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Everything We Know Now About Coaching That We Wish We Knew When We Started. Sharon Walpole University of Delaware Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia. What do you expect your CRCT data to say this year? How about your end-of-year DIBELS data? Why do you expect these results?. Goals.

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everything we know now about coaching that we wish we knew when we started

Everything We Know Now About Coaching That We Wish We Knew When We Started

Sharon Walpole

University of Delaware

Michael C. McKenna

University of Virginia


What do you expect your CRCT data to say this year? How about your end-of-year DIBELS data?

Why do you expect these results?

a professional support system
A professional support system

Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

survey questions
Survey Questions
  • How successful were we in providing you with what you needed to support teachers?
  • What modifications could we make for next year?
    • Serve continuing schools
    • Serve schools not continuing
    • Serve schools outside of Reading First
what did we learn
What did we learn?
  • We can only serve one audience at a time; we need to design separate sessions for teachers that have less emphasis on theory.
  • We should reformat our work so that it can be accomplished in shorter chunks of time.
  • You want more lessons and more video.

Discuss these ideas with your colleagues. To what extent do these responses represent your experiences?

Do you have any questions?

Next we will turn to what others are learning about coaching.


Garet, M.S., et al., 2008

The Impact of Two Professional Development Interventions on Early Reading Instruction and Achievement



2nd grade teachers from 30 different high-poverty schools assigned to each treatment


Both PD treatments increased teacher knowledge compared with regular district PD.

  • Both PD treatments increased teachers’ use of explicit instruction.

Neither treatment was associated with higher student achievement compared with regular district PD.

  • PD plus Coaching did not increase teacher use of explicit instruction, high-quality independent activities, or differentiation compared with PD alone.

When the results of the program turn out to be disappointing, we quickly reject that program and move on to the next fad (Stahl, 1998, p. 31).

Will that be the future of intensive PD for teachers, including the work of coaches?

challenges for designing pd
Challenges for Designing PD

Wayne, A. J., et al., Experimenting with teacher professional development: Motives and methods. Educational Researcher, 37, no. 8 (November 2008) pp. 469-79.

characteristics of effective pd
Characteristics of Effective PD
  • Intensive
  • Sustained
  • Job embedded
  • Content rich
  • Includes active learning
  • Coherent
  • Collective participation

But this is actually too vague a list.

What is the actual dose needed of what type of PD for what effect?

Who should do it?

Where and when should it happen?


How does coaching address these effective characteristics?

To what extent does it suffer from the problems identified?

many other things can go wrong

The theory of instruction could be inconsistent with the district’s or school’s approach.

  • Other PD (ambient PD) may interfere with the target PD.
  • The PD may not be delivered as planned or accepted by the teachers.
Many other things can go wrong!

Is our theory of instruction fully tested in your school?

How about our theory of teacher change?

Have any of these challenges been especially salient in your school?

evidence of a shift toward coaching
Evidence of a Shift Toward Coaching
  • Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse (IRA/NCTE)
    • http://www.literacycoachingonline.org
evidence of a shift toward coaching1
Evidence of a Shift Toward Coaching
  • NRC 2008 Conference
    • 39 papers on coaching
    • Coaching Study Group
evidence of a shift toward coaching2
Evidence of a Shift Toward Coaching
  • Recent Dissertations
    • 60 since 2000
evidence of a shift toward coaching3
Evidence of a Shift Toward Coaching
  • What’s Hot and What’s Not in IRA’s Reading Today
    • Coaching rated a “Very Hot” topic in
      • 2008
      • 2007
      • 2006
      • 2005
    • Not even listed in 2004!
some reasons literacy coaching may have a future
Some Reasons Literacy Coaching May Have a Future
  • Ineffectiveness of ad hoc approaches to professional development
  • Widespread implementation of coaching outside of federal initiatives
  • IRA Standards for Reading Professionals have added coaching to the responsibilities that reading specialists are expected to assume
some reasons literacy coaching may not have a future
Some Reasons Literacy Coaching May Not Have a Future
  • Expense of coaching relative to other forms of professional development
  • Termination of funding for federal initiatives that have encouraged coaching
  • Lack of definitive research establishing the efficacy of coaching as a means of improving achievement
reasons we are hopeful
Reasons We Are Hopeful

Lack of reasonable alternatives

Emerging evidence of effectiveness

four assumptions about evaluating coaching
Four Assumptions about Evaluating Coaching

The instructional methods teachers employ influence student achievement.

