Volume 3(1), 2007

Entering the Conversation: The Literacy Coaching Special Issue

Van Cleave, J. & Dailey, L. B. (2007)



Preparing Reading Specialists to be Literacy Coaches: Principles, Practices, Possibilities

Shaw, M.L. (2007)

Literacy coaching is a very hot topic (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2007) that has been spurred on by two opposite belief systems. On one hand, the Reading First schools can receive federal funding to hire coaches to raise test scores. This has led some teachers to characterize coaches as “test-prep enforcers.” On the other hand, Bean, Swan and Knaub (2003) found that literacy coaches in schools with exemplary reading programs and Title I schools that “beat the odds” serve as change agents to make a school wide impact on the literacy program by being a resource to teachers, modeling lessons, and conducting professional development. The International Reading Association’s Standards for Reading Professionals – Revised 2003 (2004) support this vision by requiring reading specialists to be literacy coaches who assist classroom teachers. This paper embraces the IRA position and identifies steps we took at St. Thomas Aquinas College to prepare teachers enrolled in our graduate literacy program to become reading specialists and literacy coaches who enhance, enrich, and reform literacy education. I identify a variety of coaching initiatives we developed and present written reflections from the teachers to show how the experiences are empowering them to take a leadership role. These coaching initiatives can serve as a model for preparing reading specialists to be literacy coaches who are master teachers and educational leaders. Read the full article


The Magic of Coaching: Art Meets Science

Froelich, K. & Puig, E. (2007)

There is so much more that goes into literacy coaching that we do not think about when working with colleagues. When we think about literacy coaching, we think about someone who comes into our classrooms and provides support for our instruction. High-quality literacy coaching requires that there be superior levels of overt assessment and covert evaluation so that appropriate instructional practices are collaboratively investigated with teachers. In this article, we review how effective and efficient coaches, demonstrate, observe, confer, and use assessments to collaboratively problem-solve to provide the needed support. This article examines the “magic” or the art that goes into developing effective coaching stances – the science that support the teacher so that all students can benefit. Based on years of professional experiences and current literature on coaching, we conclude that effective and efficient literacy coaching occurs on a continuum of professional learning opportunities buttressed by knowledge from an ethnographic perspective. Read the full article

Coaches Coaching Coaches

Burkins, J. & Ritchie, S. (2007)

Researchers have argued that “job-embedded” professional learning is the most valuable model for teachers (Joyce & Showers, 2002). But there is little or no corresponding literature regarding job-embedded professional learning for literacy coaches. In this paper, the authors offer an example of one such model, the Coach-to-Coach Cycle, which has proven helpful to their own professional growth and development as coaches and which may support other coaches as well. Using transcribed snippets of coach-to-coach dialogue following a coaching post-observation conference with a teacher, the authors reflect on the successes and challenges facing coaches who wish to become co-investigators with teachers into their literacy instruction. Read the full article


The Anatomy of Coaching: Coaching Through Storytelling

Blackstone, P. (2007)

In this article, the author posits that storytelling can be used a method for developing positive interpersonal relationships between coaches and classroom teachers. The author argues that developing interpersonal relationships is a necessary but challenging aspect of successful coaching, and that storytelling offers a mechanism for greater understanding and communication. The author concludes by developing her own story to illustrate how the grammar of the story can aid in the analysis of coaching. Read the full article


Voices from the Field

Organizational Barriers to Effective Literacy Coaching

Niedzwiecki, A. (2007)

Literacy coaching as a means of professional development has great potential for increasing student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and school success. However, schools and districts can inadvertently undermine the potential of coaching when a coach’s role is not clearly defined and when the position is not adequately supported and protected. Coaches who serve multiple schools, whose primary function is to enforce program fidelity, or who are not given adequate training in order to support their teachers are in danger of failing in their roles as coaches. In addition, coaches who do not collaborate closely with building level administrators or who are expected to “fix” incompetent teachers cannot hope to transform instructional practice with any level of success. For coaching to be an effective agent of change in schools, district and building administrators should become knowledgeable about the numerous roles in which coaches do, and do not, serve. Read the full article


Wading Through It: Balancing Opposing Tensions via Effective Literacy Coaching

Neher, A. (2007)

In this article, the author examines the role the literacy coach at her school has played in supporting the kindergarten through second grade teachers. Using a theoretical framework for classroom communities (Pintaone-Hernandedez, 2002), she reflects on how the literacy coach has helped teachers maintain a professional learning community in the wake of the increasingly high-stakes demands put upon us. This nurturing environment has helped sustain teachers’ passion for students while facing increased pressures of accountability for student achievement. Within this professional learning community, facilitated by our literacy coach, teachers have found ways to balance personal teaching philosophies and knowledge of best practice with the tensions in implementing state performance-based learning standards and preparing students for state curriculum assessments.  Read the full article


Coaching Conversations for Beginners

Paramore, T. (2007)

Taking on the role of literacy coach can be a daunting task for even seasoned educators. In this article, the author examines her experiences in this role as work for a university class she was taking. In a sense, she “tries on” the coaching role in order to discover if it is a job she would truly be willing to take. She discusses the difficulties facing coaches as they go into classrooms to observe as well as her successes and failures in holding conferences with those teachers who allowed her to observe in their classrooms. Read the full article


Book Reviews

Book Review 1
Smith, A. (2007)
Author reviews Puig & Froelich’s The literacy coach: Guiding in the right direction.

Book Review 2
Obijiofor, C. (2007)
Author reviews Toll’s The literacy coach’s desk reference: Processes and perspectives for effective coaching.

Book Review 3
Oliver, K. (2007) Author reviews Burkins’ Coaching for balance: How to meet the challenges of literacy coaching.




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