Action Research on Instructional Coaching, Blog Entry One

Okay, my friends.  I began an inquiry as part of my master’s program, but it’s more than just doing a project.  Here’s the introduction to my action research plan:

Dana & Yendol-Hoppey (2009) noted, “As teachers engage in the process of inquiry, their thinking and reflection are made public for discussion, sharing, debate, and purposeful educative conversation, and teaching becomes less isolated and overwhelming” (p. 12).  As the only instructional coach in our school division, action research has become an intentional reflection to consider the impact of my work with colleagues on their individual growth, as well as the growth and success of students.  This inquiry will be an opportunity to look back at my past coaching opportunities, at present implementations of instruction and learning I may have influenced through coaching, and reflect on next-steps for the future.  Investigating the success or struggles others have had in their coaching roles through an analysis of literature will further serve to refine my wondering.  Ultimately, the goal is to build self-efficacy as an instructional coach by engaging in inquiry around the lasting influence of coaching on classroom instruction and learning.

The more I got thinking about all my combined teaching experiences and my most-recent experiences as a coach, the more I wanted to know about the lasting or long-term impact of coaching cycles on current instructional practices and student learning.  I did a literature review and discovered

The literature on coaching emphasized that coaching effects change.  Defining the roles of coaches can enable in-school administrators to provide more support to coaching, which is seen as an invaluable part of school professional learning and student success (Dean et. al., 2012).  Coaching is multi-faceted and facilitates professional learning, but the most successful interactions are founded on mutually-respectful relationships (Smith, 2012).  The greatest observed changes in instruction and learning resulted less from professional development removed from the school and more from focused, personally-meaningful, individual coaching cycles in which comfort with instructional practices developed (Gross, 2010; Richards & Skolitz, 2009).

Ultimately, after much consideration with critical friends and really reflecting on what it is I was wondering about, I came up with the following two-part action research question:

What impact have individual coaching cycles had on instruction and learning?  What trends might I discover that will inform future coaching cycle decision making?

I have started by looking back through my Cognitive Coaching Seminars (R) Foundation Training Learning Guide (Costa & Garmston, 2013).  I have several pages of notes scribbled on a note pad, but I have synthesized the key pieces as they might connect best with my wonderings:

1.  “The relationship presumed by Cognitive Coaching (SM) is that teaching is a professional act and that coaches support teachers in becoming more resourceful” (p. 6)

  • it’s not about changing behaviours or giving advice; it’s about developing resourcefulness
  • could the intention and purpose of the “Four Support Functions” (p. 15)  (coach, consult, collaborate, and evaluate) guide a data collection sheet?
  • see blog entry “Be the coach, not the horse”
  • in the Cognitive Coaching process, I am looking for Observable Behaviours and Enhanced Performance

2.  Holonomy = ” the science or study of wholeness; simultaneously part and whole” (p. 20)

  • we can be independent beings that function within larger, necessary support systems (much like the human heart in a body) (p. 22)
  • developing holonomy means:
    • “support people in becoming independent and self-actualizing” (p. 23)… “they will be reflective, using self-coaching inner thought processes – voluntarily and spontaneously – without the need for the coach’s interventions” (p. 23)
    • function interdependently in school (p. 23)
    • learn on own and with others
  • build resourcefulness in the Five States of Mind – efficacy, flexibility, craftsmanship, consciousness, and interdependence
  • how might the Five States of Mind p. 25 – 26 contribute to my data collection plan OR data analysis??? Hmm…

3.  Five States of Mind

  • Consciousness – focused, concentrate on reaching goal
  • Craftsmanship – “seek precision, mastery, refinement and specificity” (p. 28)
  • Efficacy – “They are able to operationalize concepts and translate them into deliberate actions while establishing feedback spirals and continuing to learn how to learn” (p. 28) This is my favourite!
  • Flexibility – seeing diverse perspectives, “open and comfortable with ambiguity; create and seek novel approaches;…have the capacity to change their minds as they receive additional data” (p. 28)
  • Interdependence – “contribute to a common good, seek collegiality, and draw on the resources of others” (p. 29)

