Monday, March 10, 2014

If You Really Want Something...You'll Find Time For It

By David Hensinger, Primary Trainer
          Just the other day I was in a conversation with several Literacy Coaches.  Majority of the conversation surrounded one central concept – lack of time.  Each of the literacy coaches shared how they were being used in many different ways to complete district and state initiatives.  The conversation then led to the fact that now that they have all of this (extra) work, that they are far too busy to get in as much coaching as they would like, specifically with the more advanced teachers.  This conversation left me asking questions.  I was concerned that more advanced teachers might not be receiving the coaching they needed to continue to grow as educators.  So, immediately following this conversation I went in search of some possible solutions. 

 My inquiry led me into a text called Systems for Change in Literacy Education, written by Lyons and Pinnell (2001).  After a quick glance over the table of contents, I found a chapter that looked promising: “Supporting and Extending Learning.”  It was in chapter 13, where the authors touched on the importance of reaching out and supporting our advanced teachers. They offered five very practical solutions for supporting these advanced learners and engaging them in meaningful professional development built around their own inquiries (2001). 

Below, I will share Lyons’ and Pinnell’s five different extended learning contexts and a brief description of each.  My hope is that you are already engaging your staff members in these extended learning contexts, and if not, I hope you find one below that works well with what you currently have in place and decide to learn more about it.  

  1. Study Groups – As a coach you bring together a group of learners around a common inquiry.  The group establishes a leader and together, they plan their course of action.  Study groups are extremely practical and the content studied by the group is driven by the groups’ inquiry.

  2. Action Research – This extended learning context can be broken down into two types:

      a. Research around a specific problem that a grade level team or group of teachers share.  Together they use student data to plan a course of action.
      b. Research directed towards assessing the effectiveness of a building, or district program.

  3. Peer Coaching – There are two types of peer coaching, but both have two or more teachers working together to analyze an aspect of teaching and/or student learning.

  4. Special Initiatives – This can be a building, district wide project or initiative that brings everyone together around a common course of action.

  5. Continuing Professional Development – The Literacy Coach offers different opportunities within their professional development time to meet the needs of the various learners with which they work.


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