Literacy Coaching is relatively new to our region, and while schools outside of our area may have established coaching models long ago, the opportunity to support teachers in this capacity is something that many districts in our area are just beginning to make happen. It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of this work in WNY. This week’s strand of posts have been written at the request of teachers and administrators who are interested in learning more about coaching and how they might begin this sort of work in their own schools. My experience isn’t every coach’s experience, though. There are many others who have stories and tips of their own to share. Take a peek here, for starters.
In my experience, literacy coaching begins with assessment. I’ve worked with teachers to identify and prioritize their needs, and together, we created aligned objectives and learning targets. Last summer, Giselle Martin Kniep and other fellows of Communities for Learning coached me in the development of theories of change, and a collaborative study of Joellen Killion’s book, Assessing Impact: Evaluating Staff Development helped me learn more about this sort of planning and ways to assess the effectiveness of our efforts. I’ve studied many other texts as well, but that book in particular is one I’ve come to value. As I reflect on the work behind me, I can honestly say that beginning my learning and my work in this place was essential. Conducting a thorough self-assessment was even more so.
One thing I’ve realized is that coaches of all kinds need communities of their own to learn and grow within. Communities help us identify what we may not know. The most effective communities also provide sustained and rich connections to those who don’t merely share their own expertise and resources, but provoke us to help ourselves by pursuing research and study ourselves. What I’ve appreciated most about Communities for Learning is that I am rarely given “stuff” or simple answers to complex problems. More often, I’m provided support in defining better questions to pursue on my own. I’m also provided clarity around the gaps in my own learning so that I know where I might want to forward. It’s up to me to do that though.
All of this speaks to the important role that self-assessment plays in literacy coaching. One of the first suggestions given to me early on in my coaching work was to figure out what literacy coaches do before I went about designing grand schemes (thank you very much Giselle and Carol Weintraub). Okay. So……..that’s a big question. Here’s how I handled it: I looked for standards. Then, I looked to others who had expertise in this in order to learn more. Over time, I created and asked for feedback on a self-assessment that helped me identify where my areas of strength and need were as a coach and learner. Through my research and practical experience, I discovered that effective literacy coaches have expertise in the following ever-evolving intelligences (for lack of better phraseology).
- The Foundations of Literacy
- The Use of Data
- Assessment Types
- Assessment Practices
- Reading and Writing Instruction
- Varied Coaching Models
- Adult Learning Theory
- Strategies for Facilitating the Work of Adult Learners
- Differentiated Instruction
- Systems Theory
- Strategic Planning
- Acting as a Change Agent Within Larger Reform Efforts
- Networked Learning and the Use of Web Technologies to Facilitate That
- (and to a lesser degree) Tech Tools
- Dispositions of Practice and Habits of Mind
- Frameworks that Sustain Learning and Growth
These criteria were informed by the work of Jim Knight, Nancy Shanklin, Learner-Centered Initiatives, the fellows of Communities for Learning, and Katherine Casey. My network on Twitter offered much insight and great support too (thanks, guys)! For my purposes, this is a list-in-progress, but building a self-assessment around it helped me clarify my own learning targets, and I feel that I’m better able to serve others as a result. Mine is an imperfect science, I know. Turns out, I’ve discovered that defining what coaches need to know and be able to do well can be overwhelming. This is what I’ve learned, and it is what I’m assessing myself against in order to frame my personal learning targets. If you are a literacy coach, please jump in and suggest elements that I may be overlooking. Carol? Linda? Angela(s)? Nina? If anyone would like a copy of the rubric I’ve developed or other resources, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.