Forum 7: National Reading Conference (NRC) Study Group on Literacy Coaching

Nancy Shanklin, Sun October 28, 2007, 06:43 PM MDT

Welcome to our preconference discussions as a start up to the NRC Study Group on Literacy Coaching. The Study Group will meet from 7:25-8:25 Wednesday through Saturday at NRC in Room: Big Ben C.

Over the next month Kristin Rainville and I would like to engage all who are interested in discussion of five recent studies of literacy coaching. Three are qualitative studies and will be discussed first. The remaining two contain both quantitative and qualitative elements. We will discuss the three qualitative studies these next two weeks and then move to the mixed-methods studies.

We feel very privileged that these researchers are allowing us to read and discuss their studies. As you will see, these studies are complex, and it is very helpful to have written versions for discussion.

Our plan at NRC for the four days is: W - Discuss characteristics of the new studies on literacy coaching, the need for more to reach publication, and questions that researchers might pursue. TH - To continue and deepen our understanding of the 5 studies discussed over this next month. F - To synthesize what we are learning from the 12 (or more!) studies on literacy coaching at NRC this year. S - To determine next steps that the study group would like to pursue and to form a discussion group(s) within the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse Website for further networking on particular projects.

Kristin and I will post next each of the three studies that we would like to discuss.

Entering the discussion is easy! You just have to create a login/register. This takes all of about 30 seconds. We promise that you receive no e-mails from the LCC website to your regular e-mail! You come to the LCC site when YOU want to! The Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse is a joint project of IRA and NCTE.

Of course, we hope if you don't know the website well or haven't revisited this fall that you will poke around to see what new items we have added!

NRC Study Group Proposal Literacy Coaching02-28-07.doc


Nancy Shanklin , Sun October 28, 2007, 06:57 PM MDT - Anthony Smith Dissertation
Dr. Smith's dissertation won an NRC Award last year. He will have a piece on his dissertation coming out in this year's NRC Yearbook. He has suggested that people may gain most by looking at Chapter 7.

The Middle School Literacy Coach: Roles, Contexts, and Connections to Teaching

Nancy Shanklin , Sun October 28, 2007, 07:02 PM MDT - Jennifer Hathaway & Victoria Risko
This study uses the concept of distributed leadership to examine the coaching programs of three different schools (two elementary and one middle school) in the same school district. This paper was first presented at AERA in April 07.

Reading Specialists as Professional Development Leaders: Contextualizing School Change

Nancy Shanklin , Sun October 28, 2007, 07:14 PM MDT - Kristin Rainville Dissertation
Dr. Rainville will present further on her dissertation at NRC this year. Her dissertation suggests that even when coaches have a literacy model to implement there is still much to negotiate at school sites. (I will post the introductory pages to her dissertation next. I can't seem to get them all into one file.)

Situated Identities, Power, and Positioning: Inside the Practices of Three Literacy Coaches in new Jersey

Nancy Shanklin , Sun October 28, 2007, 07:17 PM MDT - Kristin Rainville-Opening Pages
I posted the meat of Dr. Rainville's dissertation first. Here are the opening pages, credits, table of contents, if you want to see those as well.

Opening Pages to K Rainville Dissertation

Kristin Rainville , Sun October 28, 2007, 07:36 PM MDT - Getting the conversation started...

Nancy and I have chosen three qualitative studies to kick of our NRC study group around literacy coaching. The three studies (Smith, 2006, Hathaway & Risko, 2007, and Rainville, 2007) investigate literacy coaching in diverse contexts including elementary and middle schools in both urban and suburban contexts in the northeast, southwest, and west.

I found that these studies have common threads that run through them which are incredibly important contributions to the field of literacy coaching. The first thread is that literacy coaching is complex. Second, that literacy coaching is situated. And finally, that literacy coaches’ responsibilities and practices are dynamic and varied.

Because we all read from our experiences, I was hoping to start this conversation off with a discussion about these three common threads, as well as any others that you see running through these three studies, and the implications of these findings.

Sally Heineke , Mon October 29, 2007, 07:32 PM MDT - Complexity of Coaching

Hi, Kristin. Having recently read your very scholarly dissertation and talked with you via email, in my opinion your case studies confirm the three threads you have suggested. Since I am currently involved in a dissertation on reading coaching, I'm really looking forward to the readings and on-line discussions.

