Forum 9-NRC 08 Study Grp-L'Allier & Elish-Piper, Does Literacy Coaching Make a Difference

Nancy Shanklin, Sun October 26, 2008, 09:31 PM MDT

Here you will find Susan L'Allier's and Laurie Elish-Piper's paper from NRC last year.  This is an interesting study to examine because it makes the link from coaching to student achievement. We will discuss this study as part of what we do on W morning.  It will be good for the study group to be familiar with the details of this study before hearing L'Allier and Elish-Piper present this year on TH morning at 8:30 AM in Tangerine A.

In their 08 NRC presentation L'Allier and Elish-Piper will focus on additional analyses of the data from their study.  In particular, they will be discussing the impact of coaching on different groups of students. They separated the students into intensive, strategic, and benchmark groups - according to their fall DIBELS scores - and examined the effects of various coaching activities for each group.  They will also be presenting a research-based model of coaching using the results from our two coaching studies.


Nancy Shanklin , Sun October 26, 2008, 09:36 PM MDT - Paper 1
Here is the L'Allier & Elish-Piper paper. I am creating a separate forum for each NRC paper that we will discuss on W or TH, so that some preliminary discussion can begin here before NRC.

Does Literacy Coaching Make a Difference?

Shawna Codrington , Tue February 10, 2009, 06:33 PM MST - It makes a difference!
The authors of this article conducted a beneficial study to the world of literacy. I found this statement to be very important, “While there is a push for literacy coaching in the schools, there is limited research to document the impact of literacy coaching on student reading achievement. Most of the available studies on literacy coaching focus on the roles and responsibilities of coaches”. The authors’ findings indicate that conferencing with teachers about literacy instruction was very beneficial to students and increased DIBELS scores. So, does literacy coaching make a difference? Absolutely! I believe that literacy coaches are essential to have at every school site, especially schools with high percentages of struggling readers. As a future literacy coach, I know that literacy coaches benefit both teachers and students by providing effective one-on-one tutoring and reading instruction. With the training and instruction I have received in my Reading Education program at SDSU, I feel more than prepared to be an effective literacy coach and I know that I will make a difference at any school I work at. I believe that literacy coaching does make a difference!
K McC , Tue February 10, 2009, 07:01 PM MST - data-based coaching
The term "data-based coaching" is new to me, and I find the concept intriguing. The idea seems to be that student test data (in this case DIBELS data) may reveal a teacher's need for instruction. This concept that student performance may illuminate a pedagogical weakness of a teacher makes sense. Of course, there would need to have been enough time for the teacher to have sequenced his/her best instruction. Additionally, there would need to be a significant trend in low student performance to indicate that the instruction was not adequate. If both of those conditions are met, then it makes sense that poor student performance may indicate a teaching point around which a literacy coach might plan her coaching.
K McC , Tue February 10, 2009, 07:25 PM MST - How effective is data-reporting without data-driven coaching?

Again, I'd like to consider the concept of data-based coaching but this time as it relates to a recent personal experience.

Is it enough to simply demand that teachers address the needs that data reveals? Do they need to be taught how by coaches using sound instructional practices (to/with/by: modeling and direct instruction, guided practice, observation and subsequent/reteaching when needed)? I recently initiated a conversation with a reading specialist (intervention specialist) in my school regarding this possibility. She and another specialist were meeting with grade-level teams to share DIBELS results from their winter testing of K-3 students and discuss student progress (or lack thereof). Teachers were getting an informative presentation regarding the data and student progress. The reading specialists gave helpful suggestions regarding instructional techniques, however I wondered whether there was a need for modeling of how to actually take a student’s scores as well as that student’s actual test and determine the specific teaching-points and instructional strategies that would address the needs of those who continued to progress slowly. Do teachers need direct coaching/instruction regarding what to do for students who are not making adequate progress?

Highlighting data that reveals a lack of desired progress by students without the modeling, co-teaching, and co-planning mentioned in this study seems to send the message, “What you are doing is not working. Make it work. Do what you were advised to do earlier in the year (though it’s not adequate according to the current data). We’ll reassess and reconvene next trimester to see how that worked out.” This could be an effective approach if teachers simply are not doing that which they had been advised to do. However, if they are attempting to follow the advising they received and are experiencing failure, then maybe something is missing from the equation. I believe that if the teachers knew what to do for the struggling students, they would do it. So, I wonder if there is a need for direct instruction and coaching on how to use the test data to design instruction for struggling students who are not progressing.

Meghann Voigtritter , Sun February 15, 2009, 03:42 PM MST - Yep!

Of course Literacy Coaching makes a difference! If I didn't believe this, then I wouldn't be in this line of work. However, believing that something makes a difference can differ from having proof that it does. The paper by Laurie Elish-Piper and Susan K. Allier actually offers proof that what we're doing counts. In this study, literacy coaches spent almost half of their work time coaching K-3 teachers in literacy instruction. Student post-assessments indicated significant improvement from the pre-tests administered prior to coaching. One can only assume that the coaching played a huge role in this improvement. It is a shame that more quality studies about literacy coaching effectiveness don't exist. If more people realized how essential literacy coaching is, maybe more funding for literacy coaching would appear.

