In a previous post, I shared some of the main points from an excellent resource for school coaches and leaders, Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation at a Time by Linda G. Cheliotes and Marceta F. Reilly (Corwin, 2010).
In this post, I want to expand on part of that text – the conversation itself – and show how I have applied this knowledge to online spaces.
Here is the passage itself that I am referring to:
In coaching conversations, instead of giving advice, the school leader supports her staff by paraphrasing what is said and asking powerful, open-ended questions that lead to deeper thinking. (p 57)
Instead of trying to commit this quote to memory and then recalling it when I am engaging in discussion with a colleague online, I created this mnemonic device to help me remember this process.
O.W.N. = Observe, Wonder, Next Steps
Each attribute connects with a part of the previous quote. When I make an observation of what someone else says, I am paraphrasing that which was shared. Wondering is synonymous with “asking powerful, open-ended questions”. If I have done the first two steps really well, then it should naturally lead to deeper thinking and next steps in the learning process.
1. I posted a question for everyone to respond to at their leisure (our conversations are asynchronous).
2. One of the participants responded to this line of questions.
3. After others in the community “+1’d” her response, and deservedly so, I responded in the comments of her post using the O.W.N. framework.
Looking back, do you see where I paraphrase what she said (observe) and asked open-ended questions (wonder) to promote deeper thinking (next steps)? Below is an annotated image that breaks down this process.
My observations took up the majority of my response. I think it is important to recognize all the positives we see in objective ways before guiding the learner toward other possibilities. First, any advice I might give may be wrong! Second, this open-ended language gives others in the community the opportunity to chime in and be the expert on the topic, Third and most importantly, the person on the other end of this coaching conversation (Shireen, in this case) is much more likely to be responsive to new ideas. I am not telling her what to do. I am provoking thinking (“When you frame your questions, how do you ensure…”) and offering a new perspective (“…and avoid deterring creative thinking?”).
I feel like this conversation went pretty well, based on her response.
I responded with a brief affirmation, which concluded our conversation.
This is a decent example of a coaching conversation, which could have occurred online or in person. To be honest, I could provide many more examples of what not to do! Sometimes I give advice without asking first (the job of a mentor, not a coach). Other times, my question is too leading to where I think that person should go. This is an additional benefit of the mnemonic device O.W.N. – the acronym itself is a visual reminder that the person on the other end of the conversation should be the one constructing the knowledge and “owning” their learning.
One final advantage of structuring our coaching responses in this way in online spaces is that others in the community start to emulate your language in their own responses. It doesn’t even have to be explicitly stated. People see how you connect with others as the facilitator/coach, how the recipients respond, and then they often follow suite. I encourage you to try this method out in your interactions. Let us know how it goes.