Last week, I helped to facilitate a discussion among literacy coaches at our Alabama Reading Association annual conference. Our topic looked at the characteristics that make coaching effective or ineffective. The complexity of coaching certainly came out in the discussions. During our brief time together, we considered several factors found in the literature on coaching which are set forth as variables that impact coaching effectiveness. It was interesting that among all the possible network of factors, the coaches quickly reached a consensus among themselves that human relation skills was the most critical. Having served as a regional reading coach trainer for the Alabama Reading Initiative, this was eye opening. Although we have talked about human relation skills in our professional development sessions, it is an area that is difficult to teach... Just thinking about the complexity of this one component of coaching, brings home the difficulty in preparing coaches for the challenges of their work.
Sally Heineke University of Alabama

Sharon Walpole , Tue October 30, 2007, 03:26 PM MDT - Anthony Smith Dissertation
First, thanks for the invite to this discussion! I just read chapter 7 of Anthony's dissertation. Very interesting. I really liked his use of the term literacy program advocacy as one of the principle roles that a coach might engage; The school-level data, though, indicated that these three coaches engaged relatively little of their time in such things. I have been thinking about whether program advocacy is a precursor to effective classroom-level coaching. If a building has a negative climate or a very disorganized approach to teaching and learning, would program advocacy ever be an important role for a coach? Or will it always distract from direct classroom work. I'd like to hear what others think about this, especially in reference to this dissertation.
Sharon Walpole , Tue October 30, 2007, 03:45 PM MDT - Hathaway/Risko
I read the Hathaway and Risko piece, and it really stretches me. I realize all the time that I need to be reading the leadership literature to really engage in thinking about coaching, but it's a new literature to me. The figure is quite compelling. Please help me to understand the stretched distribution more specifically. Does it imply that the teachers have too much or too little responsibility in those contexts?
Kristin Rainville , Fri November 02, 2007, 04:09 PM MDT - Effective Coaching

Thank you Sally and Sharon for getting this conversation started ;)

One of the interesting things that I noticed about both of your responses, is that you brought up "effective" coaching. I hear this often and think that many people (coaches, researchers, teachers, etc.) have this on their mind. My work, as well as Anthony’s did not bring the word effective into our work—from my own perspective, it is because of the theoretical underpinnings of the studies, the qualitative nature of the dissertations, as well as the questions that we researched. (I know I made sure that I did not bring that word into my “writing” and it was VERY hard to keep it out, because it was always on the tip of my tongue and always asked about). On the other hand, Hathaway & Risko piece does look at impact as will the second set of readings that we post and discuss.

I wonder, when we are discussing effectiveness, how does each person/researcher think of effectiveness? Is it that the coach is able to build relationships? Get people on board with coaching? Shift school culture? Improve teacher performance? Student achievement? I think the term effectiveness has situated meanings and it depends upon the group in which you are working with or the research that you are reading.

Nancy Shanklin , Tue November 13, 2007, 06:55 PM MST - Shorter Version of Anthony Smith Work
Anthony Smith just had a chapter come out in the new NRC Yearbook about his study of three middle school literacy coaches. I have attached a copy of this for use in the study group. We will take it down after this forum until we check on getting full permission to include it in the LCC library.

Smith, A. (2007). Middle School Literacy Coach

Nancy Shanklin , Tue November 13, 2007, 07:06 PM MST - "Coach" can mean many things: Five categories of literacy coaches in Reading First
Kristin and I would like to post now the final two published studies that the NRC Study Group will discuss on TH. This is the first of the two. The study that I am attaching here concerns the Reading First programs in five western states. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

"Coach" can mean many things: Five categories of literacy coaches in Reading First

Nancy Shanklin , Wed November 14, 2007, 07:01 PM MST - South Carolina Reading Initiative
This paper by Diane Stephens et al will be published online by NCTE very soon. I will include the link to the revised, final paper as soon as I receive it. This paper is well worth reading. It explains the professional deelopment design, the research design, and the findings of the South Carolina Reading Initiative. There is much to think about here--especially the ways that they continued to ask questions and mined the data to furtner understand the results of SCRI on student achievement. I do have Diane's permission to share this version until we receive the final one.

South Carolina Reading Iniative

William Teale , Thu November 15, 2007, 12:43 PM MST - Effectiveness

I also believe that the issue of effectiveness is huge in coaching. I agree with your point, Kristin, about the definitional issue of effectiveness being a major one—there are many facets to it and it is critical to explain what is meant by effectiveness (and terribly easy for folks to be unclear about it or use it in a quite cavalier fashion). But I’m having a hard time understanding why one would deliberately want to avoid the issue of effectiveness. Does this imply that because the concept is multifaceted that it should be avoided? Or is the argument that value judgments should be avoided in research on coaching?

I’m thinking that the point of having a coach is effectiveness. Don’t we have coaches in the classroom to change things? And therefore aren’t we trying to make things better? Isn’t that really in a fundamental way about effectiveness? Or is it that the word effectiveness is tied up with a problematic theoretical paradigm?

