Successful Instructional Coaching

Chapter 2: Instructional Coaching ends with a presentation of seven factors that affect the success of coaching. They are time, the best practices presented, the professional development of the coach, the coaching relationship, the relationship between the principal and the coach, the skills and attributes of the coach, and the evaluation of the coach.

The key ideas in this section are of the importance of having the coach focus on working with teachers to apply best practices that will improve student learning. Care should be taken to provide professional development for the coach so that she learns both how to coach teachers and what teaching practices to coach teachers in. She needs to work closely with the principal to ensure that they have the same perspective on instructional coaching, and on the role of the coach. The evaluation of the coach provides an opportunity for professional learning; involving the coach in developing the process for evaluation can lead to greater buy-in.

I agree that professional development on the why and what of coaching is important. It would be great to share professional development on coaching with other coaches within the same school. I think that it would be useful to have the evaluation of the coach tied to the goals of the program, which is related to the job description, and use the evaluation to create a professional development plan for the coach. The International Society for Technology in Education has developed standards for technology coaches; I’ve used these standards for self evaluation in the past. I would love a process whereby my job description is directly linked with my evaluation and formal support for professional development from my principal.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Instructional Coaching: Explore, Refine and Reflect

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Explore, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll, Identify and Explain, and Model and Observe.

Knight explains that the exploration stage should happen soon after the model and observe stages. The two collaborators should meet very soon after the observation to discuss the observation, using the data for further dialogue. It is important for the instructional coach to highlight the positive aspects of the lesson observed, ensuring that any compliment is genuine and authentic. Knight reminds us that positive feedback should be specific, direct and nonattributive. The explanation given is that vague or attributive compliments do not give a person any new knowledge about what he knows about himself, but a specific, direct, nonattributive compliment highlights a specific act that the person may not even have been aware of the action or impact. The instructional coach also shares her opinion, and should be careful to present it in such a way that it is clear that it’s just one perspective and there are other equally valid points of view. Dialogue is very important here so that both the teacher and instructional coach can learn from the observation and come to agreement about next steps.

The next component is refinement. This component is concerned with customizing the process for the needs of the teacher. This means deciding which of the ?? components of coaching to use, and in what order. In deciding the components to use, the instructional coach must know what the teacher needs, because the coach should provide the optimal amount of coaching to the teacher, which is just enough for each chosen intervention. When the teacher has attained the goal set, the collaborators shift their focus to a new goal.

The final component of coaching is reflection. Both the coach and the teacher should be learning from the coaching experience. While the teacher is learning a teaching practice, the coach can be learning a variety of things including coaching skills. It is important for the coach to record what she is learning. One useful model may be to keep a record of the desired outcome, the actual outcome, an explanation of the discrepancy and a discussion of possible modifications to the process for better results.

I was unclear about what was meant by nonattributive. Knight explained it as making sure that the compliment focuses on an action/experience rather than an attribute. The example contrasts the impact of wait time (you waited 10 s which gave Ashley enough time to correctly answer a question and she was clearly excited about her success) over patience (you were patient).

I used to think that Knight meant the components to be linear, and was struggling with that. The refinement step clarified the process for me and made the components seem more useful in practice.

I do reflect about my experiences working with teachers but I don’t always make time to write down what I learned, or I don’t keep track of my reflections in an organized way. I’ve recently decided to use Evernote for all my note-taking, unless the minutes are being kept in a collaborative Google document. I think that it would be a good idea for me to make an Evernote for every meeting that I attend, even if to indicate that the minutes are in a Google document. It’s easy to lose tract of information or become overwhelmed with the multiple ways of receiving and accessing information. It would be useful to me to have one tool for everything. Because I take lots of notes on my phone and iPad, Evernote seems a good option.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Instructional Coaching: Model and Observe

License: CC0 Public Domain

License: CC0 Public Domain

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Explore, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll, Identify and Explain.

