Coaching is not about fixing teachers. It’s about collaborating with teachers. It’s about helping them understand their thinking, having them reflect on their practice, and offering them support when and where they need it.
Throughout the last five years as a learning coach at St. Vrain Valley School District, I’ve seen firsthand how effective coaching can help teachers build their capacity. It’s a powerful process.
So, just like teachers are always working to improve, I’m always looking for ways to elevate my own coaching practice. This led me to artificial intelligence for instructional coaching.
You probably just had the same initial skepticism as me: “What? Teachers talking to computers for instructional coaching?!” Find out why I changed my mind about using AI to improve my coaching.
Exploring artificial intelligence to support instructional coaching
I was first introduced to the AI Coach platform when my district was one of the first in the nation to pilot it last school year. I was very familiar with the technology already from our district’s extensive work with video coaching, but the idea of using artificial intelligence for coaching was brand new.
The platform guides teachers through self-directed coaching cycles focused on specific areas of instructional practices, such as managing student behavior or strengthening positive teacher-student relationships. During the cycle, teachers reflect on video footage of their classroom teaching and develop goals for improvement, all while receiving tips for how to observe themselves from a virtual coach.
I was intrigued by the idea of this new technology, but still had questions.
Would this take away from the personal connection and rapport that are central to my coaching? And, how would this fit into the coaching I was already delivering?
Understanding how AI coaching works
Like with any new technology, I wanted to test it and learn how it worked before I recommended it to teachers. And, I wanted to do so using the platform as a teacher would. This would allow me to understand how the platform could help (or not help) teachers.
I started by uploading a video of myself modeling a lesson for a new teacher. The virtual coach, who is named Edie, then prepped me on what to do as we worked through the Analyze, Reflect, Enact, and Impact phases of the coaching cycle. I have to say, the coach was even a little sassy at times by sharing funny memes in the chat—it kept me on my toes and made me laugh!
For this video, I decided to concentrate on student-to-teacher talk ratio. The virtual coach gave me questions to think about as I watched my video and added comments: Was I doing the majority of the talking during the model lesson? Was I giving students enough time to converse and have their voices heard?
The AI-powered coach prompted me to reflect on these comments and my overall instructional practice as I devised a concrete plan for improvement. At that point, I left my conversation with the virtual coach and put that plan into action in a classroom. Afterward, I was to come back to let the virtual coach know the impact those instructional changes had on student learning.
Throughout each phase of the coaching cycle, I was impressed by balance between facilitative coaching to guide my thinking and, when I asked for help, explicit guidance. Just like with in-person coaching, this is paramount to engaging teachers in the professional learning process by ensuring that they are directing their own learning.
Delivering more coaching with artificial intelligence
Beyond the emphasis on self-reflection, I was really impressed by the platform’s flexibility. It provides educators a vehicle to engage in a coaching cycle on their own time. This coaching cycle is going to be a great pairing with our existing in-person coaching cycles. After I leave an in-person visit, it’s so easy for teachers to let their goals fall to the wayside with everything on their plates.
I see how this platform will support teachers to keep their goals at the forefront of their professional learning. It also allows them to continue to work toward those goals in between our in-person coaching sessions. The data gathered by teachers as part of this process will be valuable for building a portfolio of their professional growth throughout the year, too.
Today, the platform is being used with approximately 125 teachers across St. Vrain and it is becoming an ingrained part of my coaching repertoire. Looking ahead, I am working to create and implement a professional development course that, in part, would allow teachers to earn credit for using the platform as part of their self-reflection.
While I understand the thought of AI coaching might be hard to wrap your head and heart around at first, I encourage coaches and teachers to give it a try. Any educator is allowed to try it out, actually. See how it complements the in-person coaching you’re already delivering. See how increased self-reflection helps teachers more quickly reach their instructional goals. And, see how, in turn, students benefit.
One of my mantras is “everyone needs a coach,” and AI coaching enables more coaching to take place, which is a benefit to all.