Educators who experienced the abrupt switch to emergency remote learning across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic were inundated with a plethora of resources, recommendations, and offers of assistance on ways to pivot their classrooms online. Suddenly, concepts such as Zoom breakout rooms, Poll Everywhere, and asynchronous discussion boards became part of the educators’ lexicon. Most instructors teaching during this time were required to swiftly revamp their approach to teaching in significant ways.
Cahapay (2020) describes considerations for the reimagined virtual classroom in rethinking the structure of the course, dialogue of participants, and student autonomy when designing an online learning environment. Adjustments to these components of teaching and learning require educators to think through the integration of various instructional technologies as they design their virtual classroom spaces. Considerations for course structure, dialogue, and student autonomy when transitioning to an online classroom space include the following:
- Restructuring a course to an online environment includes considerations for how and what type of assessments will be conducted. Will exams be proctored or unproctored, and will they be open-note or closed-note? If exams are closed-note, will proctoring software be utilized? If not, will the instructor proctor the exam during a synchronous session?
- How will the need for social connectedness and collaboration be addressed when developing assignments? How is group work evaluated in an online environment? Will the instructor assign groups and have students use shared documents, such as Google docs, to compile their work in a format where the instructor can evaluate each student’s contributions?
- Will class sessions be held synchronously, asynchronously, or will a combination of both formats be utilized?
- What will be the structure of online class sessions? What format will be used to engage students and keep their attention? Will breakout rooms be used? If so, what will be accomplished during those sessions?
- Which digital tools will students use to communicate with each other and with their instructor?
- How will synchronous online breakout sessions compare to asynchronous discussion boards for increasing social connectedness among students?
- How will students connect with their instructor to ask questions and seek additional support outside of class sessions?
- Will there be considerations for the type of digital tools used for students who prefer to communicate either synchronously or asynchronously due to personal schedules, personality types, learning preferences, disabilities, etc?
- How will the course be structured to support learner autonomy or “the learner’s ability to take charge of his/her own learning?” (Smith, 2019)
- Will flexible due dates be offered?
- Will voice and choice be valued in determining what format students use to show competence in mastery of learning objectives?
These considerations for designing a virtual classroom space are by no means exhaustive, but this short list provides insights on the important work of instructional technology coaches in providing expertise and support for creating and maintaining an online or hybrid learning environment. As we anticipate the upcoming school year, there is hope that we will be transitioning back to face to face teaching and learning. However, educators should not abandon their efforts to incorporate digital technology into their courses even if they are anticipating a return to a brick and mortar environment.
It is evident to me that students of all ages benefit from teachers who are motivated to keep current on digital instructional practices. Teachers who model proficient use of digital technology in their pedagogical practices and in how they structure students’ classroom experiences are modeling use of information and communication technologies and are helping students to develop digital literacy skills, which are two important 21st century skills needed to compete in the digital age.
Considering the importance for educators to be lifelong learners in advancing their knowledge and skills in the area of digital technology, I am seeking to explore the following question:
Which coaching techniques are effective in facilitating motivation in educators, which may spur investigation of unfamiliar digital instructional tools?
This question aligns with ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator:
- Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes.
- 3a: Coaches establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies (ISTE).
I decided to focus on motivation because for many educators, the idea of getting up to speed on the seemingly endless instructional technology tools available may seem too great of a pursuit to initiate. Some educators may believe their lesson plans, course structure, and pedagogy do not need updating. This is where instructional technology coaches play a key role in the support of other educators. They have the awareness, knowledge, and skills regarding the need for digital technology in present day classrooms, and can work with teachers individually to explore digital tools to improve their instructional practices and student learning outcomes. But it is essential that instructional technology coaches help teachers understand what motivates them to improve their teaching practices. What motivates one teacher may vary greatly from the next. Following are summaries of a few studies which provide insights on aspects of teacher motivation in increasing use of instructional technology:
A study titled “Fostering powerful use of technology through instructional coaching” aimed to “improve educational equity and enhance student learning by supporting teachers with classroom coaching to better leverage technology in powerful and meaningful ways.” Grant funding was used to place full-time instructional technology coaches across 5 states in 50 schools with greater than 60% of students qualifying for free or reduced meals. Some of the key findings from the study are as follows:
- Data from this study show that after one year of coaching support, teachers increased use of technology “…to support what they are teaching as well as how they are teaching it.”
