Monday, January 19, 2015

Brief Book Reviews for anyone who is (or interested in being) an Instructional Coach

Over the last several weeks since I finished "officially" going through the ISTE Coaching Academy Series, I read four very excellent books on coaching (tech coaching, instructional coaching, just working with adults/peers in general).  I would highly recommend the following:

Differentiated Coaching (Jane Kise)

The first half of this book focuses on "Staff Development that Changes Classroom Practices", and emphasized focusing on what teachers believe, what teachers need during change, what problems do teachers want to solve, and how can teachers collaborate?  Jane says, "The art of staff development is helping teachers understand where their strengths and beliefs lock them into practices that limit their freedom to help students succeed.  It isn't freedom for teachers to what they please, but freedom for them to entertain possibilities and stay open to new avenues for professional growth."

Some staff development topics covered:

  • things that teachers need during staff development
  • the pros and cons of the different methods of staff development delivery
Very important reminder: a great PD will not change teachers' attitudes and beliefs... it's the teachers experiencing successful implementation (themselves... not just seeing it work in other teachers' classrooms) that will make changes!


  • Three levels: superficial, segmented, and (the goal) instructional collaboration
  • what collaboration is
  • what it isn't
  • benefits of collaboration
  • things that get in the way of "instructional collaboration"
  • criteria to help build successful "instructional collaboration"

By the end of Part 1, Jane has detailed her six elements of effective staff development, which are:
  1. A deep understanding of teachers' strengths and beliefs.  (We must know why we're holding tightly to the ways we teach, otherwise we won't know how we need to change)
  2. Concrete evidence that influences beliefs and shows that change will be worth the effort (teachers must see that change will result in improved student achievement)
  3. Communication and assistance (coaching) in ways that meet each teacher's learning style and needs (different types of support are needed for different learners.  And support is DEFINITELY needed when teachers are changing their core practices)
  4. A focus on problems that concern the teachers (not adding another burden to them but helping them solve a problem they currently have)
  5. Deep, Level III Collaboration (Instructional Collaboration)
  6. A common framework for unbiased discussion of education (not about discussing who is right or wrong… it's about understanding which students different practices and policies will reach)

In Part 2, Jane jumps into Personality Type as the common framework for discussing classroom practices.  She uses the MDBI tool of Judging/Perceiving, Introversion/Extraversion, Sensing/Intuition, and Thinking/Feeling.  (As a note, I am either ISTJ or ISFJ).   What was so helpful with this is she went over coaching implications for each of the 8 choices.  She made the connection to education by saying that our educational beliefs are tightly bound to our personalities and how we take in information and make decisions.  Tying in to Part 1, Jane talked about the "ideal staff development day" for teachers with each of the different personality types, as well as the concerns and questions teachers of each type may have regarding changes.

Then she jumps into Differentiated Coaching.  There are four criteria she states for successful coaching:
  1. Committed to the process (both coach and coachee)
  2. Trust
  3. Clear goals (agreed upon mutually)
  4. Agree on "what does success mean"

According to Jane, there are four different coaching styles:
- Coach as useful resource
- Coach as encouraging sage
- Coach as collegial mentor
- Coach as expert

She outlines ways to work with all sixteen of the different personality type combinations, what they will be looking for in a coach, and how to support them in a way that meets their needs.  Each of the four different coaching styles are useful depending on the personality type of the "coachee"

She has a plethora of great resources on her website as well.  This book provided me a framework and context to approach the teachers I am working with in terms of their personality type, which greatly affects their beliefs about education, teaching, and learning.

Mentoring Matters (Lipton & Wellman)
This book is more geared toward people who are mentoring new teachers (like BTSA mentors in California), but it still had a great amount of information and resources for anyone who is working peer-peer.

  • A mentor must balance between: offering support, creating challenge, and facilitating a professional vision.
  • There is a continuum of interaction between consulting (expert coaching), collaboration, and what the authors just call "coaching", but I generally refer to as "cognitive coaching".   They go over the intentions, actions, cues, and potential issues for each of the three places on the continuum.
  • The authors provide a template for planning & problem solving conversations as well as reflecting conversations.
  • There was a whole section on verbal tools for a coach, such as pausing, paraphrasing, inquiring, probing, and extending.  (most of this stuff I was introduced to in the training with Steve Regur in September).
This book is a great "coaching toolkit" reference point, especially in regards to conversation templates and verbal tools. 

Coaching Classroom Instruction (Marzano)

This book is an amazing resource that I know I will be opening up time and again.  It starts with some of the research and theory behind coaching, along with some different models of coaching. Marzano then uses his 41 elements from the Art and Science of Teaching Model, broken down into segments of "routine events", "events addressing content", and "events enacted on the spot".  
He provides a 0 to 4 scale (Not Using - Beginning - Developing - Applying - Innovating)  and explicitly details how to help teachers move from level 0 to level 4.
  • 0 to 1 - Learn about research, theory, and strategies associated with the element.  Strategies can be from this book or coach/teacher developed
  • 1 to 2 - Correctly execute strategies
  • 2 to 3 - Monitor student responses to the strategy
  • 3 to 4 - Integrate several strategies to make a macro-strategy and/or adapting strategy for different student needs.
So, for all 41 elements he provides:

  • research to back the element
  • strategies to help apply the element
  • actions to correctly execute the element
  • desired student responses for each element
  • how to merge multiple strategies together
  • how to provide extra support or scaffolding for each element
  • how to provide extension or challenge for each element.
I feel like this book was incredibly practical and offered resources that would have taken me forever to find.  Even simply the research behind the 41 elements is huge!  I can see this being used in a practical way with my teachers when we are trying new strategies in class to have specific actions, desired outcomes, scaffolding/extension ideas, etc.

Building Teachers' Capacity for Success (Hall & Simeral)
*Note: I only read Part 1 and Part 2.  Part 3 was about the administrator's role in helping build teacher capacity for success.  I know it will be great, but decided to set it aside for the time being while I am focusing on my coaching strategies.
  • For a coach and administrator, there are common responsibilities, distinct responsibilities, and overlapping responsibilities.  It is very important that these are clear!
  • Effective Coaches:
    • Are highly self-reflective
    • Are able to build and maintain trustworthy relationships
    • Are skilled in recognizing others' strengths, abilities, and beliefs
    • Are servant leaders
    • Are patient
    • Consider "the bus question" (if you got hit by a bus and were incapacitated for a length of time, are your teachers better off for working with you?  Has your coaching helped develop meaningful change?)
  • The coaching continuum refers to the teacher's ability to self-reflect and analyze their practice.  The four stages of self-reflection are:
    • - Unaware (Coach's goal is to create awareness of the need for change and foster a desire to learn)
    • - Conscious (Coach's goal is to motivate and show how to apply pedagogical knowledge consistently)
    • - Action (Coach's goal is to build on experience and help strengthen expertise)
    • - Refinement (Coach's goal is to encourage long-term growth and continued reflection)

For each of the stages, the authors talk about in detail:

  • the teacher's reflective tendencies
  • related classroom characteristics
  • my role as a coach
  • coaching strategies that foster reflective growth.
This book provided another framework in which to view the teachers I am working with in terms of where they are with self-reflection of the teaching and learning that is happening in their classroom.  I could identify clearly with several of the stages with the teachers I am working with and it helped me to understand a little more why they might be the way they are and some strategies to help move them forward.

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