Michelle Herrera , Sun February 15, 2009, 10:11 PM MST - The Effects of Quality Teaching

I felt the theoretical framework/perspectives section presented some interesting information. It included that: "...Allington (2006) argues that the best way to increase student reading achievement is to improve the quality of classroom reading instruction. Moreover, Swartz (2005) contends that improving the quality of classroom reading instruction may decrease the need for remedial reading programs and special education services."

This makes the literacy coach's job on a school campus even more critical. If the literacy coach can effectively train teachers to be more thoughtful in the instruction they provide, the students will benefit tremendously. Furthermore, as the research suggests, it will make the need for additional intervention programs unnecessary.

Stephanie Strachan , Fri February 20, 2009, 12:57 PM MST - Modeling

In response to K McC, you raise an important and often overlooked question:
Do teachers need direct coaching/instruction regarding what to do for students who are not making adequate progress?

The literacy coaches in this study spent almost half of their time modeling, co-teaching, and co-planning with teachers, in addition to administering assessments. Thus, if one is to base her assessment of literacy coaches' effectiveness on this particular study, then I do not think these roles of the coach can be overlooked. Based on my own experiences as a teacher, I believe that most teachers want to provide good instruction for their students. They often simply do not know how. A knowledgeable literacy coach who models how to take a student with a particular need to the next level not only helps that student's development directly, but she also indirectly assists the development of students with similar needs whom the teacher can now instruct in the future.

Wendy Jacob , Wed March 11, 2009, 09:11 PM MDT - Student Advocate

I agree with you Stephanie and would like to add, that as long as there is a need for student improvement, teachers will have to continuously improve their own skills in order to meet students, struggling or advanced, needs. I believe coaches play important roles in supporting teachers’ immediate needs in the classroom and they do make a difference.

I would like to address two other points in this dialogue. (1) K Mc C said “I believe that if the teachers knew what to do for the struggling students, they would do it. So, I wonder if there is a need for direct instruction and coaching on how to use the test data to design instruction for struggling students who are not progressing.” This is a great point. Struggling readers for example, continue to struggle in classrooms. Most often, teachers have not received up to date training on best practices or techniques, for instance, to help improve students’ reading skills. Perhaps coaches could design direct instruction workshops to address those unique strategies which could propel students forward on their next benchmark tests.

(2) Michelle Herrera quoted Swartz (2005) “who contends that improving the quality of classroom reading instruction may decrease the need for remedial reading programs and special education services." I would love to read some research that may have prompt Swartz to make this comment. As a special education teacher, I must agree there are times when struggling readers need only a boost in small group settings. They are then mainstreamed back to the general population and successfully continue their education. Perhaps having ‘quality reading instruction,’ in a supportive classroom environment, these students may also succeed. I will argue, however, that a great majority of students in special education classrooms across the U.S. are struggling due to developmental delays. This is no fault of the student and certainly not a reflection of the services they may receive. ‘Quality reading instruction could also help students, who are developmentally delayed, achieve individual success or benchmarks, but to have these students reach grade level could not be rushed or measured by time.

Wendy Jacob , Wed March 11, 2009, 10:13 PM MDT - In this study, did literacy coaching benefit 3rd grade students?

L’Allier,Ed.D. and Laurie Elish-Piper, ph.D. focused primarily on the importance of coaching different groups of students in this article. It was interesting to note the amount of time spent coaching teachers from grades k-3. For Example, kindergarten and first grade teachers got an average of 13.50 hours. Second grade teachers got about 15 hours of coaching, and third grade teachers received an average of 20 hours of coaching. “It is interesting to note that the district did not meet requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) at the third-grade level during 2006-7 (the year of the study);” (p.3). Based on the number of extra hours spent and the lower percentage of student gains for 3rd grade, Word Usage Fluency Subtest in particular. I question if there was or will be any subsequent research looking at student gains (+ or -) versus the quality of literacy coaching they received?.

Celina Register , Mon April 13, 2009, 12:30 PM MDT - Guidance or Reflection?
The gains in student improvement as stated by this article are impressive. With something as simple as coaching to make such significant gains in achievement, it’s a wonder why all schools don’t have a literacy coach on campus. Of course this article points out that is did not look at the quality of coaching and I believe the quality is more important than the quantity. Do you think that just reflecting on student performances help the teachers to improve their teaching? I constantly reflect on my performance, but I know lots of teachers that do not. I wonder if conferencing is what makes the difference or if it is the guidance the coach can offer?
Celina Register , Mon April 13, 2009, 12:49 PM MDT - Response to K McC
“Data-based coaching” is an intriguing concept. It seems to go back to the model of using an assessment to figure out your student’s needs and then teach to those needs. It’s the same thing but on a teacher level. Instead of teaching to the students’ needs you are teaching (or coaching) to the teacher’s needs. This makes sense in the fact that we all have strengths and weaknesses as teachers and we should have someone help us improve our weaknesses.

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