Knight explains that modeling and observation are complementary activities that do not have to be stressful to the teacher. He stresses the important of the approach of equal partnership, with the teacher and instructional coach co-creating the form that will be used for recording observations. The teacher uses the form to observe the practice being modeled in a lesson; the coach uses the same form when observing the teacher’s teaching. Knight stresses the importance of recording what the teacher does well, as well as any suggestions, focusing on the teaching practice being explored. A form is usually adequate for observations, but in some cases it may be necessary to record data to determine the progress in using a particular teaching approach.
To me, the important consideration in any observation is to make sure that the collaborating teacher and coach both have clear, shared understanding of the purpose of the observation. It seems clear to me that to respect teachers as equal partners, they need to be part of the process of determining the focus, as well as planning implementation. To get the most professional growth out of an experience, it is important for teachers to engage in reflection; this works best if they fully understand the process and are completely engaged in it.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Instructional Coaching: Identifying and Explaining

Magnifying glass by Auntie P, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Magnifying glass by Auntie P, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll before; this post address the next two components.

In the Identify Step, it is up to the instructional coach to respond to teacher interest and schedule a meeting as quickly as possible. This meeting is for the teacher and instructional coach to agree on the goal of their work with each other. The instructional coach may observe the teacher’s class if the teacher would like a suggestion of teaching practice to implement.
The next step is Explain. The challenge here is for the instructional coach to adequately and accurately explain the teaching practice in the amount of time that she has with the teacher. Knight presents five tactics to help with explanations:
clarify, synthesise, break down, empathise and simplify. A key idea in clarify for me is the importance of discussing teaching practices with other professionals in the same job to build thorough understanding of best practices. This is essential to allow synthesis where the instructional coach summarises the key features of the teaching practice. Synthesis can be combined with the breaking down of the practice. The instructional coach can help the teacher access the teaching practice by breaking down its components into manageable pieces to scaffold the process. This can help remove teachers’ anxiety. The instructional coach can further reduce anxiety by empathising with the teacher and anticipating the practical concerns that the teacher may have with respect to implementing the teaching practice.  And last, instructional should keep the explanation simple without dumbing it down.
Reflection: My Takeaways/Extensions
I hoped that moving to ISP and working with other people in the same position would provide an opportunity for constructing shared understanding that would help me in my coaching work (clarify). This has happened informally but I would love to see the collaboration formalised. I’m also thinking about how I can make better use of Twitter, Google Hangouts and the rest of my professional learning network for focused professional growth to support instructional coaching.
One suggestion in synthesis was to create checklists that could help teachers identify the teaching behaviours of the best practice being presented. I think that’s a good idea. Teachers often ask for models of teaching practice being discussed/taught. We have been having conversations in elementary school about making better use of the strengths within our school; this could take the form of peer observations, allowing teachers to exercise greater autonomy and create their own checklists based on observations. Peer observations and even online videos can be very useful for contextualizing the teaching practice and communicating it more effectively. 
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

5 Ways to Enroll Teachers in Instructional Coaching

Credit:Registration desk sign by  NHS Confederation, License CC BY 2.0

Credit:Registration desk sign by NHS Confederation, License CC BY 2.0

Knight presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Refine and Reflect. Rather than expanding on each component as per the book, in this post I will reflect on the first and how it relates to my job as elementary digital learning facilitator.

It would be very useful for me to use all five of the methods of enrollment. It is important for me to conduct one-on-one interviews with each teacher to develop a relationship with her, to explain my role with respect to instructional coaching, and to find out specifics about her classroom and the needs of her students. The one-on-one interview seems a good opportunity to set the stage for how I will work with the teacher throughout the year; she can better understand what I have to offer her and I can learn about what our partnership may look like. I think that it is important to meet with each teacher at the beginning of the school year, after he/she has had some time to get to know the students; if timing is an issue, I will concentrate on new teachers. Knight suggests that 15 minutes interviews are beneficial but a longer meeting of 45 minutes – 1 hour are most effective.

