Promoting Independence

Promoting Independence

In the field of instructional coaching, one maxim I hear over and over again is that my goal should be to work myself out of a job. Get teachers, administrators and schools to the point where they no longer need you.

One question posed in one of my favorite books about instructional coaching is: Do my words and actions promote dependence or independence? That is a question I’ve had to think long and hard about. How do you show others how to “do” so that they can do on their own?

I believe that the Chines proverb above lists specific guidelines for doing so. You can support educators so that they think and work like you. That  might give you a bit of short-term growth. You can also inspire teachers to help you achieve your goals and vision for instructional improvement. That will also promote some level of growth within your school or organization. However, if you empower educators to think and innovate for themselves, to problem-solve and learn how to use their resources, you have set them up for continuous growth.

fishing humor Whoops! Just kidding, just kidding…!


There. That’s the one!laughing face


(School) Climate Change


I am a life-long learner. I am and have been proud to say that I matriculated  from every institution  I attended. (Except for current school of enrollment, of course). I have been a proud Brigham Bear, J.A.M. middle schooler, Bloodhound, and Gator.

I think that the most disappointing part of becoming an instructional coach is knowing the potential a school has to develop a positive and thriving climate, but not seeing that potential becoming a reality. Thus, I have decided to actively include in my coaching role small tricks to help schools develop inclusive and supportive school climates.

School climate is defined by the National School Climate Center (2014) as “the quality and character of school life… based on patterns of students’, parents’, and personnel’s experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures.”

In nurturing climates:

  • teachers are more likely to take risks
  • teachers and students find enormous growth opportunities
  • youth develop into citizens who can be productive members of a democratic society
  • students, teachers, and families all work together to create a shared school vision
  • educators model the joy and pleasure of learning for their students
  • students feel safe at school
  • teachers use literature that depicts marginalized populations in a positive manner
  •  teachers have student debates in their classrooms that focus on social justice issues

I wondered what I could do, as only a coach, to nurture the development of inclusive and supportive school climates. These are some tasks on my list:

  1. build collective teacher efficacy in content area groups
  2. build trust and maintain it!
  3. offer opportunities for teachers to connect and learn from one another
  4. hold high expectations, but create opportunities for success
  5. Glow, Grow, and Go
  6. use social media to help teachers brand themselves and their schools
  7. start with strengths


DeWitt, Peter. (2017). Collaborative Leadership: Six influences that matter most. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Flip Your Coaching!

As a teacher, it always irritated me to sit through long, boring informational meetings. I felt I was enough of a professional to be given the information and allowed to read through it on my own and ask questions about anything I didn’t understand. I am sure I can not be the only teacher who felt that way.

I feel the same way now. What I will never understand is why, once we know what “turned us off” as teachers, we continue to use those same arcane and ineffective practices as coaches.

In his book, Collaborative Leadership: Six influences that matter most, Peter DeWitt, explains how he used flipped faculty meetings to keep the focus on learning. I believe that it is highly important that we never forget that learning should always be our primary focus – information is vital to have and it should be presented in such a way as to maximize learning.

Flipped coaching is perfect for adult learners because it allows teachers to be self-directed. In DeWitt’s model of the flipped meeting, he used TouchCast (an app) to upload a 5-minute video explaining information he thought the staff should know before the meeting. He was also able to add pictures and links to supplement the information provided in the video. This flipped meeting model made DeWitt’s faculty meetings more productive and encouraged dialogue.

I have decided to make use of flipping in my coaching strategy for this year. A colleague and I started with the app, Flipgrid. I chose this app rather than TouchCast because (1) I do not use/have/like Apple devices, and (2) it is user-friendly, especially for those who are not technologically inclined.

We are currently using Flipgrid in our small group professional learning community, but I do hope to expand to a model that I use with teachers. I’ll let you know how it goes!



Better Coaching Conversations

One part of coaching that I am struggling with is to refrain from insisting on “my way” as THE way to be an effective teacher. Although I know my methods are not the only methods or even the best methods, I lack that ability to be able to use conversation to allow teachers to self-reflect and come up with their own solutions to issues.

