly, all discussions focused on how we improve the current situation. This lead to construct and open input which was solution focused.

At our first staff meeting of this term I presented the key points from the discussions at our two Forum Board meetings. One component of this was our draft strategic plan for the coming three years, as well as other activities that will bring greater clarity.

Overall I found the Forum Board activity to be one which allowed myself, DP Staff and Leadership Team to explain what is on the horizon for our staff as well as to highlight what we see as the key initiatives that we will be involved in over the coming years.