Variations in the methods themselves and in the quality of teacher implementation are considerable.

Coaching can help teachers implement specific methods and abandon others; coaching can help teachers improve the quality of their work.

The effect of coaching can be gauged by changes in student achievement that result from this altered practice.


Coaching affects achievement by fostering teacher knowledge about effective instructional practices and by supporting teachers as they begin to apply those practices in their classrooms.


Coaching can be a cause of increased achievement, but it is a distal cause. In order to meaningfully evaluate the impact of coaching, we must also gauge its impact on the more proximal causes of achievement: expanded teacher knowledge and altered practice. (See Guskey, 2000.)


Specification &

development of

the practice or


Motivation to implement

Knowledge and skills

Teacher knowledge requires specifying the focus of learning and accounting for the motivation to implement what is learned.


Instructional Leadership Distribution

Specification &

development of

the practice or





(PD, TA,&

Peer Collab.)

Motivation to implement

Knowledge and skills

Larger school, district, state reform effort & policy context

Other factors also influence teacher knowledge. These include leadership and policy factors, alternative PD, available TA, and other resources.

Professional community norms

Supporting resources


Instructional Leadership Distribution

Specification &

development of

the practice or





(PD, TA,&

Peer Collab.)

Motivation to implement

Knowledge and skills

Larger school, district, state reform effort & policy context

Professional community norms

These factors also influence the nature of coaching in a particular context.

Supporting resources

qualifying questions about coaching
Qualifying Questions about Coaching

How do models of coaching direct coaching efforts?

To what extent are coaching efforts mediated by characteristics of districts and schools?

How can coaches work with administrators to optimize their efforts?

How can coaching be differentiated to meet the needs of all teachers?

What personal characteristics tend to be shared by effective coaches?

selection process
Selection Process

We included studies of coaching and studies that involved coaching.

We included peer-reviewed studies that met two criteria:

  • The study provided insight into one or more of our qualifying questions.
  • The study reported new findings based on quantitative or qualitative data.

We used ERIC and Education Full Text to identify potential studies.

This process resulted in 176 potential studies.

We read abstracts in order to eliminate opinion pieces and articles about peer coaching, technology-based coaching, and sports coaching.

This process left 19 studies for full review.

characteristics of studies reviewed
Characteristics of Studies Reviewed
  • 19 peer-reviewed articles:
    • 12 case studies of schools, coaches, or initiatives
    • 2 survey studies to gauge reactions to coaching
    • 5 comparative studies of coaching and non-coaching or of varieties of coaching
  • Date range:
    • 1995-2008
    • 18 of 19 published in 2003 or later
emerging themes
Emerging Themes

Models of Coaching

School and District Characteristics

Working with Administrators

Serving the Needs of Teachers

Personal Characteristics

models of coaching
Models of Coaching

A model specifies coaching roles and activities and time apportioned to each

A model defines the focus of coaching

All of these studies have roots in Joyce and Showers’ cycle of theory, demonstration, practice, and feedback.

a professional support system1
A professional support system

Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

models of coaching1
Models of Coaching

Models are of two principal kinds:

  • Discretionary models that permit a coach wide latitude in making decisions
      • (Fearn & Farnan, 2007; Gibson, 2005, 2006; Swinnerton, 2007; Wood, 2007)
models of coaching2
Models of Coaching

Up-front models that specify in advance the amount of outside- and inside-the-classroom support (Kinnucan-Welsch et al., 2006; Denton et al., 2007; Neilson et al., 2007; Spencer & Logan, 2003)

Up-front models employ specific tools for observing and relieve the coach of having to negotiate access to teachers.


