Tuesday, 7 October 2014

CLIL coaching

I have recently been training a group of 15 secondary school teachers from Dutch secondary schools to become CLIL coaches. In three days, we work on CLIL coaching skills, observing teachers and the role and tasks of the CLIL coach at school.

The idea of a CLIL coach - a colleague at your school who supports other CLIL teachers In working on their language and CLIL methodology - is a relatively new one, and so new issues have emerged during the course. We have discussed, for example, issues like:

   What can a CLIL coach do if he or she is asked to coach a "difficult" colleague, or a colleague who doesn't really want to work (any more) in the bilingual stream?

   In which language do coaches want to coach? English or the teacher’s - and often their own - first language? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

   How can teachers approach their school management about the position and facilitation of a CLIL coach at school, in times of economic cut backs in education? In other words, how can they 'sell' the idea that a CLIL coach at their school will improve the quality of teaching and perhaps team feeling, if a school invests in one?

   What are the limits of the CLIL coach's responsibilities? Where do they start and end?

   How can we communicate to our colleagues that the CLIL coach is more than someone who gives feedback on language?
We haven't yet got clear answers to all of these questions, but we are working on them. As a result of these discussions, the group is creating a letter which will go to school management at the end of the CLIL coach course, to clarify to their schools about what a CLIL coach is. This letter will include information about the role and tasks of a CLIL coach. In my next blog, I will share some of these ideas.

The biggest step that my coaches have made is that of realizing that they are guides on the side, that their role is to coach other teachers to find their own solutions to a CLIL challenge or classroom dilemma. And this role demands, for some of them, a set of new skills. A CLIL coach might be a bit more of a CLIL expert than the teachers he or she coaches, but it is not his or her role to give advice or tell someone else what to do.

For trainers who might be interested, I have made thankful use of two classics on mentoring and coaching: Julian Edges's (mine is pretty dog-eared) book, Cooperative Development (1992, Longman) and MentorCourses by Angi Malderez and Caroline Bodsczky  (1999, Cambridge University Press). Ideas from Bateson about reflection form the basis of my coaching model, keeping the teacher and their development centre stage during coaching. Short clips of CLIL teachers from leraar24.nl (this is a Dutch site: search under CLIL skills) provide useful food for discussion about, How would you coach this teacher?, What qualities does this teacher have that you can name?, What does this teacher do really well? What compliments  could you give this teacher about his lesson? 

Key to the course at the start was to create a safe environment where potential coaches feel safe together, through spending time on getting to know each other. We have worked on looking at teachers' qualities and using them during coaching, and helping teachers through active listening. And the coaches have practiced a lot of coaching In threes (teacher, coached and observer) and given feedback to each other about coaching skills.
The next CLIL coach course starts in December.

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