I usually attend team meetings once in every six days cycle. I’ve been struggling with how to make an effective contribution to team meetings that I attend. This chapter encourages me to use 20 minutes at team meetings for sharing opportunities for professional growth, for clarifying my role as a partner, to explain other relevant issues to instructional coaching, and to determine who would like to work further with me (possibly through Google Forms). I need to think further about how frequently this could happen; the chapter presents 20 minutes as a short amount of time but that’s 1/3 of each planning meeting.

I have large group presentations several times a year. I am usually tasked with providing professional development for teachers and teacher assistants during that time. It may be a good idea for me to focus on particular teaching strategies, employing technology in the process, allowing time for teacher reflection and feedback. This approach appeals to me as an admirer or the TPACK model.

Most of my coaching opportunities at the moment come from informal conversations. Typically, a teacher reveals a situation that she needs assistance with, and we set up a time to work on it together. I would like to change the focus from primarily technical problems to more instructional ones.

Some of my coaching opportunities come from the intervention of the principal. Knight stresses the importance of offering the coach as one avenue for support, rather than imposing the coach on a teacher (as a punishment/consequence).

I struggle as a digital learning facilitator to determine who my client/audience is. Knight suggests that for the role of instructional coaching, my audience are the people who WANT to work with me. I’ve always thought that I HAVE to work with everyone but CAN  focus on those who are welcoming. This slight shift in thinking could be instrumental in changing how I schedule my time and how I structure my work with teachers. This shifts the focus away from teams to individual classroom and teachers. This makes sense to me as each teacher’s context is different, and the most effective professional development is tailored for the particular context. I acknowledge the importance of one-on-one coaching but am wondering where group/team coaching may fit into my (eventual) model, especially given the research about the importance of communities of practice in sustaining change.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

The Coaching Partnership

By Obsidian Soul (Own work), License CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Obsidian Soul (Own work), License CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Chapter 2: Instructional Coaching, Jim Knight reminds us that instructional coaches support teachers with their specific needs to be able to implement research based best practices for teaching. Support could include model/demonstration lessons, observation of classrooms/teaching, support for professional goals, creation of appropriate assessments and the sharing of knowledge in accessible language; all actions are aimed at improving instruction.

Knight explains that instructional coaching relies on a partnership between the coach and the teacher. He goes on to elucidate the seven principles of the partnership. The are equality, choice, voice, dialogue, reflection, praxis, and reciprocity (pp. 32-33). In summary, it is important for each person to feel valued in the partnership, with opportunities for learning from and with each other to improve teaching/learning.
As a digital learning facilitator, there are several challenges to implementing the partnership principle in my work. At times, colleagues do not see the DLF as an equal partner. It can sometimes be a challenge to be considered an equal educator rather than the IT teacher (specialist). This attitude is changing; dialogue about coaching practice helps this change. Another challenge as a DLF is providing choice. I find it relatively easy to do this with individual teachers and small teams. However, I need to continue exploring more creative means for for giving teachers choice and voice when I am responsible for larger professional development sessions.
In preparing professional development as an instructional coach, there are four proven practices: classroom management, content, instruction, and assessment for learning. Classroom management is the first consideration in coaching because it will be difficult to successfully implement other practices if the classroom is not well managed. Next, it is important that the teacher understands the content, how much detail to communicate to students and how to do so clearly. The next focus is instruction, considering how the teacher will structure her lesson and teach the content so that all students can learn it. Finally, it is important to explore formative assessment, which is used to explore how well students are learning.
I can see how these four practices would make the process of working with teachers on technology integration more effective. The classroom management component may make coaching light the best approach at the beginning of the school year or with new teachers who are setting up the classroom environment. Once the classroom is well managed, we can move on with coaching heavy: content, instruction, assessment. Although this practices are presented linearly, I think that the process may be iterative within a unit as reflection may highlight the importance of modifying the practices (especially instruction and formative assessment) to meet the goal of teaching all students.
*Italics are my thoughts; the rest are notes from the chapter.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

10 Roles for Coaches

Joellen Killion identifies ten different roles for coaches. I’ve summarized them below (Knight, 2009, pp. 9-14).