- More than 80% of teachers who participated in the study indicated that the coaching provided enhanced their students’ ability to utilize appropriate digital tools, and the implementation of technology in their classrooms increased “student collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and agency.”
- One of the five key areas of professional development in this research project was active learning, which was defined by the authors as “opportunities that directly engage teachers in designing and/or trying teaching strategies.”
- Related to increasing motivation among educators, I believe the following aspects of this coaching framework would motivate teachers to investigate and utilize unfamiliar digital tools:
- Trust was a focus of the coach/coachee relationships, and it was understood that teachers wouldn’t be penalized or evaluated for trying something new that didn’t work.
- Coaching was initiated as a partnership, and coaches were viewed as thought partners.
- Coaching was personalized to the needs, goals, and interests of the instructor.
- The authors concluded by stating that the educators involved in the study believe that effective instructional technology coaching helps to “close the digital divide” and may have a positive impact on student achievement (Bakhshaei, et al, 2018).
Further, Sharma and Srivastava (2019) explored “teachers’ motivation to adopt technology in higher education.” After surveying a random sampling of teachers on considerations for integrating technology into their work, the researchers concluded that personal values, beliefs about self-efficacy, social influence, and ease of use influenced motivation to incorporate technology into teaching practices.
It is well documented that instructional coaches need to build a relationship of trust, openness and rapport before engaging in instructional coaching work. Once a solid foundation is developed, instructional coaches should consider utilizing techniques from motivational interviewing to help increase teacher motivation for change. Motivational interviewing is a collaborative counseling framework which focuses on supporting self-efficacy, resolving ambivalence, and increasing motivation for change (https://motivationalinterviewing.org/understanding-motivational-interviewing). Motivational interviewing is commonly used with patients and clients in healthcare settings, but this counseling framework could also be impactful if used in instructional coaching practices.
One commonly used tool in motivational interviewing is a cost-benefit analysis. An instructional technology coach can use this tool to discuss the benefits and costs (or pros and cons) of making or not making changes (i.e. exploring/incorporating unfamiliar digital tools). The coach would focus on reasons for making changes and the teacher would explore resolving their ambivalence to change.
Another counseling technique used in motivational interviewing is Change Rulers, which measure on a scale of 0-10 confidence, importance, and readiness to make certain changes.
Lyons et al. (2017) conducted a study on motivational interviewing skills training with instructional coaches. Results of the study showed that instructional coaches were using conversational techniques that were not consistent with motivational interviewing, including questioning and “attempts to persuade without permission.” The researchers concluded by stating that the techniques relied upon by the instructional coaches interviewed were associated with decreased self-efficacy and did not increase motivation for change.
Motivational interviewing techniques should be considered as additions to the instructional technology coach’s toolbox to use in their work with educators to explore motivation to investigate unfamiliar digital instructional tools. A cost-benefit analysis can be used to explore reasons for change, and people often realize that there are more benefits to making changes than not. A change ruler can be quite effective in increasing confidence or understanding the importance of making a change. Both tools are easy to make and use impromptu with just a piece of paper and a pen, but can have lasting impact on increasing motivation for change. An educator’s level of motivation to explore, utilize, and implement new digital technology in their teaching practices is essential to model 21st century skills to their students and to keep current in a digital age.
Author unknown. (2016). 21st century skills. https://www.edglossary.org/21st-century-skills/
Author unknown. Understanding motivational interviewing. (2019). https://motivationalinterviewing.org/understanding-motivational-interviewing
Bakhshaei, M., Hardy, A., Francisco, A., Noakes, S., and Fusco, J. (2018). Fostering powerful use of technology through instructional coaching. https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/DLP_CoachingReport_2018.pdf
Cahapay, M. (2020). A reconceptualization of learning space as schools reopen amid and after COVID-19 pandemic. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 269-276.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2021). https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-coaches
Lyons, M.D.,Jones, S.J., Smith, B.J., McQuillin, S.D., Richardson, G., Reid, E., McClellan, A. (2017). Motivation coach training for instructional coaches: A pilot study of motivational interviewing skills training. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25(5), 548-565.
Sharma, L., Srivastava, M. (2019). Teachers’ motivation to adopt technology in higher education. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, DOI:10.1108/JARHE-07-2018-0156
Sheldon, S. (2019). Learner autonomy. Going it alone. https://www.eapfoundation.com/studyskills/autonomy/