The mission of the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING is to transform good teachers into great teachers. This transformation occurs through a program in which proven educators receive coaching and mentoring to achieve the highest levels of teaching excellence.
The ART of TEACHING’s primary strategy to accomplish our mission involves an intensive two-year mentor/fellowship program. Each year, the foundation accepts new schools into the growing ART of TEACHING network, accepting a handful of teachers within the school as fellows and giving them a full-time mentor and useful resources for studying and perfecting their craft.
The ART of TEACHING program was designed for teachers who are often ignored by the school system because they are so effective and do not require intervention. It is designed to enable those with the most potential to become the very best in their profession. The ART of TEACHING promotes excellence because excellence in teaching is what every child needs.
As a new mentor my biggest concern was, how am I going to be able to manage seven fellows and meet all of their needs, but Cotsen gives you the tools and resources we will need to be successful. I feel that the new mentor academy was fantastic. It gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet and learn some important tidbits about what is expected. This is going to be a fabulous two years.
The ART of TEACHING combines a number of components to produce powerful professional growth and development.
Cotsen fellows are the central focus of the ART of TEACHING. They are already good teachers who strive to become excellent by focusing on one content area for the two-year fellowship. They are supported throughout the process by their mentor in setting goals, learning and refining new pedagogy, and reflecting on their teaching. Fellows observe great teachers to gain new vision and inspiration. They attend relevant professional development and conferences and return to their classroom to try out new ideas with the help of the non-evaluative mentor. The fellows at each school gather together monthly with their mentor in an inquiry group to study teaching more deeply and build a community of learners.
Mentors meet on average from one and a half to two hours a week with each fellow in lesson observations and in individual planning and debrief sessions. Mentors collect data during lesson observations and accompany fellows on observations of exceptional teachers and attend trainings and conferences with their fellows. Mentors then support fellows in their reflections and implementation of new practices they have learned from these experiences into their classroom. Additionally, mentors organize and facilitate monthly inquiry group meetings at which the cohort studies teaching and learning together. Mentors also participate in the recruitment of new fellow and mentors by conducting lesson observations and candidate interviews.
Read More on the Day in the Life of a Mentor
Sharing and collaborating with colleagues is a powerful learning tool for teachers to strengthen their teaching pedagogy and craft. The Cotsen mentor facilitates a monthly inquiry meeting where together with Cotsen fellows’ they study teaching approaches and impacts these approaches have on student learning. The choice of study for inquiry meeting is established by the Cotsen fellows and topics of study vary widely from Cotsen school to Cotsen school. This approach enables Cotsen fellows to investigate their wonderings in a deliberate fashion. Examples include reading and discussing professional texts, looking at student work to plan instruction, conducting action research, participating in common lesson planning, and critiquing teaching videos, among others.
The Coaching Cycle
The primary method in which the mentor supports the fellow in their growth is through a weekly coaching cycle: plan, observe, debrief, and reflect. Mentors and fellows should expect to spend, at a minimum, two hours per week in this critical piece of the fellowship. This time is driven by the goals chosen by the fellow in the content area of strength. Moving through the coaching cycle offers the mentor and fellow an opportunity to intentionally follow a line of inquiry about practice through multiple phases: planning, teaching, debriefing and reflecting on student outcomes. The mentor and fellow act as experimenters setting hypotheses during the planning phase, testing during the observation, analyzing the results during the debriefing and reflecting on the whole process.
The Cotsen Foundation supports teaching for understanding and engagement. To accomplish this goal, the ART of TEACHING has adopted literacy and mathematics approaches that immerse learners in the practices of the discipline facilitated by the teacher.
For literacy instruction, the Foundation has adopted Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop along with Balanced Literacy. In this model, teachers engage students through short explicit lessons, individualized instruction in frequent conferencing, choice, structures for student interaction, and long periods of time for reading or writing.
The mathematics approach to teaching for understanding is Cognitively Guided Instruction, a research- based approach developed at the University of Wisconsin. Teachers start with what students know and provide time for students to develop their own solutions to problems posed. They help students advance their understanding through thoughtful questioning and frequent opportunities to explain their thinking to a partner or the entire class.
As instructional leaders, principals play a pivotal role in the ART of TEACHING. Principals work to create conditions at their school sites that nurture the development of their teachers and impacts the quality, consistency, and pervasiveness of the instructional programs students receive. The ART of TEACHING supports principals through collaborative learning environments in which principals receive the same opportunities mentors and fellows receive to observe great teaching, read professional books, and attend professional development workshops and conferences.
Through this powerful network, principals engage in a dialogue with other likeminded educators and administrators about the ART of TEACHING’s impact on their school’s culture and communications. This network serves as a platform for principals to share their experiences and help each other grow.