Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Coaching Conversations

What makes an effective coach? Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, and Warrick (2013) argues coaching must begin with conversations (p. 214). The authors outline four different types of conversations which can take place between a teacher and the coach. One type of conversation, “facilitating conversations are designed to aid a teacher in clarifying goals” (Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, & Warrick, 2013, p. 213). This has been my overarching goal as a tech coach this year while I am working with grade-level teams. Every fall I ask teachers to fill out a survey asking them their comfort level with certain tools. More importantly I also ask them what tech integration goals do they have for themselves for the year. During our first monthly team meeting, we review the survey results along with data from a student survey measuring growth which occurred the previous year. We discuss common themes and goals each individual on the team has in common with the other teachers on the team. We then select one or two goals to focus on and tackle during our monthly tech meetings as a team. During the conversations I am sure to ask “clarifying questions to help the teacher identify goals whose achievement will result in growth for the teacher” (Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, & Warrick, 2013, p. 213). This approach was greatly accepted and appreciated. Each team walked away from our September meeting knowing what and how we would use each meeting.
During the last couple of month’s sessions, we continued that conversation by focusing on the team’s goals. The goals ranged from using Seesaw, an iPad app, to deepen students’ understandings when they recorded their mathematical thinking to more practical sessions on using the interactive whiteboards in the classroom. For each session regardless of goal, I structured our time based on Aguilar (2013) “Arc of Coaching Conversation” (p. 238). This arc included six tasks:
  1. “Check in and chat.” (It’s important to me to get to know the teachers on a personal and professional level. I always start by finding out new joys and/or stresses in their life and at school. This helps me gear my coaching to them individually. Plus, I just really like the teachers I work with and enjoy getting to know them.)
  2. “Create a plan for the conversation” (In our case, I would recap what we decided to focus on.)
  3. “Check in on previous commitments.”  (After each team meeting, I offer to come in and co-teach a lesson with the teachers. I would highlight some of that work or I would offer new research on the topic.)
  4. “Engage in coaching stances and approaches.”
  5. “Determine next steps.” (The teachers and I decide what to do with the new information we discussed and make a small action plan for the next time we meet.)
  6. “Reflect on conversation and ask for feedback.” (Here I would again schedule time to work in classrooms as requested. I would also recap our next steps for the next meeting and create a to-do list for myself to research questions asked.)
(Aguilar, 2013, p. 238)
Using conversation of the teachers, has changed my role as a coach. The first two years I was a coach, I focused solely on the new tools we had in the classrooms. After a few years the teachers became more comfortable with the tools and wanted to go deeper. This year has been a game-changer for our team meetings because it was responsive to the teachers’ needs in the classroom.
Image result for coaching conversations
Aquilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.
Marzano, R.J., Simms, J.A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. (2013). Coaching classroom instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.
Smith Leadership. What is coaching? (2012, July 17). Retrieved November 16, 2016, from


  1. It's interesting that we both chose to focus on the conversation aspect of coaching. I'm a bit of an introvert myself and I find myself needing to do the reflective conversation that Marzano and Simms talk about on p. 213 of the text. I really suffer when I try to do small talk, but reflective conversations, while they sound like small talk are really part of the process of getting to know someone at a level where an introvert like me can be comfortable doing something as intimate as coaching.

  2. Love Aquilar's book! I also enjoyed reading your thouts. I agree with you and Paul. The conversation aspect that a coach must have is vital to healthy coaching relationships. Your quote you listed from Marzano above, "clarifying questions to help the teacher identify goals whose achievement will result in growth for the teacher" echoes my beliefs as well about the role of the conversation. It is best to guide teachers to a destination, rather than tell them. I would love to see you in action one day!