What’s New In Literacy Coaching?

As literacy professionals ourselves, we understand that literacy coaches wear many hats – interventionist, professional developer, parent communicator, community educator… the list goes on! Each of these responsibilities requires significant time expenditure. With all of this going on, it can be difficult to keep up with current research and news in the field of literacy coaching. For this reason, we decided to devote a few of our blog posts to exploring, “What’s new in literacy coaching?” As we search the literature for new findings to inform our work, we’re going to share with you articles we find particularly interesting and informative.

Several of our past blog entries have dealt with teacher perception of literacy coaching (i.e. September 2017, October 2017); in particular that, depending on how a coaching program has been framed and presented by administrators, teachers can sometimes view coaches with suspicion, as agents of evaluation, rather than agents of support. We proposed that one possible way to mediate that suspicion is to engage preservice teachers (PSTs) in working with a literacy coach. Engaging PSTs in working with a literacy coach before they enter their own classrooms might ease the stigma that may come from working with a coach and clarify the role of the coach as a partnership, rather than an expert/novice relationship. Given these assertions, we found the following article, recently published in The Reading Teacher, interesting. It explores ways we can engage PSTs with literacy coaches (in these cases, PST supervisors) and the potential outcomes of that early engagement.

To begin, authors Husbye, Powell, Zanden, and Karalis (2018) explain that having PSTs work with a literacy coach during student teaching offers a more dynamic opportunity for feedback than would be obtained traditionally through written comments on papers or lesson plans. Further, engaging in a coaching relationship with PSTs is one way to address the call for teacher education programs to bolster the quality of students’ preservice coursework and field-based experiences (International Literacy Association, 2017). However, as we found during our own search in this area, the authors point to a dearth of research regarding how to engage PSTs with literacy coaches and – more importantly – the impact of such work on teaching expertise and student outcomes. In accordance, Husbye et al present the drawbacks and affordances of three methods to provide PSTs guidance from a literacy coach: rehearsals, behind-the-glass reflections, and video analysis. Rehearsals occurred within the teaching context and were defined as opportunities for PSTs to talk through (rehearse) possible instructional decisions prior to teaching a lesson to students. Because few contexts offer the resources for true “behind-the-glass” experiences, these were instead achieved through video clips of instruction. After taping 30 minutes of an instructional sequence, students chose 5-10 minutes to view, discuss, and analyze with their student teaching cohort. To encourage productive feedback rather than vague compliments from classmates, e.g., “I think the lesson went well,” the instructor scaffolded the discussion with questions that encouraged constructive analysis and focused students on critical aspects of the lesson, e.g., “how would you provide more structure to the directions?” Lastly, during video analysis supervisors viewed PSTs instruction virtually and then engaged in video-conferring, post instruction.

The authors (Husbye et al., 2018) present a comparison of these three coaching constructs. What becomes clear is not the impact of one over another, but the need to consider a multitude of factors such as time, budget, desired context, and possible participants. For example, behind-the-glass interactions engaged all of the teachers in a cohort in critical reflection and analysis rather than being limited to an interaction exclusive to the coach and PST. Video feedback provided a means of observing and conferring with multiple PSTs, without needing to build-in on-site supervision, which can be costly and require significant travel on the part of the supervisor. Rehearsals were the only coaching construct to provide support within the context of instruction. Thus, our reading of the article points to the possibility of one, or a combination of these coaching approaches, to positively influence the quality of PSTs’ field experience by offering multiple points of entry for feedback within the context of instruction.

Moreover, we see in these models new possibilities for approaching our school-based coaching and work with experienced teachers. That is, when we consider a broader range of coaching tools and models to structure our interactions with teachers, we create additional ways for teachers to participate in coaching.

We hope to follow this line of literature and see future research dedicated to the efficacy of each of these interactions for both pre-service and in-service teachers.

References cited in this post:

Husbye, N. E., Wessel Powell, C., Vander Zanden, S., & Karalis, T. (2018). Coaching in Practice‐
Based Literacy Education Courses. The Reading Teacher, 72(2), 191-200.

International Literacy Association. (2017). Standards for the preparation of literacy
professionals 2017. Newark, DE: Author.

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