The iFLT Conference has made it a priority to provide professional development that includes presentations, training and coaching opportunities. It is vital that our students receive copious amounts of comprehensible input in order to acquire language, so, it is also critical that teachers are properly trained in how to provide it. Coaching is a necessary part of that training and has been an integral part of every iFLT since the first conference in Los Alamitos, California in 2010. Acquisition-Driven Instruction (ADI) is simple in nature, but not easy to deliver to students. For teachers, it requires a lot of thinking on their feet and a certain level of skill in the target language. As teachers learn about and begin to use ADI, they find it very challenging to sustain. The coaching component is provided at the conference as a way to give teachers simulated opportunities to practice using CI and the strategies associated with it.
A NEW MODEL
At iFLT 2018 in Cincinnati a new training model was implemented. In a small-group setting, trainers and coaches were embedded in cohorts of teachers at similar levels of experience and expertise in ADI. It was so well-received by both participants and leaders that the model has been expanded to all tracks for 2019. By working together, the participants leave stronger in their capacity to self-reflect and self-correct. This year every Beginning and Intermediate participant will be in a cohort, where training and coaching are intertwined for the best possible growth experience for each participant.
The coaching that attendees will experience is different from the former model. Coaching has evolved over the years. Before, during and after every conference, the coaching teams have analyzed and reflected on what worked and what needed to be improved. They discovered that many teachers have difficulty actually keeping the target language that they use in the classroom comprehensible to students. They also began to discuss problems of practice associated with teaching teachers how to use ADI in the classroom. From these discussions, the coaching concept currently used at the conference has been developed.
KEEPING IT POSITIVE
When coaching was new, coaches spent a lot of time instructing and correcting. They began to see a lot of frustration among the teachers being coached. Some teachers liked the hands-on approach, but most did not. In addition, teachers did not seem to improve with the critiques that were provided. Since then, there have been continual refinements, especially by helping teachers reflect on what they need, specifically, to grow so that they can be as independent as possible as they continue to learn the skills of ADI. Coaches have come to understand how important it is for teachers to spend time analyzing their own needs and developing their own skills.
In the latest coaching model, there are 4 clearly defined roles. There is one pre-determined “coach”, one demonstrating “teacher”, several “students” (teachers who are pretending to be language learners) and several “observers”, other teachers who watch the entire process. Although we encourage all teachers to volunteer to demonstrate and practice with our coaching model, not every teacher chooses to participate as the “teacher-demonstrator”. However, all participants engage in the coaching model. The coaching model focuses on a positive-notice approach. Teachers start by demonstrating for 2-3 minutes without interruption, some aspect of what they do in the classroom. This lets them discover resolutions to problems that arise. However, the coach is always there if needed for more direct involvement.
CONNECTION AND COMPREHENSIBILITY
Everyone in the coaching circle is guided to look for the two most critical aspects in the classroom necessary for language acquisition – connection with the students and comprehensibility of the input. Before the teaching demonstration begins, the coach reminds each participant of his or her role in the simulation and asks each one to look for connection and comprehensibility through the lens of a “student” or an “observer”. While the demonstration is taking place, the “observers”, and the “students” to some extent, have the opportunity to think about what they would do in a similar teaching situation. At the end of the teaching demonstration, everyone is asked to share what the “teacher” did to connect the “students” to the “teacher”, each other and the content. Then, we ask the “students” and the “observers” how the “teacher” made the language comprehensible. As the “coach” facilitates the positive-notice feedback from the “students” and the “observers”, all participants are reminded of the basic principles of ADI and also have an opportunity to inform their own practice. Coaching is a dynamic part of ADI presentations that pushes all participants forward on their journey toward success. Because much of what we do involves volunteers, all participants are asked to fill out a survey, our only metric, to evaluate the coaching experience. We simply want to provide an opportunity for teachers to improve their practice in a safe environment with the support of their peers. This coaching model is used at conferences, localized presentations, department meetings and regional support sessions for ADI.
Listen to what Kristy Placido, iFLT Cohort Leader, has to say about her experiences with the new coaching model: https://youtu.be/FJ4U-FH820g?t=1797
NEW CHALLENGES FOR EXPERIENCED TEACHERS
Another aspect of iFLT, is the opportunity for experienced ADI practitioners, who have integrated CI strategies into their teaching, to help their colleagues who are starting out with ADI. We instruct on specific coaching techniques that coach-teachers can utilize when they return home to work with their departments. The workshop, integrated into the Experienced Track this year, is called Coaching Colleagues towards Success (formerly known as Coaching for Coaches, C4C). Participants learn the philosophy of coaching practiced at the conference. Coaching is modeled and practiced. Most importantly, teachers and department leaders walk away with the structure and practice that they need to feel confident returning to their schools to facilitate coaching in their schools as well as in regional support groups. These kinds of experiences can build a foundation of trust among teachers and improve collegial inquiry. The attendees at C4C have been given an opportunity to participate in a leadership position that will impact generations of future language learners. This coaching pyramid has resulted in many teachers understanding and being able to apply the principles of language acquisition in their classrooms, which has ultimately led to improved student learning.
We hope to see many of you this July at iFLT and we look forward to growing together with you!
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