10 Oct 2017

Pre-conference with Jim Knight: “What’s new in Instructional Coaching?”

September 26, 2017- Indianapolis, Indiana

To see Jim’s slides for this presentation, go here

Other key instructional coaching resources are found here 

To see Jim’s TLC interview, go here

What I like best about Jim Knight’s work is that it is fluid, evidence-based and ever-changing as a result of new learning he and his team gather.  In this pre-conference session, Jim pulled back the curtain to share with participants his journey into instructional coaching and some of his new thinking around instructional coaching.  For me, it was also the first opportunity I have had to learn about instructional coaching from Jim directly as up until now I have only read his books and learned vicariously through colleagues.  I suspect that the morning might have been a bit of a review for some participants, but with the rare opportunity to consolidate learning in a session lead by such a great presenter, I imagine it was valuable for all in attendance.

Among the many key take-aways from this session, it was Jim’s reminder to think about how our approach to coaching frames our practice that resonated most with me.  Jim shared his thinking around three different types of coaching- facilitative, dialogical and directive.

Instructional coaching aligns with a dialogical approach.  In this approach, the coach shares their knowledge of evidence-based teaching strategies, but the teacher is positioned as a decision maker whose knowledge is clearly valued.  Driven by dialogue with inquiry, dialogical coaching is about deep, rather than surface coaching, and accountability is always to the students.  The goals set through coaching should be student-focused and become the objective standard of excellence.  I found Jim’s introduction of PEERS goals and his review of the impact cycle particularly useful. Using the impact cycle framework, weekly coaching meetings (“to keep our foot on the gas pedal”) should be focused around goals that are Powerful, Easy, Emotionally compelling, Reachable & Student focused (PEERS).   This checklist on page of Jim’s handouts (found here) is particularly useful for coaches working through the impact cycle.

Also new in this session was the introduction of key success factors for effective coaching. Along with strong communication skills and high Emotional Intelligence (EI), coaches should develop an instructional playbook as a community (something we are working on at our district & not as easy as it sounds!), understand adult learning principles (Andragogy) and use student data/evidence to set and monitor goals.  System support (systemic change theory!) is also essential to allow coaching to flourish with leaders responsive to teachers.  As Jim notes, principals should be “firm on standards but flexible on ways to get there.”  The notion that there are three different types of feedback—appreciation, evaluation and coaching—was also introduced in this session and gave me pause to consider the importance of aligning the feedback desired with that given during coaching conversations.  I would be very interested in learning more about how to better use feedback as a coaching tool.  This reminded me a lot of the work our district has done with Robyn Jackson and her four types of differentiated feedback- diagnostic, prescriptive, descriptive & micro-feedback (for more detail, check out this page from Finally, I really appreciated Jim’s taking the time to distinguish between professional development (PD) as an activity (such as workshops, institutes, consulting, coaching and certification) and professional learning (PL?) as the outcome of these PD activities. There is no doubt that this institute enhanced my professional learning.

Although it was said many times through the conference, I also wanted to take a moment to thank Jim for all his support.  He is truly humble around his influence in the coaching world, but I know he took an hour from his busy schedule to Skype with me- someone he hadn’t met- about my work as a grad student in the University of Ottawa and gave me some truly valuable feedback.


Thank you so much & yes, I bought the book!!

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