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This website contains ideas that are "in process." Simply put, what you read here may be just some random thoughts, rather than validated and final procedures. Mind you, aren't most ideas "in process?" The bulk of what you'll read here are answers to questions I am emailed or asked during presentations, or summaries of excellent ideas others share with me.

Of course, you can add to this blog by leaving your own comments, too.

You can learn more about Instructional Coaching at www.instructionalcoach

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Why principals should attend professional development

Some time back I was asked, "Why should principals attend professional development on Instructional Coaching." Well here's what I think:
If principals are going to speak in support of coaches, they need a comprehensive understanding of what coaches do and what teaching practices they share with teachers. If principals do not understand the partnership philosophy, for example, they may inadvertently expect coaches to act in ways that violate the principles and that, indeed, end up being counter-productive.
Principals also need to understand the teaching practices that coaches are sharing with teachers. When principals know how the practices coaches are sharing, they can reinforce teachers who use those practices effectively, or suggest teachers learn those practices when that seems appropriate. Additionally, when principals fully understand all of the teaching practices, they can have much more meaningful conversations with coaches and teachers about issues related to school improvement.


What to say in a short presentation

Recently, Instructional Coach Kristin Wissner wrote me the following question:
“I've been given about 30 minutes to present the whole idea of coaching to our staff. My principal wants them to understand the bare essentials of coaching and what to expect when I meet with them to discuss what I've observed. There is SO much on coaching that I could share...what should I focus on so that teachers fully understand what's going to be happening?”
Since this seems like a question others might be interested in, I’m posting my response here. I’ve lifted many of these ideas from my upcoming book on Instructional Coaching, for Corwin Press.
Presenting the idea of coaching to a group is not an easy task, but there are some basic things you probably should consider. First off, keep in mind that when you are first meeting teachers, your philosophy of coaching is as important as what they have to share. If you stand in front of your school and give the impression that you are a superior expert there to fix inferior teachers, those few minutes of the presentation might significantly reduce the chance that you will be successful. Thus, you’ve got to be extremely careful to communicate your deep respect for the profession of teaching.
I think that 30 minutes is plenty of time to share some big ideas. The main purpose of this presentation is to enroll teachers in the coaching process, not to explain every aspect of coaching. I suggest you prepare a single-page handout that summarizes key information. The handout might contain information regarding the tools you have to share, your philosophy, your policy regarding confidentiality, data from previous successes within the school, district or nation, and your contact information.
During the presentation, you might begin by thanking teachers for their time and attention, and provide a quick advance organizer about what will be discussed during the presentation. Then communicate in some way that you empathize with teachers and their many challenges. You might show a humorous video clip or cartoon to encourage the group to be open to the topics about to be discussed.
In the presentation proper, I suggest you provide a brief overview of the tools you have to offer, a quick summary of what the research says, and perhaps some data from the school that shows the impact of coaching in the past if such data exists. Additionally, you could explain how coaching works, the partnership philosophy, and the confidentiality of the coach—teacher relationship. If possible, it is a good idea to have teachers who have benefited from working with you to share their experiences, and to speak on behalf of your work. If there are no teachers available to speak, you could show a video clip containing teachers’ testimonials or even better, students’ testimonials. When it comes to persuading teachers, the only thing more powerful than the voice of a fellow teacher is the voice of a student.
At some point during the presentation, you should ensure that every teacher has a form that they can complete privately to indicate whether or not they are interested in working with the coach. I have found that people are much more likely to commit to coaching if they are able to do it privately on a form. You can download an example of one from the tools section of
When setting up the presentation, you also have to be careful about what is said before and after you. No matter how well-constructed and effectively delivered your talk might be, it could lose a lot of its impact if the person introducing you or speaking afterwards has a heavy handed approach that might be perceived as disrespectful toward teachers. If you can, you need to ensure that the messages communicated around your presentation are consistent with the partnership approach to change.
All in all, a lot can be accomplished in a short presentation. The most important thing to remember is that your purpose is to enroll teachers, not to explain everything. If teachers understand that you have a valuable service and that you respect and believe in them, there is a good chance that they will be excited about working with you.


Coaching Success Factors

In the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with coaches in many states around the nation. Based on my experience with those fine people, and with the those who work for or collaborate with the Pathways to Success project in Topeka, I've identified 8 factors that I consider important for successful coaching programs.

The 8 factors are:

Avoiding quick fixes
Sufficient time to work with teachers
Proven scientifically proven interventions
Professional development for coaches
Protecting the coaching relationship
Ensuring coaches and principals work together
Hiring the right instructional coaches
Evaluating coaches

You can read the article I wrote on this topic at The School Administrator website.


A New Valuable Resource on the Web

Sue Keck, who is a ball of fire for coaching, and who oversees a major Pennsylvania Coaching project funded by a $31 million Annenburg Foundation Grant, has created a website that is becoming a very valuable resource for Instructional Coaches. The site contains a resources section, copies of presentations, and podcasts. In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that Stacy Cohen from the Pathways to Success project is featured in one podcast, and there is another podcast that is an interview of me. I highly recommend the site, (and not just because we're on it!). I am also looking forward to reading Sue's blog just to see what great ideas she lays out for all of us to see. Sue has a lot of good to say. She will also be sharing her ideas and knowledge at our upcoming Instructional Coaching Conference, to be held October 15 - 18 at the Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence.


October Instructional Coaching Conference

I’m thrilled to be able to communicate that the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning is sponsoring our first annual conference on Instructional Coaching to be held at the Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence, Kansas, October 15 – 18, 2006. This year we are incredibly lucky to have an all star line up of national experts on coaching and instruction as presenters, including Joellen Killion, Director of Special Projects, for the National Staff Development Council, Randy Sprick, President Safe and Civil Schools, Evan Lefsky, Director of Secondary Reading for Just Read Florida, Sue Keck, Project Manager for the Pennsylvania High School Math and Literacy Coach Project, Wendy Reinke, Researcher on Instructional Coaching at Johns Hopkins University, and Keith Herman, a Certified Rrofessional Developer for Motivation Interviewing and Researcher at Johns Hopkins University.
The conference will provide an opportunity for a community of coaches and coach leaders to learn about state of the art research and thinking on Instructional Coaching. Among the topics to be addressed are:
• The Roles of Coaches
• Behavior Coaching: Coaching to Improve Teachers Classroom Management Skills
• Lessons Learned About Quality Coaching From Research on 2000 Coaches in Florida
• Understanding and Negotiating the Principal and Coach Relationship
• Classroom Check Up: A Tool for Gathering Data and Communicating with Teachers About Classroom Management
• Reports on Significant Statewide Coaching Programs in Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states
This conference, however, will be more than a series of presentations, and, in the spirit of the partnership approach, the conference will provide numerous opportunities for dialogue. Open Space sessions will be offered where participants can converse with other participants and facilitators about topics that they are most concerned with, and presenters will engage in structured dialogues around topics. We anticipate the conference will be an annual opportunity to learn, to share ideas, to develop a community, and to collectively move the field of instructional coaching forward.
The conference fee is $450.00, which includes breakfast and snacks during the conference. Any profits from the conference will go toward the study of coaching at the Center for Research on Learning. Some rooms have been held at the Eldridge Hotel for conference participants. If you are interested in attending the conference, we strongly urge you to register soon. There really are a limited number of spaces, and we anticipate that this conference will fill up quickly. In the next few days, registration forms will be available for you to download from our instructional coaching website. You can also contact me, Jim Knight at my email if you have any questions. I am very excited about this conference, and I hope to see you in October.

Best wishes,