November, 2019

Dear RBT Community,

One of our focus areas over the past several years has been providing support and training in districts that are  creating instructional coaching positions designed to support teachers and the complexity of their work . We were very fortunate to work initially with Jim Knight (University of Kansas) as we designed and developed the courses we now offer in school districts throughout the country. The work has been both rewarding and challenging as we watch these often brand new positions become a part of the landscape of schools and districts: rewarding because it increases the likelihood that professional development for teachers has lasting implementation potential with the on-sight support of a coach; challenging because it is frequently uncharted territory for a district, a school and the individuals who are selected to become coaches, the latter most often being very skillful teachers now taking on the role of working with adults. 

Knight’s instructional coaching model (see figure below) begins with coach and teacher getting a  clear picture of the current reality  in the classroom setting, ideally through  videotaping  a class the teacher is interested in focusing on in the coaching. Teacher and coach view the video separately and come together afterwards to discuss how the current picture aligns with what the teacher would ideally like to see happening with students. Out of that conversation the teacher and coach  identify   a student behavior or learning goal that is of high interest to the teache r. This initial goal setting step is what Knight identifies as the most important part of the whole process and our experience concurs. From there, teacher and coach work together to identify the roadmap to getting there and the instructional strategies the teacher might use to help students progress towards the goal. Once the teacher has had a chance to experiment with the plan, coach and teacher come together to assess how things are going and to decide what comes next.

We have been privileged to work in a wide range of settings over the years and we continue to discover first hand the importance of many of the tenets that are built into Knight’s work:
  • There are inherent complexities embedded in working with adults when one is perceived as being in a ‘helping’ role and we need to know what they are and how to navigate those
  • It is critical to spend the time developing trust in the coaching process and between teacher and coach if real learning is to occur
  • There are a clear set of principles one can learn and consciously apply in order to build respectful and productive partnerships with adults
  • There should be a clearly established protocol that guides the coaching process and defines the sequence of activities that might happen between coach and teacher
  • Finally, and of utmost importance, for sustainability there must be a systemic commitment that includes all stakeholders including central office and school building leadership throughout the district

Springfield, OR represents for us an exemplary model of what systemic commitment for sustainability looks like. Now in the fourth year of implementing an instructional coaching program, the Central office leadership,Dave Collins, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, and Whitney McKinley, Curriculum Director have made it a funding priority and provided the option to every school in the district to staff a full time building–based instructional coach. Perhaps the most significant evidence of the districtwide commitment is the team of three outstanding coaches who serve in leadership positions (one each at elementary, middle school and high school. In that capacity they plan, implement, and facilitate regular PLC meetings for coaches and ongoing communication and professional learning opportunities for themselves, the building coaches, and the building principals. We are very excited to introduce Kate, Susan and Josh in the video clips below and invite you to hear directly from them as they candidly tell their story and share with all of us lessons from the field that illuminate what commitment and sustainability looks like. Enjoy! 


Mary Ann Haley-Speca and Deb Reed
RBT Senior Consultants
The Coaching Cycle
Coaching From the Field
We asked three district coaches from Springfield, Oregon to reflect on their experience starting and sustaining a district-wide coaching program. Here's what Kate Lode, Susan Coleman, and Josh Jordan had to say:
Year Zero
An important part of the work in Springfield uncoiled defining the first year as "Year Zero," which allowed it to be a learning year in which all participants were able to engage in reflection about the design and implementation of the program. The coaches cite this as an important component in building buy-in and trust.
Year One
After spending time building trust, the coaches were then able to build strong partnerships around the shared examination of instructional practice through joint meetings and video taping.
Impact and Growth
Four years into implementing the coaching program, Springfield coaches share that district-wide they are hearing more instruction-focused conversations around student learning impacts and have more aligned, focused, and connected professional development that carries on throughout the year.
Advice for Getting Started
Coaches share their main take-aways for starting a successful coaching program, including;
  • Building trust and relationships is an essential first step
  • Start with a Year Zero - a learning year to take the pressure off
  • A common language helps provide clarity and focus
  • Video recordings are a powerful tool for reflection and coaching conversations
  • Set long-term goals to help determine the focus on student learning
  • Partnerships are key: Teacher - Coach - Principal
  • Support the model with a defined structure that includes district personnel and dedicated meeting times
Coaching Resources:
How to Coach
Jim Knight's books further outline the coaching cycle.
What to Coach
The Skillful Teacher, Seventh Edition provides a framework of pedagogical knowledge and skills that serves as the foundation for shared language and concepts around instruction.
Coaching for Sustainable School Improvement
3-day Course

For instructional coaches to strengthen their coaching skills based on a partnership approach. This program prepares coaches to play the vital role of improving instruction by working with individual teachers to hone their practice, providing just-in-time professional learning opportunities tied to teacher and school goals, and strengthening a collaborative professional culture. Features the use of classroom video in the coaching relationship and incorporates the work of leading coaching expert, Jim Knight.

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December 9-11, 2019
St. Louis, Missouri
December 9:
Adult Professional Culture with Jon Saphier

School Turnaround Through Effective Teacher Teaming with Nancy Love, Kristen Palatt, and Jennifer Stokes.

December 10:
What Teacher Teams Do to Maximize the Power of Formative Assessment with Nancy Love and Robin Whitacre

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