By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Monday, May 10, 2021

In a recent blog post from Steve Barkley, he mentions Niall McShane’s book Responsive Agile Coaching and what McShane calls “across” or “down” coaching. The “across” coaching is when the coaching recipient (teacher) is ready for some coaching and the “down” coaching is when the coaching recipient is not ready to hear any suggestions.  Hmm… I have to say… I think instructional coaching works better when coaches ask questions that help the recipients come to their own conclusions rather than giving advice or suggestions about what to do. Steve does both; he makes a conscious effort to ask what the teacher is thinking before he shares his thinking. That’s a protocol to follow!

Although there seems to be some helpful pointers in McShane’s book, I hesitate to label coaching “across” or “down.” At some level, it feels like the coach is evaluating the teacher rather than assessing the teacher’s needs. That’s the one tip I would share with my coaching colleagues… assess the needs but don’t ever evaluate the performance!

In this same post, Steve also says coaching is “…like jazz or improv”; the coach has to decide “what is next.” In our instructional coaching experience, we like to ask three things: What, Now What, and So What. These questions get to the heart of practice and that’s just where we want to be! These are asked throughout the before, during, and after (BDA) cycle of consultation and helps the coaching recipient think through the various steps needed to move practice forward. The coach needs to be prepared to ask questions that are reflective and thought provoking so that the conversation is not really improv; the conversation is based on asking the right kinds of questions that drive intentional practice. That just sounds like improv and not knowing exactly which direction the conversation can turn. It's really very deliberate, though, with the instructional coach shifting the thinking to collective problem-solving and collaboration!

What are you reading now that helps inform your practice?