Gain expertise with i-coaches

Doing an occasional ICT course? Or getting help and advice from a colleague who knows a lot about ICT? Matthijs van Setten, teacher and ICT coordinator at the Markland College, swears by the latter option. He explains what i-coaches do.

Can you explain what an i-coach is?

“I-coaches are teachers who help their colleagues on the use of ICT in the classroom. They offer coaching to individual teachers, at their request or in response to a round of discussions among teachers and sometimes they provide coaching and training to teachers. On top of this, they advise the school management on the use of ICT within the educational system.”

Why did you start i-coaching?

“Coaching and consultancy were already commonplace in our school. Every teacher can take a coaching course and senior teachers are expected to be proficient at it. When we started looking at how to professionalise the use of ICT and how to differentiate the classes, we often received the same feedback. ‘The training is good, but the questions come once the trainer has left.’ That is how we came to realise we needed more expertise inside the school.”

How did you approach this?

“We set up a training programme for i-coaches with an external coach who had previously also been involved with the school. So as not to run into the same problem that we were trying to solve while training the coaches, the trainer decided to work together with me in my role of coordinator of the ICT work group. That is how we ended up with an i-coach on our staff.”

Who is eligible to become an i-coach at your school?

“Basically, anyone can become an i-coach, but there isn’t always enough staff available to make time for everyone who wants to become an i-coach. The goal is to have an equal representation of i-coaches spread across the grades. For this reason, some i-coaches have signed themselves up, while others have been asked to sign up. We know that one coach for every ten teachers or a minimum of one coach per department is the ideal situation.”

What is the work pressure for an i-coach?

“It takes a lot of time to properly support colleagues. Especially as they are very accessible, colleagues will often approach them. The i-coaches only have one hour for their coaching duties, so it can be quite demanding.”

Would you recommend it to other schools?

“Definitely. Acquiring that expertise ensures a much stronger continuous curricular strand. In addition, it also helps generate support for any innovations.”

How does it affect the students?

“The students have noticed that changes are taking place. I hear from the students that, for example, apps are being used in the classroom of which I know that they’ve only recently been discussed in the training sessions.”

It sounds like a success. What does a school need to do to organise this themselves?

“As a school, you need to have a clear vision on ICT and education, whereby the development of teachers plays a key role. You need to have sufficient staff and there must be a training budget for the coaches. There also needs to be sufficient support for the work they do. Make it known that you fully support the i-coaches.”

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