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Launching a Virtual PLC for Instructional Coaches

By Kristen Moreland & Julia Dennis

Pick up almost any book written about instructional coaching, and there is most likely a page or a chapter calling for more professional learning for the coach. In some systems, this is can be arranged without too much difficulty; coaches in the same district or area can gather on a consistent basis to deepen their understanding of content standards, dive into relevant data, hone their facilitation skills, and benefit from the wisdom and experience of colleagues who might have insight into the “problems of practice” faced by a coach. Kristen was fortunate enough to have participated in such a community in the United States; the power of this type of collaboration nurtured her development as a coach.
But when you are working in isolation, with the closest coach being a city or country away, how does collaboration in the international school community take place across time zones and geographic boundaries? Through the internet, of course.
In the Association for American Schools in South America (AASSA) region, coaches have been provided several training opportunities to deepen their practice, such as workshops on Student-Centered Coaching (led by Diane Sweeney), Cognitive Coaching, and a variety of other sessions offered during the AASSA annual conference.
Yet, just as we know that teachers need coaching support after a PD to make changes in their practice, coaches, too, need this ongoing support to keep their skills sharp in order to be able to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s teachers. This was the inspiration for the creation of an AASSA Coaches Virtual PLC. Our goal is simple: provide a space where coaches can virtually connect to continue to deepen and expand their knowledge and application of coaching principles and techniques.
An initial interest survey sent to coaches across Central and South America revealed two major desires: networking and refinement of practice. To provide coaches the opportunity to network with other coaches in the region, a website was developed with a directory that coaches can use to reach out to others who work in similar capacities. In order to provide a platform for coaches to refine their practices and dialogue around techniques, six smaller break-out groups were developed. The areas of focus of these groups are as follows:
• Coaching Labs: Many coaches in the region have been trained in Student-Centered Coaching and/or Cognitive Coaching. These practices are incredibly nuanced and change based on the context. It is one thing to attend a training and an entirely different experience to continue to be supported as one grows and develops in these areas. To meet this need, three different groups were created, differentiated by grade level, where lab “hosts” can submit a video to be viewed by other coaches, receiving feedback around a focal point determined by the host.
• Problem of Practice: A “host” submits a more global “dilemma” s/he is facing (something that is not necessarily specific to a content or grade level or technique) in order to receive different perspectives that offer new insights into ways of approaching the situation. Members follow a protocol to identify the different facets of the problem and propose solutions.
• Article Discussion: This group is for coaches who are looking for new ideas to apply to their current coaching situations. Coaches read a shared text and provide comments and connections regarding salient points via a virtual discussion log document. The objective of this group is to stimulate thinking while holding space for meta-cognition around individual situations.
The PLC officially launched in October with 31 coaches participating in the six groups, and we continue to have more coaches reaching out on a regular basis looking to join our community. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, in which learning from this new endeavor will be shared.
Want to be a part of this community? Connect with Kristen:
[email protected]
Kristen Moreland is an Instructional Coach at the Pan American School of Porto Alegre.
Julia Dennis is an Instructional Coach at the American School Foundation of Monterrey.

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