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Mentor and Coach Data Gathering

by Julie Sausen

Observation is an essential component for the beginning teacher's professional growth. After a well-planned observation, the mentor or coach can guide the beginning educator to improved teaching through analyzing the data observed and through careful reflection of that analysis. It is the collection of data gathered during the observation and the analysis of that data that is key to a successful observation that can lead to professional growth. The instruments used to collect information in the observation will determine how the data is analyzed—instruments can focus on specific content areas, classroom management issues, instruction and interaction, and student engagement in classroom activities (Gold and Roth 1999).

COLLECTING DATA

Collecting appropriate data that matches the observation elements set in the pre-observation planning conference is important to the beginning teacher. This data is used to determine which instructional strategies are going well and what improvements can be made in the beginning teacher's practice. If data collected is not focused on what was determined in the pre-observation planning conference, then it becomes irrelevant to the beginning teacher. Obscure data that floats all over the board does not accurately depict where a beginning teacher needs to focus his/her energies. Factors such as sickness, student behaviors because of a field trip, change in schedule, etc., could affect the outcome of the lesson. This is why it is crucial to find out what type of lesson is being taught and what factors might inhibit the lesson.

Ten Data Gathering Techniques
Scripting
"Mentors need to be unbiased recorders of the events that occur in a classroom. Scripting involves taking notes that represent a script of classroom interactions. Mentors sit in a location in the classroom that provides them with a good view of the students and the teacher and write down what they hear" (Pitton 2000, 96).
Proximity Analysis
"The goal is to capture the teacher's movement in the classroom, indicated by an arrow and/or line. The mentor can include an indicator of where the teacher stops during the lesson by numbering the stops, or perhaps by noting the time for each pause in teacher movement" (Pitton 2000, 107).
Anecdotal Record
"The anecdotal record is a form of scripting that allows the observer to note events that occur at particular times during the lesson and includes a place for comments so that interpretations might be captured and set aside for later discussion with the mentee" (Pitton 2000, 98).
Verbal Flow
"Looking at the verbal flow in the classroom allows mentors to gather evidence of the way teachers and students engage in conversation during the lesson. This is an especially useful tool to use class discussion, when mentees are working to involve all students in the conversation" (Pitton 2000, 109).
Free Writing
"This concept does not attempt to capture specific statements and observations, but rather describes on a paragraph format the overall sequence of events" (Pitton 2000, 100).
Numeric Data
This data can be used when mentees use a word or phrase that could distract student learning. The mentor would count the number of times that word or phrase is spoken in a particular lesson. This method can also be used to track teacher or student behavior (Pitton 2000, 113).
Focused Scripting
"In focused scripting, the observer (mentor) looks for evidence in classroom interactions that support the language and expectations defined in the lens [pre-conference outline]" (Pitton 2000, 100).
Videotaping and Audiotaping
Videotaping and audiotaping mirror exactly what is being said or done in the classroom. This type of data recording should be looked at by both the mentor and mentee because it may overwhelm some beginning teachers (Pitton 2000, 115).
Visual/Auditory Evidence
"The mentors write down what they saw, what they heard, and, if they wish, what they thought" (Pitton 2000, 42).
Portfolio
"The use of a portfolio to document classroom plans, creative units, and classroom management plans can be a very helpful way for beginning teachers to organize this evidence" (Pitton 2000, 115).

ANALYZING DATA

After the data is collected, the next stop in the data-gathering process is data analysis. Analysis of the data is extremely important to the professional growth of the beginning teacher. It is the mentor or coach's responsibility to collect and analyze the data before the post-observation reflection conference. The analysis of the data paints a factual and human picture of the teaching accomplished during an observed lesson. For the beginning teacher, the analyzed data provides the evidence needed to show strengths in teaching practices. The analyzed data is the nonjudgmental, nonthreatening evidence needed to determine areas for improvement, which is where the professional growth journey begins. The analysis of the data also provides the foundation that the beginning teacher needs to develop new goals related to practice.

METHODOLOGY

Mentors and coaches can choose from several methods of observation and data collection, and beginning teachers can choose from several methods for reflection. Varying the tools, methods, and reflections can offer both mentors and protégés a wide variety of data for analyzing teaching strategies. Mentors and coaches can decide with the beginning teacher during the pre-observation planning conference what type of tool is the best choice during observation. The data will help the beginning teacher reflect on and research strengths and weaknesses. The beginning teacher will then be able to set professional growth goals to help improve his/her teaching practice.

REFERENCES

Burke, K. (Ed). (2002). Mentoring guidebook I: Mapping the journey. Arlington Heights, IL: SkyLight Training and Publishing.

Gold, Y. & Roth, R. (1999). The transformational helping professional: A new vision: Mentoring and supervising reconsidered. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Pitton, D. (2000). Mentoring the novice teacher: Fostering a dialogue process. Arlington Heights, IL: SkyLight Training and Publishing.