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The office of Head Start (OHS) — Coaching Companion Suites

The Coaching Companion is an online tool that helps teachers, coaches, and education managers collaborate to develop individualized coaching plans that support quality teaching and positive outcomes for children. The Coaching Companion helps coaches and teachers, or peer-coaching teams, work together, even between coach visits or remotely.

As a companion to the main App, the suite also includes the Video Glossary tablet application for the coach. The app contains a video library of best practices that can be downloaded within the app as part of the one-on-one trainings with teachers.

The main framework The Coaching Companion is based on the well-known practice-based coaching (PBC) framework: Shared Goals and Action Planning, Focused Observation, and Reflection and Feedback. So it is one of the requirements that is necessary to be integrated in the framework within the App.
Start with Features Goals

In the beginning, our brief was to develop the app based on academic literature and research. We believed that this strategy did not have the best interest of the app’s users in mind. By looking at other previous attempts by the same client, many apps were abandoned because they did not match their real-world usage. Nor did they have a user-centric design.

So in order to make a useful, long-lasting app, we needed to design one that met the needs of the users with more intuitive UX/UI, while keeping the client’s vision alive.

What does it mean help a coach?

After our research, we found that evidence-based practice is the core to users’ needs. In order to implement that, being able to point out exactly where teachers were doing well or needed improvement was the key to PBC. The easy part was the Focused Observation step, which required a video taking function and annotation for Reflection and Feedback.

However, in the framework, there were no clear starting points. After we went back to the client and users, we found there was another step before the framework called Needs Assessments. Here, we used the initiator of a coaching cycle as well as the main tracker of the whole process. Then the coaches could setup Shared Goals and Action Planning and share with the teachers.

Bootstrapping There is no point of reinventing the wheel, so we decided to look at other apps in the market that serves similar functions of ticketing system, progress report, and video annotation combined. By evaluating the interaction of other apps, we cut our research and development time significantly. At the same time, we also made sure we fulfilled the users’ need and behaviors while reducing the pain-points.
Video Glossary app Starting as a separate app, OHS contacted us to build the video searching app that contained the best early learning practices, based on the academic research. We thought that it would be helpful to add this function to the Coaching Companion app that we worked on, since one of the most requested features were examples of best practices in the classroom.
Share via API

OHS also thought it was a great idea. However, only certain roles that had the knowledge of practices were allowed the access to the VG app. It was due to the complexity of practices and the risk of misunderstanding the content.

The solution was to share the user database, which tracked their access to both Coaching Companion and Video Glossary. The coach could then allow certain videos to be shared with teachers, which attached to Reflection and Feedback. The coach could also collect video playlists offline to show teachers in their face-to-face meetings, in case the school had limited access to the Internet.

The Impact The app was well received by both coaches and teachers. Outside of OHS, it gained traction in the academic world as well. Currently, University of Washington forked the Coaching Companion portion to use in their educational outreach (UWEO) courses. The app was also adopted by State of Washington’s Early Achievers program, as well as EarlyEdU Alliance, which is a multi-university project funded by OHS and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At the moment, there are more than 19 universities and colleges countrywide using the app as part of their on-going curriculums.
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