Just as teachers rely upon a gradual release of responsibility model to ensure effective instruction, many coaches begin moving toward similar models once they’ve established agreed-upon learning targets for their efforts with teachers. I was first introduced to this model through my study of Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey’s work and then again when I was exposed to Jeff Wilhelm’s kid-friendly version in one of my favorite texts, Reading is Seeing. As a coach, I find that protocols enable this gradual release of responsibility well.

A protocol is a process that guides conversation. Protocols provide structures that clarify our purposes, ensure equal levels of participation, and provide space for challenging discourse and decision-making to take place. Entering into a coaching relationship can be a frightening and even threatening experience for some. Protocols can be used to ensure that all stakeholders feel safe enough to do work that often demands a great deal from us intellectually, emotionally, and professionally. They can also enhance each phase of a gradual-release coaching model (an overview of the one I use with teachers is below). I’ve saved these links at Diigo to ensure that they remain current and that these lists can evolve over time in response to what I learn. Feel free to stop back and see how they evolve, and if you are willing to share the protocols that you value, please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Many thanks to the folks at the National School Reform Faculty for making their work public so that others can learn from them.

Stage of the Gradual ReleaseĀ  Process

The Work of the Coaching Relationship

Helpful Protocols

I Do
  • Using student work to define evidence-based learning targets
  • Defining research-based practices that support progress toward learning targets
  • Planning a coach-facilitated demonstration lesson of a research-based practice
Learning From Student Work ProtocolsText-Based Protocols
We Do
  • Demonstration lesson study
  • Debriefing
  • Measuring the effectiveness of our work
  • Collaboratively planning a co-taught lesson
  • Co-taught lesson study
  • Debriefing
  • Measuring the effectiveness of our work
Lesson Study Protocols 
You Do
  • Planning a teacher-facilitated demonstration lesson
  • Teacher demonstration lesson study
  • Debriefing
  • Measuring the effectiveness of our work
Learning from Adult Work ProtocolsSuccess Analysis Protocols

Reflective Dialogue Protocols

Learning From Student Work Protocols

We All Do
  • Collaborating with others to share and build expertise around practices that nurture student growth and learning
  • Measuring the effectiveness of our work


  1. Morning, Angela! I had this one written last week and had to smile when I came upon your gradual release post in my reader this weekend. The collaboration piece is a natural part of building internal capacity for coaching in my work, but I’ve never seen it included in the gradual release model for instruction until you blogged it. Meaningful considerations there. Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Pingback: Angela Maiers - Learning in Action at Smashburger U

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