Walker, L. (2008, March). Probing the influence of school context on coaching activity: Two contrasting cases. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, New York, New York.

Author: Walker, L.



This study of two coaches as individual cases links close to the study by Aterberry, Bryky, Walker, and Biancarosa entitled, “Variations in the Amount of Coaching in Literacy Collaborative Schools.” The Literacy Collaborative builds upon 30 years of research and development grounded in the reading theories of Marie Clary and elaborated by Fountas and Pinnell. The overall goal is to improve the reading and writing achievement of all children in a school. A key component of LC is the training and support of school-based literacy coaches who provide extensive school-based professional development activities, including individual coaching to individual building teachers.

With time, the researchers want to take insights learned from the two case studies of coaches presented in this paper and apply them to a complete set of 18 case studies for which data has been collected. The two case studies help the researchers identify key elements that they may want to contrast in the complete data set. At the time this paper was written, final test score data had not yet been analyzed.

In Literacy Colloaborative Schools, those teachers chosen to become reading coaches may or may not have previous high quality training in literacy or adult learning and yet be tapped to be the building coach. An important quality of the Literacy Collaborative model is the one-to-one coaching that reading coaches do. The two case study coaches were selected because of the variance in the amount of coaching that they did with individual teachers.

The first case study coach received high ratings for her understanding of students’ literacy and her ability to increase students’ literacy development. However, she did not score highly in her knowledge of adult learning, her belief that all students could learn, and in her commitment to the school itself and its mission. From analysis of her coach logs, this coach had one of the lowest scores for the number of times that she implemented one-to-one coaching with teachers. Researchers wanted to examine was why this had been the result. In contrast, the second case study reading coach was perceived to have only beginning skills as a teacher who could reach struggling readers. However, she had experience with leading adult learners and was very enthusiastic about her commitment to her school. She had one of the highest scores of her one-to-one coaching efforts with teachers.

The study uses many instruments to examine the self-efficacy of these two case study coaches and differences in the conditions of their school contexts. The study begins to explicate all of the factors that can make a difference in a coach’s support to teachers and those, especially in terms of climate, that needed to be signaled by the school principal. Both cases raise questions about a coach and how to prepare her/him for the role. In a nutshell, “How should a coach, willing to do the job, but of modest expertise, be supported?” (p. 32) There is much here to be discussed especially in relationship to the other research studies in this group.

Date Added: 11/14/2008


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