by Lynne Brehm, Rooted in Relationships (Nebraska Children and Families Foundation) and Melody Hobson, Office of Early Childhood Education (Nebraska Department of Education)
“Coaching is an evidence-based adult learning strategy used for interacting with parents and other care providers to recognize what they are already doing that works to support child learning and development as well as building upon existing or new ideas” (Sheldon and Rush 2008).
Collaboration has been occurring for many years to align existing coaching systems so that early childhood (EC) programs receive streamlined services, financial resources are used efficiently, and coaches maintain a high degree of skill.
In 2016, the Coach Collaboration Team was formed in response to rapid growth of coaching initiatives and the need for a mechanism to coordinate and collaborate. This team is comprised of representatives from multiple coaching initiatives across the state who meet quarterly. The Coach Collaboration Team continues to work to develop standardized processes for coach training (both initial training of coaches and ongoing support once in practice), improved methods of communication among multiple coaches working in the same program or with the same provider, identification of strategies for reducing coaching overload, and alignment of coaching processes and practices across initiatives. The mission of this team is to encourage the optimal development of young children in Nebraska by supporting high-quality child care, home, and educational environments and experiences through the provision of effective on-site coaching.
The Coach Development Team, a subgroup of the Coach Collaboration Team, coordinates the development of initial and ongoing coach training and support. The Coach Development Team plans a series of Coach Booster Trainings provided twice a year to address ongoing coaching professional development needs identified by coaches via survey. A need for core competencies related to coaching has been identified by multiple entities. The Coach Development Team is the point of contact for these entities to work together, come to agreement, and update Nebraska’s current Early Childhood Integrated Skills and Competencies for Professionals document to include agreed upon early childhood coach competencies. Recently, the Coach Development Team collaborated to create a document describing the various coaching initiatives in the state in response to comments from the early childhood field that there is confusion about initiatives and their various purposes.
In addition to planning/scheduling the various trainings (Early Childhood, Step Up to Quality and Pyramid Coach trainings) collaboratively, partners also collaborate to fund these efforts and share the responsibility of maintaining a list of trained coaches.
In an effort to further the state’s training capacity, a process was developed to train additional trainers. Two coaches agreed to go through this process to become trainers for the two-day Early Childhood Coach Training, thus raising capacity in the state available to provide training.
Rooted in Relationships, Step Up to Quality, and the Munroe-Meyer Institute are collaborating to get all their initiative coaches trained in the Reflective Consultation model. This is a six-month training model with a total of three days of training and ongoing mentoring to achieve Level 2 status with the Erickson Institute in the FAN Model. By understanding the skills of reflection, this will build their coaching capacity and ability to assist child care providers with this practice.
A regional coaching system that could include coach training and support, inclusive of reflective practice, has been a priority for some time. The potential to train and support coaches would increase capacity across initiatives and build sustainability. In 2018, the Nebraska Department of Education began piloting this concept with the hiring of two Early Learning Coach Consultants. One Coach Consultant is located at ESU 6 and the other is at ESU 3. We look forward to the ongoing development of this infrastructure.