What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these models?

What model do you actually use?

school and district characteristics
School and District Characteristics
  • These coaching studies varied by:
    • Level (elementary, middle, high school)
    • Student achievement
    • Receptivity to coaching (Swinnerton, 2007)
school and district characteristics1
School and District Characteristics
  • Teacher receptivity to coaching varied.
    • Resistance was higher in reform contexts.
    • Resistance occurred in both more- (Al Otaiba et al., 2008; Gersten et al., 1995) and less-controlled curriculum contexts (Darby, 2008).
working with administrators
Working with Administrators

Principals’ views of coaches differ.

Coaches can be part of a leadership team

(MacIver et al., 2003; Morgan & Clonts, 2008).

Coaches may act as mentors or directors (Walpole & Blamey, 2008).

working with administrators1
Working with Administrators
  • Some coaches report directly to the district, causing potential problems involving their supervision (Swinnerton, 2007; Wood, 2007).
  • Some principals have encouraged coaches to conduct formative observations to better prepare teachers for summative observations (Nielson et al., 2007).
serving the needs of teachers
Serving the Needs of Teachers
  • Teachers in these studies were often faced with challenges, such as:
    • Being novices (Nielson et al., 2007)
    • Lacking credentials (MacIver et al., 2003)
    • Teaching in low-performing schools (Al Otaiba et al., 2008; Darby, 2008)
    • Serving struggling adolescent readers (Denton et al., 2007; Lovett et al., 2008)
    • Combinations of these (Gersten et al., 1995)
serving the needs of teachers1
Serving the Needs of Teachers
  • Some studies differentiated coaching
    • By newness of teachers (Nielson et al., 2007)
    • By grade level (Neilson et al., 2007)
    • By content area (at middle and high) (MacIver et al., 2003)
    • By students served (Gersten et al., 1995; Menzies et al., 2008)
serving the needs of teachers2
Serving the Needs of Teachers
  • Nonproductive relationships arose regardless of the teacher characteristics
  • Such relationships were caused by
    • Competing agendas
    • Power struggles
    • Positioning relative to influence

(Gibson, 2005; Rainville & Jones, 2008)


What special challenges do your teachers present?

In what ways have you been able to differentiate?

personal characteristics
Personal Characteristics
  • Trust was a recurring theme.
  • Coaches had to nurture relationships with both principals and teachers (Swinnerton, 2007).
  • Some coaches positioned themselves as co-learners, allaying teacher fears (Darby, 2008; Rainville & Jones, 2008).
personal characteristics1
Personal Characteristics
  • Expertise was a recurring theme.
  • Coaches had to focus teachers on core goals (Gibson, 2005, 2006).
  • Coaches had to have credibility as teachers (MacIver, 2003).
  • Differential expertise could lead to teacher resistance (Gersten et al., 1995).

What personal characteristics have helped you to coach?

What personal characteristics have presented a challenge?

across the emerging themes
Across the Emerging Themes
  • Some studies addressed more than one of these themes.
  • None addressed all five.
  • But you, of course, have to deal with all of them at once!
suggestions for researchers
Suggestions for Researchers
  • Make every effort to account for the complex contexts of coaching.
  • Conduct studies that are multidisciplinary, informed by the literature of leadership, adult learning, and professional development.
  • Conduct studies that are multi-level. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches provide powerful tools for doing so.
suggestions for policy makers
Suggestions for Policy Makers
  • Don’t wait for the definitive “word” on whether coaching “works.”
  • Consider coaching to be a form of PD that is potentially better–and certainly no worse– than traditional approaches.
  • Think about how to adapt, not whether to adopt, coaching.
  • Include coursework on coaching in the preparation of administrators.
  • Consider coaching endorsements that require, but are distinct from, the reading specialist endorsement.
now let s do some coaching practice
Now let’s do some coaching practice

First, take a look at the checklist resources that we’ve gathered. They include a checklist for coaching (which you’ve seen) and also some specific checklists for differentiated instruction and for read-alouds that have been generated by participants in this project.