Nancy Shanklin , Fri November 23, 2007, 08:43 PM MST - Description of Coaches' Roles & Effectiveness
This question of effectiveness is really an important one. Both Rainville's and Smith's studies are descriptive ethnographies; I don't think that they set out to determine the coaches' effectiveness per se. Both followed 3 coaches in depth. They tried to capture and describe the roles and actions that the coaches engaged in without judging their "effectiveness." I think that both studies help us understand much about the variables that influence coaches' abilities to do their jobs. In Rainville's study, all three coaches had received a full year of in depth training concerning the same research-based practices. Yet, how they were able to implement their knowledge while coaching teachers was situated within the specific contexts, power relationships, etc. in which they worked. At first I had trouble understanding Smith's diagram near the end of his study. Now, I understand it is about the very point that Teale is raising. For coaches to be effective Smith proposes that there needs to be a better fit between teachers' professional knowledge landscape and the coaching process. Particularly coaches roles need to be more aligned to fit with helping teachers bridge between professional development outside of the classroom and then moving into the classroom. Hathoway and Risko did survey teachers as one way to examine at coaches' effectiveness. To date, they have not been able to obtain student test scores for their three schools so that they might be able to compare which model of distributed leadership seemed to work best. Actually, only the SCRI study contains actual student test scores as a way to measure program and coach effectiveness. In the end, the question that Bill raises will be a rich one for continued discussion at NRC. I'm wondering what others are finding interesting about the studies as they read this weekend.
mona essa , Fri March 14, 2008, 12:30 PM MDT - Book trailers!!
What an interesting way to get people interested in reading! Book trailers are like movie trailers, but for books! You can find them all over the internet now, but here is a site that's featuring them on YouTube.
lubna lubna , Wed April 16, 2008, 08:11 AM MDT - hi----

HI People at first thanks a lot to give me a place to participate with you. yes it is good idea National Reading Conference (NRC) Study Group on Literacy Coaching. now life is busy people have no time to read book but .


If you haven't checked out book trailers, or if you want to see some really cools ones I've found a few places that are really good. My favorite is on YouTube at, but I also like the new ones on the site at and go to the BN Studio, and I love the Borders Media site too. VidLits are pretty cool

Nancy Shanklin , Sat April 26, 2008, 06:24 PM MDT - Powerpoint Summary of Research on Literacy Coaching from NRC 11/07
While I made a group of all those who attended our Study Group at NRC and sent the powerpoint to them, I realize now that I didn't post here the group's final powerpoint summary of the research from NRC 07. Kristin Rainville and I have put in a proposal to continue the Study Group at NRC 08. We'll see if it gets approved!

Literacy Coaching at NRC 07.ppt

K McC , Tue February 10, 2009, 08:18 PM MST - Thanks for Forming a Study Group
I am pleased to see that there is a group of literacy professionals positioning themselves to participate in charting the course for research on literacy coaching. I appreciate the list of possible exemplar studies included in the study group plan and am interested to know the findings of the study group (which studies "made the cut").
K McC , Tue February 10, 2009, 09:22 PM MST - PPT

Thanks for posting your PowerPoint of talking points.

  1. I am curious to know what Toll's "fresh perspective" is regarding literacy coaching.

  2. Regarding Rogers & Rogers, I found it curious that coaches didn't have a predetermined plan for interacting. The reading specialist program in which I am enrolled recommends that we prepare a plan, using a template they provide, to structure/guide our coaching conversations with teachers.

Amy Sandvold , Mon March 02, 2009, 11:54 PM MST - Plan for Interacting
Garmston & Costa's Cognitive Coaching has an excellent, simple yet powerful coaching interaction plan. I also appreciate their definition of coaching as moving the learner forward as a cognitive coach vs. coaching by directing.
Meghann Voigtritter , Sun March 15, 2009, 05:24 PM MDT -
I very much enjoyed reading Dr. Smith's dissertation: The Middle School Literacy Coach: Roles, Contexts, and Connections to Teaching. I am a graduate student in a Reading Specialist program, and I also teach middle and high school. For the year and a half I have been in the graduate program, I have learned so much. However, I find that it is difficult to use much of what I have learned in a middle and high school setting, as it is more geared toward elementary grades. I think it is a very common misconception that children are done learning to read by the time they leave elementary school. For many of the students I work with, that is certainly not the case. It is exciting to see research being done on reading specialism in middle schools.
Meghann Voigtritter , Sun March 15, 2009, 05:32 PM MDT -

I would love to see research and discussion on the following areas: 1) Reading Specialists working in high school settings 2) How to help high school aged students with elementary reading levels 3) Graduate reading specialist programs geared toward working with middle/high school students

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