One framework that I plan to use to help me counteract that tendency is the O.R.I.D. Framework. This framework categorizes questions as objective, reflective, interpretive, or decisional. This logical sequence of questions “invite[s] reflection and insight and point[s] to next steps” (Johnson, Leibowitz, & Perret, 2017).


  • Objective questions are easy to answer and aimed at identifying pertinent facts and information (to relieve stress and invite active participation). These are typically “what” questions, such as What were the key points you noted about…? What did you observe during the…? What body language did you notice in the participants?
  • Reflective questions elicit emotional response and personal reactions, inviting a deeper level of participation. These questions ask, “What about ‘the what’?” Examples include What was the most/least successful thing you noted? What seemed to really work/not work? What concerns you/confuses you/annoys you? What was exciting, surprising, or frustrating about…? How did you feel as you were…?
  • Interpretive questions invite sharing and generate options and possibilities for the future, asking “So what?” Examples include What did you learn about yourself through this experience? What are things that you might have done/could do that would have enhanced/would enhance the outcome? What do these results mean to you in terms of future planning? What other ways could you assess…? What insights have you gained about how you…?
  • Decisional questions develop opinions options, or solutions that lead to future actions, clarifying expectations for improvement or change. Essentially, these are “Now what?” questions, such as What things will you do differently? What things will you do the same? Which of your skills will you further develop, and what will you do to develop them? What are your next steps? What supports will you need to continue to work on those areas?

Hopefully, this helps you as well in whatever line of work you are in because, honestly, we are all coaches! Wish me luck!

Johnson, Jessica, Leibowitz, Shira, and Perret, Kathy. (2017). The Coach Approach to            School Leadership: Leading teachers to higher levels of effectiveness. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.

Know Thy Leadership Style

Johnson, Leibowitz, and Perret (2017) identify four leadership styles that have a positive effect in their collaborative book: The Coach Approach to School Leadership.

The Coach Apporach

Leadership is all about building and nurturing relationships and adopting an effective leadership style requires “tremendous emotional intelligence.” (Johnson et al, 2017). The four leadership styles that the authors identify as having a positive effect include:

  • authoritative – leader has a developed vision and wants others to follow suit in their own individual manners; beneficial for schools that need a clear direction; not as effective when the leader has less educational experience than the staff
  • affiliative – leaders put people first and want to be well-liked; great at building camaraderie and improving staff morale; weaker performance may go uncorrected and staff members may be unclear on full vision of school
  • democratic – gives everyone a voice, but school climate and morale tend to be lower when this is the primary approach; often involves endless meetings or open-ended conversation starters that leave staff feeling leaderless and unsure of organizational focus
  • coaching – focus on reflection and self-improvement; growth mindset

Leadership Style                         Reflective Questions

authoritative                                 How do I model being a risk taker and learner?

affiliative                                       How do I use praise and build on strengths?

democratic                                    Have I allowed for voice and choice in the school?

coaching                                        What type of coaching conversations have I had recently?

Comparison of Learning Taxonomies

This post is purely a result of my own curiosity. I was reading a book and it mentioned the SOLO Taxonomy, which got me to wondering exactly how many taxonomies were out there! I found a total of… 5? So, I just wanted to get to know  a bit about each of them. Feel free to read on or wait until next week for a new post!

SOLO Taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome)


What is it?

The SOLO Taxonomy is a learning taxonomy that classifies learner outcomes in terms of complexity.

The four levels of complexity are:

unistructural – the learner has acquired one or a few aspects of the task

multistructural – the learner has required several unrelated aspects of the task

relational – the learner is able to generalize the whole task to untaught applications

extended abstract – untaught application of the task



SOLO Taxonomy is intended to work with constructive alignment, the instructional process of starting with intended learning outcomes and aligns teaching and assessment to those outcomes. This taxonomy is often used to set high expectations and increase student motivation when they realize that there is a real point  to what is being taught and assessed.


