Using “I Notice” Statements to Nurture Active Listening and Reflective Questioning skills in the Coaching Partnership.
Entering into a coaching relationship model, such as the one that the PEDALS program employs, can start from an uncomfortable launching point of the hard work of building a relationship between teachers and coaches. In creating a positive learning partnership, feelings of uneasiness and vulnerability can be felt by both coach and teacher. Everyone wants to be respected, feel that their perspective is heard and have their work be valued and validated. Building an effective coaching relationship is enhanced by the use of active listening and reflective questioning skills. The purposeful work of active listening and reflective questioning, that is done with the coaching stance in mind, is supported by using “I notice” statements in the observation interactions between the coach and teacher.
What is an “I notice” statement? They are simply observations of what is being observed in the coaching environment. An example would be “I notice how you stopped your attendance tracking to give child B a smile and a hug when she came over to you.” The statements coaches make about an episode must be observable. This activity typically does not call for making inferences or interpretations of the event. They reflect what is happening in a scenario, not what emotions or value are attached to the observation. While these statements are not based on emotions, they do help build on the goal of relationship building and teamwork because they are more about acknowledging the strength based skills of the teacher, rather than the areas that she may not feel as confident in discussing.
These statements are important because they focus of the power of “noticing” and articulating what is working well in a learning environment. These statements of focusing and describing moments of effectiveness give the teacher words for what they are doing that works. The second part of “I notice” statements deal with the “why it matters” aspect of the reflection. The coach can continue with “That interaction matters because you took the time to “refill her bucket” so to speak, and it is important that children know that there are caring, consistent adults to help them feel loved and safe.” Being able to connect the teacher’s behavior decisions to positive child outcomes is a skill that requires practice and allows for further reflection for both the coach and the teacher.
The next step in the process deals with the “What if” or “I wonder” section of “I notice” statements. The coaches focus in this statement is more about curiosity, rather than judgements. These can include statements such as “I wonder if there is way that you can incorporate a greeting routine into the attendance tracking task so that you are being intentional about addressing all the children attending that day?” No doubt the teacher probably has some ideas that she would like to try and brainstorming together can help create goal setting for future development. These reflective questioning and active listening techniques can help the coaching team focus in on developing observable goals that support children’s emotional growth and development of Social Emotional Learning.