Forum 12: NRC 08 Study Grp-Atteberry, Bryk, Walker, & Biancarosa, Variations in the Amount of Coaching in Literacy Collaborative Schools

Nancy Shanklin, Sun October 26, 2008, 11:01 PM MDT

Those of you who attended NRC in 07 will remember the excellent set of papers presented on Saturday morning on the work of the Literacy Collaborative.  Others may have heard further presentations by this group at AERA 08. 

At NRC this year we are very lucky! They are presenting a session with four papers on W, 3:00-4:30 PM in Salon B.  The over all title of the session is "The Longitudinal Impact of Literacy Collaborative on Teacher Development and Student Achievement: Final Results from a Four-year Quasi-esperimental Study." 

This is important work that has been IES funded.  This research team includes Irene Fountas, Gay Su Pinnell, Anthony Bryk, Gina Biancarosa, Patricia Scharer, Allison Atteberry, Heather Hough, Emily Dexter, and Lisa Walker. 

We will be discussing their work in the Study Group on TH morning (after hearing the presentation on W afternoon).  Members of the research team will be in attendance. This will allow us to  interact with them about the papers posted here and their presentation on  W.  We  will post in separate forums 3 to 4 of their papers to read, study, and discuss  prior to NRC.  The link to the project's website is:

Many of the instruments that they discuss using are posted in the website.


Nancy Shanklin , Mon October 27, 2008, 08:55 PM MDT - Variations in the Amount of Coaching
This paper reports on preliminary findings based on data from the first three years of this four year study. The authors examine the extend to which Literacy Collaborative coaches successfully engage teachers in one-on-one coaching. They ask: How much coaching is actually taking place in the 18 schools that were studied? Does the amount of coaching received by individual teachers vary within and between schools? If so, what might account for this?

Variations in the Amount of Coaching in Literacy Collaborative Schools

Nancy Shanklin , Mon October 27, 2008, 08:58 PM MDT - Proving the Influence of School Context on Coaching Activity: Two Contrasting Cases
This paper is related to the first study and examines in more depth the influence of school context on contrastive case studies of two Literacy Collaborative coaches.

Probing the Influence of School Context on Coaching Activity: Two Contrasting Cases

K McC , Tue February 10, 2009, 08:46 PM MST - Variations in Coach's Activities

Recent conversations that I have had with colleagues and fellow graduate student sprang to mind when I read the in the conclusion section of this paper that findings, "...[bring] to light the immense variability in coaching activities, even within a model that provides extensive training and regularity. One might expect that such variation is even greater in the “real world”, which includes instances where coaches are simply assigned to a coaching position often without the benefit of the explicit instructional and training framework provided by the Literacy Collaborative." Unfortunately, my some of my peers have had negative experiences in which literacy coaches were co-opted by principals to serve as evaluators and supervisors rather than coaches. To put it more accurately, the coaches were directed to both coach and supervise/evaluate, which seems to be an impossible combination. Can a coach to teachers also be a supervisor/evaluator for a principal?

K McC , Tue February 10, 2009, 09:02 PM MST - Underqualified Coaches
"How should a coach willing to do the job, but of modest expertise, be supported?" This question is raised in "Probing the Influence of School Context on Coaching Activity: Two Contrasting Cases" but left unanswered. I think that unqualified coaches should not be utilized; that's my opinion. The position is challenging for highly-qualified individuals, those with a strong background in literacy instruction, literacy research, and coaching techniques for adult learners. So, how can we expect those without training or experience to be effective literacy coaches?
Stephanie Strachan , Fri February 20, 2009, 01:23 PM MST - School Context

While it seems common sense that school context would influence the amount of coaching received by individual teachers at different sites, the preliminary findings of the first three years of this four-year study provide solid evidence of exactly that. I am still left wondering how school context affects a coach's effectiveness however, specifically in terms of the roles expected of coaches at differing sites. Like K McC, I too have heard from teachers who have worked with coaches co-opted by principals to serve as evaluators. I cannot imagine how evaluation and coaching can be done performed effectively by the same person. For example, in a baseball setting, a coach plays the role of guiding and teaching his/her players in the ways of the game. A scout, on the other hand, comes to assess a player's ability and determine whether or not he/she is worthy of a scholarship or contract. If a coach were to have the dual role as a scout, could the players feel safe to make mistakes and try new things in front of him/her? Certainly not. The players would need to practice outside the presence of the coach for fear of demonstrating any weaknesses. Yet without the coach's guidance, how could the players be expected to better their skills? Similarly, I do not think a literacy coach can create a "'safe zone' for teacher's experimentation" with new strategies and techniques if he/she is also expected to formally assess a teacher for the administration. There is nothing safe about it.
On a side note, I find it interesting that only 20% of the coaching sessions in this study consisted of some type of modeling due to the LC framework's view of it as an occasional activity. Can teachers effectively learn from a coach's advice without the use of modeling unfamiliar techniques and strategies?

Celina Register , Sun March 15, 2009, 06:35 PM MDT - The Literacy Collaborative coach
The study that Atteberry, et al., implemented found that each individual coach brought “her own ensemble of beliefs, role conceptions, and expertise to their work” (2008, p 7). I think this is one of the biggest factors as to what the role of the literacy coach on a campus will be like. In my experience I have seen a coach tied to the basal reader who would not even look at a strategy unless it said Houghton Mifflin on it. This coach seemed to discount that there are many successful research-based strategies that do not come with a Houghton Mifflin stamp on them. When I asked this coach about her training, she told me that her training consisted of Reading First professional development. I agree with K McC that a coach should be a highly-qualified individual with a strong background in instruction and research. This would allow the coach access to new research and not only that presented by a company trying to earn money.
Celina Register , Mon April 13, 2009, 12:39 PM MDT - Response to Stephanie
You make a great point about modeling. How can someone be successful without modeling? When we are learning to become teachers we learn through modeling during our student teaching year. It makes sense that to improve on teaching techniques, teachers should go back to modeling. There have been many times in my Master’s program that a strategy only seemed ok or not interesting at all, until the professor modeled the strategy. Then suddenly the strategy seemed appropriate and worthwhile. It was the modeling that made me confident enough to try a successful strategy in my own teaching. Modeling is important and effective. A coach should model frequently.

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