- Prior to the pandemic, literacy coach Kimberly Blumke developed a robust virtual professional development program to serve teachers in 10 rural Michigan districts, she writes for Edutopia. She later used that background as a foundation last fall to launch a remote coaching program that provides teachers flexibility and resources.
- Video is the cornerstone of the program, Blumke said, noting that she likes the video platform Sibme, which lets educators record themselves, critique their own teaching and gain a different perspective. They can then upload, edit, annotate and share the video with a coach, who will respond with annotations.
- Video platforms allow for asynchronous collaboration between the coach and teacher. Blumke then follows up with a Zoom meeting that has a specific agenda centered around what needs to be accomplished, using a Google Doc coaching summary form to keep track of the meetings, dates, times and highlights of the conversation, as well as next steps and resources.
Professional development for educators adapted to the new normal — and it could be a change that’s here to stay. Closures due to the pandemic gave the concept of remote professional development a jumpstart. Now the ease, flexibility and access of virtual coaching could become the norm even after the public health crisis ends. In-person training is still considered the gold standard, but the remote option is especially valuable to expand opportunities for those living in rural areas.
Pre-pandemic, a common complaint was that PD offerings often lacked relevancy, required large chunks of time and could involve expensive travel. Research published by the Economic Policy Institute in 2019 reported teachers felt there was limited access to effective PD opportunities.
Instructional coaches of all types customized their offerings to meet teachers’ needs, and in some cases the needs of families, as well. For example, ed tech coaches created virtual office hours for teachers, made presentations on how to use learning management systems and collaborated to solve problems.
Professional learning communities that connect networks of teachers to exchange ideas and feedback are evolving. The PLCs aren’t new, but became more intentional and specific to problem-solving in 2020 when the pandemic shut down school buildings.