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Empowering Literacy Leadership Through Online Cloud Coaching

By Julie B. Wise
 | Jan 22, 2017

TILE 012017I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed when meeting students’ literacy needs, to lose touch with my family because of long hours at school, and to drop into bed exhausted at the end of every day—I had to take a break from teaching because the stress of being an educator was affecting my health. However, with the innovation of web-based technology, cloud coaching is showing promise as an effective inquiry-based intervention to reduce stress, improve instructional practices, and increase students’ academic performance by creating the conditions for having quality conversations and empowering literacy leadership.

The rise of teacher stress

A recent Pennsylvania State University report found 46% of teachers say they have high levels of stress on a daily basis, which is affecting their health and their ability to teach effectively. Mark Greenberg, a professor of human development and psychology at Penn State, explained the stress is causing “between 30 and 40% of teachers to leave the profession in their first five years,” which costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year to train new teachers. Teacher burnout isn’t plaguing just U.S. schools. A survey of 4,000 teachers in England report 82% of educators felt the workload expected of them was unmanageable and 73% said their health was being affected. As a way to reduce stress and retain teachers, school districts are integrating web-based technology to provide cloud coaching for mentorship, professional development, and instructional support.

What is cloud coaching?

Cloud coaching, also known as virtual or online coaching, uses the Internet and a webcam to create a collaborative partnership between two or more individuals in a digital environment. The coaching takes place through a variety of online platforms that are free, like Skype and Google Hangout, or require a small monthly fee, like Zoom and Gotomeeting. This online coaching experience cultivates leadership skills by engaging a teacher in quality conversations about possibilities, targeting effective instructional methods, and providing implementation support as the teacher takes action to systematize classroom literacy routines. The frequency and structure of cloud coaching is differentiated to meet the needs of each individual teacher.

Examples of cloud coaching

Executive coaching for administrators: Once a month, administrators from a small, rural school district spend one hour individually receiving cloud coaching with Dr. Ray Jorgensen. The focused inquiry process creates a shift in thinking, which allows the administrator to see situations from a different perspective, triggering new ideas and creating the conditions for more effective leadership. 

Content-focused coaching for educators: The University of Pittsburgh has implemented an eight-week online workshop to develop pedagogical knowledge of effective literacy routines. This is followed by one-on-one cloud coaching to support the implementation process. Results suggest cloud coaching has been effective at improving reading comprehension instruction and students’ reading achievement in high-poverty elementary schools.

Literacy leadership for instructional coaches: I provided cloud coaching to instructional coaches who were responsible for designing and conducting school-embedded English Language Arts professional development. Meg Rishel, a K–5 instruction coach, said, “Cloud coaching helped me grow as a literacy leader. I went from talking at teachers to talking with teachers. Additionally, I went from telling what I know to listening to what others know.”

Each coaching session began with a guided inquiry into educators’ successes and challenges as they implement effective literacy routines. After needs were identified, we collaborated to build an action plan that included gathering resources, generating an interactive presentation with open-ended questions that created the conditions for quality conversations among teachers.

Academic coaching for students: Students of all ages receive the same benefits from cloud coaching as their teachers. An 11th-grade student shared, “Before cloud coaching, I rarely thought I was good enough in school, and I would often shut down and stop being productive because of it. Coaching helped me organize the work I was doing and, more important, helped me to be proud of my work and to not limit myself. Now I feel much more capable and motivated to get things done!” Every Sunday I met with students to help them break down their academic workload into manageable chunks, provide feedback on essays, and suggest strategies to improve their study habits.

At a time when school districts may not have the resources to hire a full-time instructional coach or afford ongoing professional development, cloud coaching is an effective and innovative alternative to reduce teacher stress and empower literacy leadership. I learned it’s never too late to ask for help. Engaging in the inquiry-based process of cloud coaching not only improved my effectiveness as a literacy leader but also helped me reduce my stress by creating the conditions for quality conversations and relationships.

Julie B. Wise, an ILA member since 2000, is an international coach and consultant. Her research examines cloud coaching as an inquiry-based intervention to reduce stress so that individuals and organizations can cultivate literacy leadership. You can subscribe to her newsletter to stay up-to-date on mindfulness, literacy, and technology.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).


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