- Best practices in professional development are advancing–and AI is taking it to a new level
- Here, one educator shares her experiences with AI-powered teacher coaching
- See related article: 9 big ideas to bolster the teaching profession and boost student learning
Just like educational technology is continually advancing, so are best practices for supporting teachers in classrooms. Professional development needs to be relevant, engaging, and personalized.
Megan Schlagel, a high school math teacher in St. Vrain Valley Schools in Longmont, Colo., is an award-winning educator who is dedicated to the continuous improvement of her teaching practices. As part of this dedication, Schlagel, as well as a number of her colleagues, are turning to innovative new approaches to support their learning. This includes the use of AI-powered teacher coaching via the AI Coach by Edthena platform.
With the platform, teachers like Schlagel engage in personalized coaching cycles to further their development. The platform uses artificial intelligence to guide teachers through a self-coaching cycle aligned to common growth areas as they watch video of their classroom teaching in action.
We recently interviewed Schlagel about the use of this new technology and how her district prioritizes teacher development.
What were your first thoughts when you heard about using AI for professional learning? Why did you decide to try it?
Last year, I was a mentor to a first-year teacher at my school, and my mentee had to record a lesson of her teaching as part of the induction program. I decided to also record myself conducting a similar lesson, so we could go over the lessons together, discuss what works and what doesn’t, and set goals for improvement.
This was my first real introduction to video coaching. Admittedly, even as a mentor teacher, I was nervous to record myself. However, I quickly learned it wasn’t that bad seeing myself on screen and that this was a powerful way to reflect on my practice. My mentee and I both learned a lot.
So, when my district offered a new professional development course that would allow us to try out AI coaching, I signed up. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting into, but I was already benefiting from video coaching and wanted to see what the new AI aspect was all about. At the very least, I knew this opportunity would provide me more time for self-reflection.
How does the AI coaching process work?
During my first time using the AI Coach platform, I uploaded a video of one of my recent algebra lessons. Then, the platform’s computerized coach provided observation tips and asked me a number of questions to consider as I began to analyze my video. This helped me as I made a number of comments on the platform—both about areas I wanted to improve upon and areas I felt I was excelling in—as I watched my teaching play out.
The guidance from the virtual coach helped me think more critically about my practice (…and it also made me laugh – the coach can definitely be funny and sassy at times!).
This helped me set a goal for myself around increasing student discourse. I wanted to encourage my students to talk more in class, and the platform provided me with a number of instructional resources to help me get better at this skill.
At the end of the coaching cycle, after I incorporated these strategies in the classroom, I came back to the platform and reflected on what I learned. I thought about how these new strategies worked and created an action plan for my continued learning in the future.
How has AI-powered coaching impacted your teaching?
What surprised me most about the AI coaching process was that it opened my eyes to different things I could change (and might have missed) about my teaching. I was able to really reflect on how I was teaching and how my students were responding.
Sometimes it can be daunting—or even feel less genuine—when a coach or administrator comes in to conduct a formal observation. You may be worried about how your students are acting or unknowingly teach differently than normal.
But, with the AI Coach process, I feel less pressure because it really is just myself reflecting on my teaching alongside a computerized coach. This gives me more freedom to try out a new instructional strategy or take a risk with how I deliver a lesson, without having the feeling of being evaluated.
Continuous reflection is so important, and I’m a firm believer that the best teachers have to be reflective—if you aren’t reflecting on your practice, you aren’t growing!
How do you and your colleagues plan to use AI Coach by Edthena moving forward?
In addition to supplementing in-person coaching, I think AI coaching will continue to be a great support for mentor and mentee teachers alike.
In chats with my administrative team, I’ve also suggested using the AI Coach platform for our school’s yearly peer observations or self-reflection observations. Traditionally for the self-reflection observation, teachers write a paper detailing their teaching and how it can improve, but I think this type of video-based reflection can be more impactful and feel more genuine. And, it will allow teachers to receive the benefits of ongoing coaching which is really about reflecting inward and trying to constantly improve.
My school and district always do a great job of supporting teachers’ growth and encouraging us to take on new and innovative professional learning opportunities. The use of AI Coach is just another example of this!