We’ll watch a series of videos of instruction and of coaching, and discuss them using the checklists.

final bibliography
Final Bibliography

Al Otaiba, S., Hosp, J. L., Smartt, S., & Dole, J. A. (2008). The challenging role of a reading coach, a cautionary tale. Journal of Educational & Psychological Consultation, 18(2), 124-155.

Darby, A. (2008). Teachers' emotions in the reconstruction of professional self-understanding. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 1160-1172.

Denton, C. A., Swanson, E. A., & Mathes, P. G. (2007). Assessment-based instructional coaching provided to reading intervention teachers. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 20, 569-590.

Fearn, L., & Farnan, N. (2007). The influence of professional development on young writers' writing performance. Action in Teacher Education, 29(2), 17-28.

final bibliography1
Final Bibliography

Gersten, R., Morvant, M., & Brengelman, S. (1995). Close to the classroom is close to the bone: Coaching as a means to translate research into classroom practice. Exceptional Children, 62, 52-66.

Gibson, S. A. (2005). Developing knowledge of coaching. Issues in Teacher Education, 14(2), 63-74.

Gibson, S. A. (2006). Lesson observation and feedback: The practice of an expert reading coach. Reading Research and Instruction, 45, 295-318.

Kinnucan-Welsch, K., Rosemary, C. A., & Grogan, P. R. (2006). Accountability by design in literacy professional development. Reading Teacher, 59(5), 426-435.

final bibliography2
Final Bibliography

Lovett, M. W., Lacerenza, L., De Palma, M., Benson, N. J., Steinbach, K. A., & Frijters, J. C. (2008). Preparing teachers to remediate reading disabilities in high school: What is needed for effective professional development? Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 24, 1083-1097

MacIver, D. J., Ruby, A., & Balfanz, R. (2003). Removed from the list: A comparative longitudinal case study of a reconstitution-eligible school. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 18, 259-289.

Menzies, H. M., Mahdavi, J. N., & Lewis, J. L. (2008). Early intervention in reading: From research to practice. Remedial and Special Education, 29(2), 67-77.

Morgan, D. N., & Clonts, C. M. (2008). School leadership teams: Extending the reach of school-based literacy coaches. Language Arts, 85, 345-353.

final bibliography3
Nielsen, D. C., Barry, A. L., & Addison, A. B. (2007). A model of a new-teacher induction program and teacher perceptions of beneficial components. Action in Teacher Education, 28(4), 14-24.

Rainville, K. N., & Jones, S. (2008). Situated identities: Power and positioning in the work of a literacy coach. The Reading Teacher, 61, 440-448.

Spencer, S. S., & Logan, K. R. (2003). Bridging the gap: A school based staff development model that bridges the gap from research to practice. Teacher Education and Special Education, 26(1), 51-62.

Swinnerton, J. (2007). Brokers and boundary crossers in an urban school district: Understanding central-office coaches as instructional leaders. Journal of School Leadership, 17(2), 195-221.

Final Bibliography
final bibliography4
Final Bibliography

Van Keer, H., & Verhaeghe, J. P. (2005). Comparing two teacher development programs for innovating reading comprehension instruction with regard to teachers' experiences and student outcomes. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 21, 543-562.

Walpole, S., & Blamey, K. L. (2008). Elementary literacy coaches: The reality of dual roles. The Reading Teacher, 62, 222-231.

Wood, D. (2007). Teachers' learning communities: Catalyst for change or a new infrastructure for the status quo? Teachers College Record, 109(3), 699-739.