Niedzwiecki, A. (2007). Organizational barriers to effective literacy coaching. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 3(1), 59-64. Available:

Author: Niedzwiecki, A.



As educators, we often work from the belief that if we are competent, committed, reflective, experienced lifelong learners, we will become effective in our efforts. But, to what extent do the structures we work within disable us? In this article, the author identifies district and school expectations and organizational structures that can serve to undermine the success of literacy coaches, and suggests those that serve to support literacy coaching success.

The author discusses district- and school-level obstacles to successful literacy coaching separately, explains how they serve to work against coaching efforts, and provides advice on how to avoid or remedy them. Influences from the district level that can undermine literacy coaching success, according to the author, include the following: coaches assigned to serve more than one school, coaches expected to ensure building implementation of particular programs, and coaches expected to quickly distribute literacy materials without time to master them. The author advises, "When districts allow coaches the flexibility to work with a school's personality, rather than imposing a new one upon it, coaches build trusting relationships with administrators, teachers, and parents that support opportunities for transformational work" (p. 61).

In regard to site-based expectations and structures that can undermine the success of literacy coaches, the author identifies and explains the following: coach viewed as resident literacy expert, coach expected to 'fix' ineffective teachers, coach expected to enforce a prescribed instructional model, and coaches expected to handle instructional matters without administrator involvement. Instead, the author explains, "In order for coaches to promote positive changes in instruction, a school community must be at ease enough with a coach to be able to work through . . . times of upheaval and transformation. In the end, this work is worth the discomfort and unease that teachers feel, but a coach needs to have built relationships founded on trust and mutual respect for these adjustments to feel genuine rather than forced" (p. 62).

This is an important read for district and building administrators, and literacy coaches, because it has the potential to prompt consideration and reflection on how their literacy coaching program has been implemented, and which factors inhibit its success.

Date Added: 02/02/2008


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