Who do we learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?

Last week I had the opportunity to work with Damian Cooper, author of Redefining Fair: How to Plan, Assess and Grade for Excellence in Mixed-Ability Classroom.

It is interesting how my professional practice has changed from being a young teacher in the 1990s wondering why we were starting to talk about “assessment” at all, to my thinking now where I look at Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment AS Learning as being the most critical thing we can do to improve and enhance student learning.

Damian had us consider consider “Five Imperatives” that should guide teachers’ work:

  1. Curriculum must be meaningful, coherent and relevant
  2. Instruction must be responsive to students’ needs
  3. Assessment must be informative
  4. Grading must blend consistency with professional judgment
  5. Communication about learning must be truthful and transparent


One comment that really stuck out that he shared was:

If our assessment practices do not demand THINKING on the part of students, they are probably a waste of time…


He went on to explain by asking this phenomenal question:

“Who do kids learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?”


To me, this was a 10.0 comment! Is it the number at the end that the judge gives me on my performance that I learned from? Or, if thinking about professional sports players, is it the hours of video watched and critiqued, the work with the coach to improve, the formative feedback from coaches and teammates, the intent to improve their abilities and skills, and the discussions before, during, and after the practice or game that make all the difference? Or the score in the end? Without the other stuff, the score will not be affected…

Seems like a pretty easy question, but we need to make sure that we are utilizing this thinking with all of our students.

So, how can we support each other in this work? We, as teachers, need to take the time to talk about assessment and how it looks daily in our classrooms. I can help by ensuring that time and structures are in place to enable teachers to:

  • Collaborate with colleagues to agree upon essential learning
  • Collaborate with colleagues to agree upon the assessment tasks students must produce as evidence of essential learning
  • Communicate clearly to students what comprises critical evidence of essential learning
  • Collaborate to come to an understanding that this work is a major part of learning, and not just an add-on!

After all, this reflective thinking is the whole point in why I create this blog!

As an administrator, I need to ask myself some questions that have come out of this thinking:

  • “Who do TEACHERS learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?”
  • How can we be (learning) coaches, not judges (or just “principals”) for our teachers?
  • If we expect kids to get it wrong the first time… What about us as professionals? Do we encourage and support each other when we do make mistakes?
  • Is this work optional for teachers? Is it part of our teams? Our PLCs? Our own Professional Practice?

Easy questions to ask, harder to implement, but at least we are on the journey!

Damian Cooper can be found at @cooperd1954 on Twitter and more about him can be found at http://damiancooperassessment.com.


5 Responses to Who do we learn more from, the COACH or the JUDGE?

  1. Grade 4 says:

    Team 4:
    Once upon a time there were three teachers discussing children’s books, what constitutes quality in a children’s book, and how to explore conventional and non-conventional story-telling with children. The Battle Bunny writing project Wenzek is looking forward to working on with Mackenzie’s support was discussed in regard to strengths and potential obstacles that may arise during the writing process.
    We looked at ideas concerning famous Albertans and explored the idea of incorporating more obscure personalities from Alberta’s history in the grade 4’s upcoming project. The question as to whether to have the students research these personalities individually or in groups was discussed, and it was decided that, as the children have been involved in much group work lately, it would be beneficial to give them an opportunity for development in their independent research skills.
    We planned for the upcoming S4 visit for each of our classes and made sure we were aware of any planning details that had to be addressed. Planning was also done for sharing each different presentation between children of each of the classrooms.

  2. harjyote and brianna and richard says:

    The grade 3 team is working on the Building unit in science. We have given the students some background information, and through discussion have begun to explore features in homes. We were going to begin building our homes tomorrow, however after further discussion as a team we are instead going to discuss shapes and materials and how they can be load bearing. As well as looking at different ways to fasten materials together to ensure success.
    Richard will be sharing his experience with construction, materials, and shapes with the class and lead them through some discussions and demonstrations exploring these ideas before the students are able to begin building their own homes.

  3. Bryden, Bent & Polok says:

    Grade 5 and Bryden collaboratively planned out the timeline for the remaining Grade 5 Social Studies Unit on Canada: Shaping An Identity. We are using a 3-teacher rotation of mini-lessons to be able to cover the social studies unit curriculum in smaller groups to better support our diverse learners. We also slotted in the remaining two science units: Wetlands and Classroom Chemistry, taking into account our upcoming field trips to the Glenbow Museum and the Weaselhead Wetlands. We wanted to make sure that our students had all the prior background knowledge to be able to get the most from their off-site experiences.

  4. Grade Two Team says:

    This week the grade two team has been busy planning for our final units in social and science. We will be examining the Acadians and small flying and crawling insects. As a grade team we met with our Literacy support teacher to review our literacy plans and develop a method to ensure our struggling students are receiving extra support that they need. We examined some of our writing and tried to determine how we could create a rubric that incorporates the ideas of students and the expectations for their final project. As a group we have been examining math and have been working to build connection between topics. We also got a calendar for each of us with our plans for the rest of the year highlighted to assist in keeping everyone on track. We looked at character education and set-aside time for students to work through lessons and projects that focus on building character. We will be continuing to bring student work, examples to our meetings and are hoping to have descriptive pirate paragraphs from students to examine and discuss further at out next meeting.

  5. Jen says:

    Terra, Jessica and I looked at our social and science unit. We are combining Building Things and My Community. Students are investigating the purpose of services within a community and eventually work together to build a community of their own with recyclable materials.

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