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Everyday Instructional Coaching

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Instructional coaches play a crucial role in helping educators meet the ever-changing demands of effective teaching and learning. With this practical guide, coaches will discover seven drivers they can use to best support teachers in their daily work: (1) collaboration, (2) transparency, (3) inquiry, (4) discourse, (5) reverberation, (6) sincerity, and (7) influence. Each chapter offers instructional coaching strategies, daily practices, research, and examples to help readers evaluate, refine, and implement these drivers in their educational coaching and teacher support.

Learn daily practices for instructional coaching that supports teachers and effective teaching methods:

  • Explore the seven daily drivers necessary to become a more effective instructional coach.
  • Gain strategies to strengthen relationships with teachers and teacher teams to improve outcomes and understanding of effective teaching methods.
  • Access tools to help self-assess and adjust daily coaching practices.
  • Understand the sociocultural psychology and education research that support the seven daily practices.
  • Learn approaches you can use to keep pace with current effective teaching methods and the demands on today's educators, coaches, and instructional leaders.

Contents:
Introduction
Chapter 1: Collaboration
Chapter 2: Transparency
Chapter 3: Inquiry
Chapter 4: Discourse
Chapter 5: Reverberation
Chapter 6: Sincerity
Chapter 7: Influence
Epilogue
References and Resources
Index

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Chapter 1: Collaboration

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Collaboration

Coaches can establish a diverse, inclusive, purposeful, and collaborative community when they take the temperature of the school climate and invite people who have differing views to the table. Dismissive responses to attempts at collaboration arise all too commonly in schools. Take, for instance, the teacher who walks into a team meeting ready to create a vision with her teammates and is met with cynical team members who say, “I don’t have time for that right now.” The teammates also give nonverbal cues that they are too busy; after all, they have papers to grade, copies to make, and preparations to complete for the next day. Consider also the instructional coach who brings her ingenious idea to the principal, who meets her with an impassive attitude because the principal feels overwhelmed with his to-do list of managerial tasks. Additionally, imagine the district leader who has experienced success in trying something new and different and shares the strategy with the district instructional team, which turns down the idea immediately, saying it is not scalable and, therefore, would not work at a systems level.  

Chapter 2: Transparency

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Transparency

Coaches are able to create trusting, positive, and sharing environments when they are transparent about their intentions, their goals, and even their own flaws and mistakes in teaching.Instructional coaches start off at a disadvantage in some ways when teachers associate the coach’s role with change at the classroom level. Even inside a positive culture, if people think you, as a coach, might be attempting change to the structure of norms, defenses go up. But if teachers work in a climate where they feel coaches are trying to help them and learn alongside them, and when coaches transparently share their own flaws and weaknesses in teaching, teachers will open up to their coaches. Teachers will then want to listen and even welcome you with open arms. Author Simon Sinek (2009) articulates the connection between transparency and collaboration by making the distinction that a team is not just a group of people who work together but a group of people who trust each other. And trust can only exist through transparency.

 

Chapter 3: Inquiry

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Inquiry

Coaches can help teachers learn and grow not by telling them what to do but by asking questions and promoting inquiry.

The modern educational landscape widely accepts that students must possess the following skills to have success in our dynamically changing world: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication (commonly referred to as 21st century skills or the four Cs; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011).

 Ironically, educators continue to work hard at planning for instruction while underutilizing these crucial skills themselves. Teachers have become accustomed to accepting school- and district-level initiatives without inquiring as to their purpose or strategy for classroom integration. We encourage our students to question the motives behind a learning objective, or use questioning to illuminate a new facet of learning, but as educators, we struggle to approach new learning in this way. Schools must proactively prepare students for rapid changes in technology, society, and the workplace. As leaders, we must also proactively prepare teachers for these rapid changes and, furthermore, for innovation in the classroom. This requires continual learning and relentless inquiry.  

Chapter 4: Discourse

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Discourse

Coaches can purposefully use language in a way that creates a discourse to convey to a teacher that they value him or her as a person and a professional and value his or her ideas.

Because our students’ future is at stake, coaching must increasingly focus on continuous improvement, student achievement, learning gaps, teacher efficacy, and change leadership. Leaders may claim they focus on these points, but upon gauging their everyday language and discourse, there’s often misalignment between what coaches, as leaders, mean and what they say. For example, a school or district mission statement may emphasize a nurturing culture to support rigorous thinking and meaningful learning experiences, but the principal and coach frequently emphasize that teachers must follow a static and prescriptive curricular program. The coach’s language sets the tone and foundation for every interaction that follows it. It is important that a coach’s tone in interactions with teachers facilitates positive relationships that empower teachers to succeed. In a relational culture of trust and transparency, and with previous positive experiences, the coach can effectively use empowering discourse.

 

Chapter 5: Reverberation

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Reverberation

Reverberation allows coaches to create meaningful feedback and metafeedback processes characterized by consistent dialogue that fosters trusting relationships.

In an era of teacher-performance evaluations tied to specific building or district initiatives, teacher self-efficacy often hinges on moving targets and is subject to fluctuations caused by a changing school focus. Just as teachers have a desire to empower students to take ownership of their learning, coaches desire to provide feedback that empowers teachers to make decisions that will result in progress toward their individual or team goals.

Feedback is not a new term, but it has certainly become a buzzword in education. Simply, John Hattie and Gregory Yates (2014) define feedback as information that supports the learner in reducing the gap between where the learner currently is and where the learner could go. According to John Hattie and

Helen Timperley (2007), “Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative”

 

Chapter 6: Sincerity

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Sincerity

Sincerity drives coaches to become the best versions of themselves and encourage teachers to do the same by illuminating teacher voice and supporting teacher innovation and creativity.

While people often use the terms sincerity and authenticity in tandem, authenticity has become exhaustingly overused in many social contexts, including the realm of education. It’s often touted as being a collaborative group norm for teachers to abide by, but it can be difficult to implement with fidelity, especially if the building culture doesn’t promote it. While both terms have roots in the same context of revealing truth, people use authenticity to define both objects and human behavior, and people mainly use sincerity to define the human condition. For example, you hear about Mexican food being authentic, but you wouldn’t hear people describe it as sincere. I define sincerity as a personality trait used to describe transparent and truthful people who have the ability to self-monitor their interactions. Coaches must display sincerity as they support teachers in illuminating their voice, fostering creativity and innovation, and promoting values-based decision making. Because the term authenticity pervades societal constructs and much of the important research discussed in this chapter, you’ll see references to both authenticity and sincerity in this chapter, but for the purposes of this book and coaching work in general, I prefer the term sincerity.

 

Chapter 7: Influence

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Influence

Coaches can use their influence to create demand for, inspire, and catalyze change.

Effective coaches use the influence they have cultivated through the relationships they have built to affect change or advocate for positive change. They leverage trusting, positive relationships and their unique partnership role to catalyze change. Additionally, they support divergent ideas for the sake of growth in a dynamically changing educational landscape. An effective change process must move from the realm of abstract ideas to concrete actions.

When implementing change, coaches should have an acute awareness of the demand for that change and their own vision, purpose, and inspiration. This encompasses what Sinek (2009) refers to as the why. When strategizing how we, as coaches, will get our colleagues to change, we often start with the why.

Starting with the why is a great strategy and has a lot of merit in many change efforts. But when innovators advocate for change and explain their why, they run the risk of clashing with deep-seated convictions, as they cause others to question their common notions of what’s possible (Grant, 2016). In his book

 

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