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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Deeper Learning: The Coaching Model

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Today's post is from Brandon Wiley from the Asia Society International Studies School Network (ISSN). Brandon describes the ISSN approach to coaching teachers towards deeper learning for their students using the SAGE strategy.

  • Does your school using a coaching model as part of professional development?
  • What coaching strategies do you use?
  • Have you been a coach or a teacher who as been coached? What was your experience with coaching?

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Coaching Teachers to Deeper Learning with SAGE Advice


Brandon Wiley is director of the International Studies Schools Network.

Why do we need to know this? Is this going to be on the test?

Do these questions or questions like these sound familiar? Why does learning in many schools around the United States still looks very traditional, lacking the rigor and purposefulness required to prepare students for the 21st Century? Understanding exactly how to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions students must possess to be successful in the 21st century has become a common discussion point in many schools across the United States and abroad. We express a desire to help our students become better problem-solvers, to be collaborative and to think critically. The truth is, as I reflect on my own time as an elementary and middle school teacher, I wonder sometimes if my instruction truly allowed for students to engage in deeper learning.

Instruction that embodies the characteristics of deeper learning certainly can answer the two questions posed above. Developing instruction that engages students with an issue of local or global significance, provides them an opportunity to apply content knowledge in a meaningful way and allows multiple opportunities for reflection, refinement and self-assessment all serve as ways to engage students in deeper learning. To make this all possible though, it's important to help coach and support teachers as they plan and instruct.

Since 2003, Asia Society has worked in partnership with school districts and charter authorities to create the International Studies School Network (ISSN), a national network of over thirty design-driven schools serving urban, suburban and rural communities in seven states. The mission of each ISSN school is to create an environment for learning and development in which every student is prepared to succeed in college or other post-secondary education and to develop global competence. Global competence is best defined as a student's capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Instruction that supports the development of globally competent student provides multiple opportunities to investigate the world, recognize and weigh diverse perspectives, communicate ideas and take action.

The core learning approach within each ISSN school is the Graduation Performance System (GPS), which provides clear criteria and a reliable process for students to produce work that demonstrates college readiness and global competence. In a practical sense, the GPS is an iterative process of helping teachers to plan rigorous performance-based learning tasks, deliver targeted instruction and assess student learning in an authentic way. It provides an opportunity for both the teacher and student to receive feedback, while reflecting on the learning experience. When working with teachers, coaching and support is necessary to help them in understanding how to create learning tasks that embody the elements of deeper learning. One strategy we have used to help guide their thinking is to ask them to reflect on the SAGE elements of a learning task:

Student Choice: The task calls on students to plan and assess their work over time through reflection. During the task, students are asked to make key decisions about the direction of their work, focus, and presentation. To support this, the task provides opportunities for teachers to deliver formative and summative feedback to the students throughout the learning process.

Authentic Context: The task provides an experience that resembles what adults do in the real-world. This requires students to communicate, collaborate, think critically, be creative, negotiate with other people, and use digital media in ways that support knowledge building.

Global Significance: The task fosters the capacity and dispositions to understand and act on issues of global significance. Ideally, the task stimulates students to build knowledge that is cross disciplinary.

Exhibition to an Audience: The task provides students with opportunities to showcase or present their work to an appropriate/relevant audience beyond the teacher and classroom. Students are provided opportunities to discuss their work and receive feedback that holds them accountable for their claims.

By helping teachers to identify explicit ways in which the SAGE elements can be developed in a learning task, strategic coaching has assisted them in thinking more deeply about the learning experience they are providing for students. These elements help ensure that students are more engaged in their learning, while giving them a purposeful way to apply 21st century skills. This coaching strategy is but one way we have attempted to help our schools ensure that students are engaged in deeper learning throughout the course of their school year.

For more information about global competence or structures that promote globally-focused instruction, you can download a free copy of the book, Educating for Global Competence by Veronica Boix-Mansilla and Tony Jackson. The book was written and produced through collaboration between Asia Society and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) EdSteps Global Competence Task Force.

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Jared Cosulich's picture
Jared Cosulich
Founder, Upside Down Academy - http://upsidedownacademy.org

If anyone is interested, I'm creating Upside Down Academy so that it is much easier to have the students engage in lessons that leverage the SAGE elements.

Students take what ever they are learning and try to create a lesson that will make it easier or more fun for the next student to learn the same thing.

By creating lessons students have "Student Choice" in that they can be creative about how they approach the lesson. Is it a video, a song, a diagram, a tip, etc.

By creating lessons students are provided with "Authentic Context" in that they get to play the role of the teacher and do their best to come up with a way to help teach the next person.

Teachers can let the students know that the lessons they are creating will be available for students all over the world to learn from, providing some degree of "Global Significance".

Each lesson has a comments sections that allows the students to get feedback from each other and from other people in the Upside Down Academy community. This provides the students a sense of giving an "Exhibition to an Audience".

We're just getting started with the project, but would love to talk to any educators that would be willing to have their students create lessons to post on the site to see how effective these theories are in practice.

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