4.  “The success of an intervention depends on the inner condition of the intervener.  That’s far more important than techniques or strategies for change.” O’Brian, 1991, p. 34

5.  Results of Being a Mediator of Thinking

  • knowledge structures “can be altered to accommodate new understandings, or they can be made obsolete because some new experience has caused the creation of a new knowledge structure” (p. 34) Need to consider what we originally targeted, evidence of these targets, AND non-targets or new evidence of efficacy. Will I know when I see it?  Is it up to me, as a non-evaluator?
  • There were points made about relational trust as well, ie.  creating a culture of learning.  “Efficacy is more likely in schools with greater trust among teacher colleagues.” (p. 39)

6.  Four Support Functions

  • “When beginning with coaching [default support function], the coach learns what other support function might be necessary and gains information about what s/he might say when navigating to a different support function. … If the person being coached has no ideas, then the coach can move into consulting, knowing that the ‘well is dry'” (p. 42)
  • coach, collaborate (equals in achieving a goal), consult (share expertise), and evaluate (not me!)


Now, according to my timeline, I need to take a closer look at building rapport.  I have done a blog post on that exact topic and will use it.  I still need to complete a review of my previous field notes and create a data collection sheet.  This review is likely going to clarify my questions in “Results of Being a Mediator of Thinking”.

I would very much appreciate any and all feedback on this blog post.  As my critical friends, what might you be noticing about coaching?  What qualitative data might I be looking for in my colleagues’ classrooms?


Costa, A. and Garmston, R. (2013). Cognitive Coaching Seminars ® Foundation Training Learning Guide (9th ed.).  Sacramento, CA: Thinking Collaborative.

Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2009). The reflective educator’s guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Dean, M., Dyal, A., Wright, J., Carpenter, L., and Austin, S. (2012).  Principals’ Perceptions of the Effectiveness and Necessity of Reading Coaches within Elementary Schools.  In Reading Improvement 49 (2), p. 38 – 51.

Gross, P. (2010).  Not Another Trend: Secondary-Level Literacy Coaching. In Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Issues, Strategies, and Ideas 83 (4), p. 133 – 137.

Horwitz, J., Bradley, J., and Hoy, L. (2011).  Identity Crisis: External Coaches Struggle to Clarify Roles and Maintain Focus on Student Learning.  In Journal of Staff Development 32 (1), p. 30 – 32.

Richards, J. and Skolits, G. (2009).  Sustaining Instructional Change: The Impact of Professional Development on Teacher Adoption of a New Instructional Strategy.  In Research in the Schools 16 (2), p. 41 – 58.

Smith, A. (2012).   Middle Grades Literacy Coaching from the Coach’s Perspective.  In Research in Middle Level Education 35 (5), p. 1 – 16.


One thought on “Action Research on Instructional Coaching, Blog Entry One

  1. I am a new Instructional Coach in my district (the only one who is full time) after 18 years in the classroom. I think the prevailing notion is that I’m there to “fix” people who are underperforming and I need to change that mindset so that my colleagues see me as a resource and not as an intervention device. I just attended a Cognitive Coaching training last week and found it to be the most helpful tool I could have. Building rapport takes time and trust, and all the Cognitive Coaching tools in the world will do you no good if you don’t have genuine rapport with a colleague. However, the only thing you are in control of is your own behavior and your effort to develop an identity as someone who is a mediator of thinking, and not just a problem solver. That’s currently what I’m working on now – changing my professional identity.

    So, I’m going to use a Cognitive Coaching tool on you:
    -If your goal is to build rapport, what will that look like and what will be your success indicators?
    -What is your plan of attack for building rapport?
    -What will you pay attention to in yourself as you build rapport with your colleagues?
    -How has reflecting on this changed your thinking about building rapport?

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