Type Data coach Resource provider Mentor Curriculum Specialist Instructional Specialist
Description Helps teachers make sense of data to improve learning Provide additional resources to meet student needs (e.g. preferences, interest, academic ability) Support new teachers in learning professional norms, policies and practices at a school. May also assist in teaching about curriculum. Help teachers understand what the adopted curriculum is. Helps teachers determine the teacher styles and approaches appropriate to the curriculum and for the particular students.
Impact Changes in curriculum and instruction

  • Move on
  • Reteach
  • Assign more practice
  • Provide extension
Additional resources

  • Lessons
  • Unit plans
  • Assignments
  • References
  • Guest speakers and other community resources
Helps new teachers become comfortable with routines and expectations at the school, and possibly provide support with curriculum, instruction and the overall classroom. Teachers understand the scope of concepts, pacing, sequencing of activities for learning, what successful learning looks like, developing appropriate assessment. Differentiate instruction to support the learning needs of all students. This includes consideration of types of activities, student groupings, classroom norms and expectations, use of resources.
Challenge  Creating trusting and safe environment for thorough data analysis Can be time intensive – coaches must manage the amount of time spent on this task in relation to other tasks. Balancing support (dependence) with building capacity in the new teacher (independence).  Limitation of experience or subject knowledge may make it difficult to support certain teachers. It is a challenge to have a broad enough base of instructional strategies to meet all students.


Type Classroom Supporter Learning Facilitator School Leader Catalyst for Change Learner
 Description Works with teachers in the classroom to model teaching strategies, observes, gives feedback, co-teaches. Provides opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge and skills to improve student learning. Advocate for new initiatives and assist teachers in implementing them. Analyzes practices and routines for opportunities for improvements that will help meet school goals. Coaches work on their own learning to strengthen coaching practices.
 Impact Collaboration between coach and teacher:

  • Coplanning
  • Coteaching
  • Observing
  • Giving feedback
  • Reflections about teaching and learning
Student achievement data is used to determine the needs of teachers. Resulting opportunities may be workshops, book studies, action research, pilots, etc. Collaborate with others, modeling how to be a professional educator; usually called on to chair committees, teams or task forces. Dissatisfaction with the status quo leads to analysis and reflection that will keep practices meaningful and current for the curriculum and students within the given context. Attend workshops and conferences to develop skills in coaching; write to model learning and to develop understanding; reflect on and report on learning and working as a coach with the aim of providing the best support possible to teachers.
 Challenge This is an intrusive role that may threaten some teachers. It is difficult for a coach to meet the needs of all teachers; professional learning communities help resolve this challenge. Coaches are teachers rather than supervisors but may be called upon to perform administrative tasks. It is difficult to know what is the right amount of uncertainty to create for (positive) change rather that (negative) disruption. It is easy to push this role aside with the variety of other roles that coaches have to play.


I sometimes find it challenging as a coach to balance the roles because different teachers need different roles at different times. However, it is important for me to consider the context such as the time of year and what else teachers are responsible for in considering how to best support them through coaching. It is also important for me to work with other coaches in elementary so that we can support and balance each other in supporting teachers. Joellen Killion gives the following example of how coaching roles may change over the course of the year (Knight, 2009, p. 15).

