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"Realizing a vision for literacy coaching"

Role of the Instructional Coach

At the middle and high school level, a coach is often called an “instructional coach” rather than a “literacy coach,” “reading coach,” or “reading specialist.”  In some contexts secondary teachers are more open to this terminology.  The concept is that the coach assists teachers to develop instructional strategies that will help students use and continue to build their literacy skills through content learning rather than implying that content teachers need to become literacy teachers or reading teachers per se.  Content teachers’ focus is first on content; each discipline has particular vocabulary, uses of language, written genre and so on that students need to learn. Instructional coaches help teachers improve the quality of their instruction, combining both content and literacy.

Qualifications of Instructional Coaches

IRA and NCTE have worked together with the professional associations of several content disciplines to prepare the following document that outlines qualifications for middle and high school instructional coaches, literacy coaches, reading coaches, and reading specialists.

Additionally, IRA and NCTE have worked together to develop the Self-Assessment for Middle and High School Literacy Coaches. This document helps literacy/instructional coaches determine those areas where they personally need further professional development.

Key Resources for Instructional Coaches

(Please also consult the entire LCC library.)

"Coaches Coaching Coaches"

by Jan Miller Burkins and Scott Ritchie

This article is both insightful and straightforward about the complexities of literacy and instructional coaching and emphasizes the need for coach-to-coach professional development. Included are excerpts from the authors own coach-to-coach dialogues, and reflections on how these sessions and dialogues have contributed to their coaching practices. The article is highly readable, informative, and very interesting. It would make a useful resource for instructional coaches and their administrators. In Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online] special issue on literacy coaching (2007). Volume 3, Number 1, pages 32-47. Available at

Coaches in the High School Classroom: Studies in Implementing High School Reform

by Molly Schen, Sanjiv Rao, and Ricardo Dobles

Prepared for the Carnegie Corporation of New York by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, this paper consists of short narratives from real-life instructional coaches and literacy coaches working in the Houston School District and the Boston Public Schools. The paper emphasizes the importance of flexible coaching models, creating clear job descriptions, and defining coaching goals and successes. Additionally, this paper highlights the importance of collaboration in the principal-instructional coach relationship. See this item in the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse Library to access an electronic version of the paper. Published in 2005.

Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others

by James Flaherty

A theoretical book about coaching in general, Flaherty’s work applies seamlessly to instructional coaching. This book links coaching to its bases in adult learning, human development, language theory, and psychology and offers thinking about various aspects of coaching: the relationship of coach to client, openings for coaching, assessment of immediate needs versus long term goals, the client's commitment to make needed changes, methods for coaching conversations, and techniques for getting unstuck. Many serious gurus of coaching recommend this book. Published in 2005.

Differentiated Literacy Coaching: Scaffolding for Student and Teacher Success

by Mary Catherine Moran

Here Moran guides readers to consider: How does one coach meet the highly varied needs of teachers with vastly different levels of experience, ability, and skill? While Moran uses the term “literacy coaching,” the premise of this book—coaches supporting teachers’ professional and instructional development at their point of need—is equally important for instructional coaches. Published in 2007.

"Getting on the Same Page: From Math and Science to History, Teachers at One Oregon High School Embrace Common Literacy Strategies"

by Rhonda Barton

This is an article about Beaverton High School, a school in Oregon that has seen its reading scores improve in the two years since implementing their coaching program. It provides examples of literacy coaching in various areas of the curriculum, including biology, social studies, geometry, history, and literature, as well as offers practical ideas for engaging students in thinking critically within the content areas. This article would be very useful for instructional coaches because of the focus on coaching across the content areas. In Northwest Education (2006), Volume 12, pages 30-35.

Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction

by Jim Knight

The partnership stance of this book maintains a very pro teacher perspective of instructional coaching. Knight’s book is about how instructional coaches can be effective in their work with teachers, rather than what roles and qualifications coaches should have. The author's insights into how to build collaborative relationships in order improve instruction will serve instructional coaches, literacy coaches, and administrators well. Published in 2007.

"Leading to Change: Coaching Myths and Realities"

by Douglas B. Reeves

The potential to effect change buzzes throughout the rhetoric around instructional coaching.  According to Reeves, however, the research remains inconclusive. This article attempts to sort through and make sense of that research to provide insight to instructional coaches. In Educational Leadership (2007), Volume 65, Number 2, pages 89-90.

Learning Along the Way: Professional Development By and For Teachers

by Diane Sweeney

Coaching provides teacher-centered, job-embedded, continuous professional development, and has been found to effect outstanding gains in teacher knowledge and skills, and therefore in student achievement. Here Sweeney details her experiences as an instructional coach in an inner-city Denver school, and shares the structures of coaching that she believes best benefit teacher growth. Published in 2003.

"The Magic of Coaching: Art Meets Science"

by Kathy S. Froelich and Enrique A. Puig 

Intended as a guide for coaches, the authors share observation protocols used to help coaches become objective and skillful observers.  They then explain how those coaches can use their observation data to inform their coaching. When the science—knowledge of coaching as professional development—meets the art—the finesse required in working with adults, the magic of coaching happens. Presented within a literacy coaching special issue, the protocols provided in this article would resonate equally with instructional coaches.  In Journal of Language and Literacy Education (2007) [Online], 3(1), 18-31. Available:

Taking the Lead: New Roles for Teachers and School-based Coaches

by JoEllen Killion & Cindy Harrison

This book is written for coaches and teacher leaders from all curricular areas. It applies well to instructional coaches who are placing emphasis on both content and development of literacy skills. Killion and Harrison have a wealth of experience as staff development  leaders and have also held leadership roles in  the National Staff Development Council.  NSCD principles of effective professional development are emphasized throughout the book. Unique are the Innovation configurations for school-based staff developers and an accompanying CD of tools for use by coaches. Published in 2006.

That Workshop Book: New Systems and Structures for Classrooms that Read, Write, and Think

by Samantha Bennett

Every once in a while, a writer comes along and makes us consider something in a totally new way. Writing from her experiences as an instructional coach, Bennett challenges common assumptions about workshop model in classrooms, and encourages teachers and instructional coaches to see workshop’s potential to affect student learning. This book seeps with “can do” and deserves the attention of teachers, literacy coaches, and instructional coaches. Published in 2007.

Tools for Leaders: Indispensable Graphic Organizers, Protocols, and Planning Guidelines for Working and Learning Together

by Marjorie Larner

Written from a coach's perspective, this workbook is a guide to developing healthy and effective communities of adult learners within schools. Larner articulates that establishing effective professional learning communities in schools improves student achievement in the classroom, and beyond. This book will be a valuable resource for instructional coaches responsible for professional development. Uniquely intended for working with adult learners, this book is filled with useful tools, activities, protocols, organizers, and lessons. Published in 2007.

Writing and Evaluating Assessments in the Content Area

by Audrey Friedman

This article describes the experiences of a literacy coach providing writing support to content teachers. Because it emphasizes writing across the content areas, and shares vignettes of how coaches can support teachers in teaching writing, it would be helpful to instructional coaches as well. In English Journal (2000). Volume 90, issue 1. Pages 107-111.
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