Originally created by Michael Rohde and made popular with educators by Sylvia Duckworth and Tanny McGregor, sketchnoting is a creative, individualized method of note-taking that uses a mix of words and pictures together to represent meaning. Sketchnoters use images, font, color and artistic elements to document their thinking in personally meaningful ways. Typically, sketchnotes are used to represent thinking on a topic, take personalized notes on a live event, such as a presentation, or demonstrate understanding of a text. This personalized thinking supports increased memory and focus and even promotes relaxation and creativity.
Sketchnoting can support instructional coaching in multiple ways. Coaches can create sketchnotes based on coaching content and share with teachers to spark thinking and reflection. Sketchnoting can be used in professional learning sessions to encourage collaboration around shared topics and viewed videos. Coaches might even invite teachers to reflect on their reading in book studies by sketchnoting their own thinking. Each of these methods invite educators to think deeply about content and their thinking around that content.
I’d like to introduce you to a new form of sketchnoting that specifically invites instructional coaches to sketch coaching pedagogy, not just knowledge of content: sketchtivities. Sketchtivities are living representations of learning design that illustrate coaching pedagogy to empower teacher learning. So, why begin by sketching practices to lead teacher learning rather than simply creating a working agenda or presentation? By sketching an idea for professional learning, rather than simply listing it, we imagine the design in action: the set-up of the room, the materials we need, the ways teachers will interact with each other and the learning that could result in the process. This kind of thinking is almost impossible to do unless we sketch our intended pedagogical practices and develop a deeper understanding of them in the process.
Here's how it works: Begin by gathering pieces of blank paper, colorful sticky notes and markers and an idea that you want to try in your upcoming coaching. This might be an opening activity, a method to promote small group discussions or a reflective activity in a professional learning session. Spend a moment visualizing what the activity might look like in practice: How will teachers be grouped together? What materials should be available? How will teachers interact with each other? What evidence of learning do you expect the activity to produce? After reflecting, start sketching. Don’t worry about how the sketchtivity looks as perfect is not the point. Sketchnotes are meant to be representations of process and learning, something that is messy, complicated and real.
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To truly live as learners, to continuously reflect on our work as coaches and to better re-imagine teaching and learning for teachers, we must live the learning process ourselves. Sketching our coaching practices immerses us in the learning process, prompting us to imagine our work from multiple perspectives: our unique contexts for coaching, the teachers and students we work with, the skills and dispositions we hope to cultivate and the instructional pedagogy we hope to model. By living the learning process through sketchnoting, we can better plan for, design and lead learning experiences that best supports teacher learning and resulting student performance.