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 16.03.20

Coaching teachers also depends on how long both the teachers and the coach have worked in their particular role, and how long they’ve worked together. Coaches who are new to a school must first establish their status and build a relationship with teachers. They also need to demonstrate their skills so that teachers trust their competence. Still, the role that a coach is called on to play will depend on the experience of the teacher. Sometimes a teacher does not welcome the role that a coach would like to play; it is up to the coach to come up with an alternate approach for the desired outcome. In general a coach is more successful if well supported by the principal through communicating expectations to teachers and coaches, and regularly meeting with coaches to assess their progress. Many criteria contribute to creating the particular culture that a coach may find herself working in; it is important to get to know the culture to determine which coaching roles and approaches will best work with teachers in the culture.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2009). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Groundwork for Coaching

Credit: Coach by Kim Paulin on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Credit: Coach by Kim Paulin on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s my appraisal year at this job. As part of appraisal, each teacher needs to identify areas for growth, determine a goal for the year, and work to achieve that goal. To determine my goal, I considered my biggest challenge as a technology coach.

I’ve taught at four different schools, and the name has changed from place to place. In this job, I’m called a digital learning facilitator (kind of like an elf, but one letter short). While I’ve work a lot of different hats in my work, the role of coach is always one of them, and is this job it is likely my biggest role.

In reading Chapter 1 of Coaching Approaches and Perspectives, I’m reminded that part of the reason my job feels so hard is because it’s so loosely defined. As an INTJ, I love parameters and find that they help me better manage my responsibilities. I’m excited that my supervisor has identified the need to redefine/clarify the job description and performance standards for faculty in my role. Many coaching roles are not well defined, with a broad, vague job description and role expectation. ISTE has developed standards for technology coaches, which I used them at my last school. It would also be useful to have school goals and coaching program goals.

Knight uses the terminology of couching heavy and couching light. Coaching heavy is focused on improving teaching and learning and uses all the tools available to do that, examining teacher beliefs* and challenging the comfort level of both the teacher and the coach. Coaching light is focused on strong relationships and tends to be more surficial with little analysis of the impact on teaching and learning.

* I am reminded of research of the importance of addressing teacher beliefs for effective professional development on technology integration.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Hour of Code Wrap-up

It’s the last day of school before we head off for the holidays. This past week was a busy one celebrating International Culture Week as well as Computer Science Week. It was wonderful sharing coding with children in all of the elementary grades this week. I loved using the Hour of Code this week because the courses are really accessible with lots of scaffolding. Succeeding in the Hour of Code activities is about observing, reading, trying/testing, problem solving, analyzing, redoing, and paying attention instead of the syntax of programming because you use blocks, not text to code. I did the Angry Birds course during Hour of Code last year and did the Frozen one this year. I felt that the Frozen Tutorial provided much of the code, letting the user add in only one or two lines of code at each stage, in addition to selecting angles and distance.

The most difficult part of the Hour of Code for my elementary students was the abstraction required to work with conditional statements within a loop. Again and again, I spoke with children trying to explain that they could consider the program as a whole (with a choice made at every step) rather than just thinking sequentially about what to do. It’s a difficult concept, and developmentally, most of the children that I work with aren’t at that stage yet.


My favorite thing about Hour of Code is watching the quiet and/or jubilant victory dances that students do as they emerge victories at the end of a puzzle. My second favorite thing about Hour of Code is watching different children take the lead in demonstrating how the code works with other children. I look forward to continuing to explore Scratch beyond Hour of Code with Grade 4 students when we return from holidays.

Net Neutrality

What if your internet provider decided to prohibit you from accessing the Internet on all Apple devices, or Windows devices, etc.? I bet you’d be upset. If you don’t want your Internet Service Provider to regulate your access to Internet based on platform, domain, service, or charge you different amounts for the same bandwidth use on different sites, you should care about Net Neutrality.

There have been several campaigns to educate the public about net neutrality. I took screenshots of a website participating in this campaign on September 12, 2014. The aim of this particular campaign was to highlight how a lack of net neutrality could create a disparity in access to different online sites/services.

net neutrality

Experience on a website as part of an awareness campaign in September 2014.

net neutrality 2

Luckily, Common Craft has released a video which explains net neutrality in plain English. Watch the video for an explanation of net neutrality.