  • complements Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • offers guidance on how to move from stage to stage


  • may seem too complex and unwieldy for most teachers to attempt
  • “The Sinister 16”: verbs that are passive, internal and otherwise unobservable

Implementation Tips

  1. To move from “prestructural” to “unistructural” – address misconceptions.
  2. To move from “unistructural” to “multistructural” – over-learn facts to automaticity.
  3. To move from “multistructural” to “relational” – practice investigating connections.
  4. To move from “relational” to “extended abstract” – practice with synthesis and evaluation.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

What is it?

Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed in 1956 to promote higher forms of thinking in education. It lists three domains (or taxonomies) of learning: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. It classifies six major categories of cognitive processes:

  1. knowledge
  2. comprehension
  3. application
  4. analysis
  5. synthesis
  6. evaluation



to promote higher forms of thinking in education


  • has been more thoroughly developed and revised over time
  • Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy reflects a more active form of thinking by replacing the names of the six categories (nouns to verbs)
  • Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy incorporates a cognitive and knowledge matrix
  • targets learning objectives by seeking to increase knowledge, develop skills, or develop emotional aptitude and/or balance
  • provides a basis for developing sub-goals and assessment methodology to meet these goals



  • simplistic at first draft
  • becoming increasingly complex and unwieldy

Implementation Tips

(see charts below)


Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

What is it?

a learning taxonomy that reflects the complexity of the cognitive processes demanded by a task


Level One: Recall and Reproduction

Level Two: Skills and Concepts

Level Three: Strategic Thinking

Level Four: Extended Thinking


to analyze the cognitive expectation demanded by standards, curricular activities, and assessment tasks


  • complements Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom’s determines the cognition or thinking and Webb’s designates the context – the scenario, setting and situation)


  • that darn DOK wheel simplifies this taxonomy too much
  • alignment between Bloom’s and Webb’s might be better described by the Cognitive Rigor Matrix/Hess Matrix

Implementation Tips

(see chart below)

Webbs DOK

Cognitive Rigor Matrix/Hess Matrix

(best explained in chart – see below)

Cognitive Rigor Matrix

Marzano’s New Taxonomy

What is it?

a new taxonomy of educational objectives

made up of three systems and the Knowledge Domain

  • Self-System: decides whether to continue current behavior or engage in new activity
  • Metacognitive System: sets goals and keeps track of progress
  • Cognitive System: processes all necessary information
  • Knowledge Domain provides content


developed in response to shortcomings of Bloom’s Taxonomy


not enough known


not enough known

Implementation Tips

see learning goals and scales

Marzanos New Taxonomy

A Visual Comparison

See you next week!Taxonomy Comparison

Second Place

The first place that anyone typically sees of a school is its office. Most schools take really good care to ensure that their front offices exude a warm and welcoming atmosphere. (Those that don’t are probably not the best-attended schools enrollment-wise).

However, we rarely stop to think about the second place people tend to see as they enter our schools. Before I launch into this fairly esoteric topic, allow me to digress to my initial visit to my current church.

I have only been a member of two churches in all of my thirty-some-odd years on this planet and one of them is where I’ve spent 99% of my “church time” since childhood.

So, I’ve been a member at my new church for a little over a year now. This church is huge (physical size and membership) – just the type of church I shy away from! But as soon as I entered (almost), I knew I wanted this place to be my church home. It was made for me. I won’t go into all the details here as this is an educational blog and not a spiritual one. (But if you have questions, send them this way!)

I keep my nieces and nephew fairly often because I am just a kid person – don’t think I could live without them. My oldest niece, a pre-teen who is in her experimentation and rebellion stages, attended church with me (hesitantly)a couple of Sundays in a row. On the first visit, she asked if she could step out of the service to use the restroom. (Again, this is a huge church and I really wanted to say no, but…) I gave her permission.

The service lasted about an hour and a half and during that time, my niece never returned to the inner sanctuary. I was really worried about her and asked my oldest daughter, a teenager, to go check on her toward the end of the service. My daughter came back and reported that my niece was sitting in the restroom.

“In the restroom?!?!?!?!” I inquired in disbelief. “Is she sick? Vomiting?”

“No, she’s just in there on her phone,” was my daughter’s response.

On the ride home, I asked my niece why she spent the entire service in the restroom. She replied that she was still deciding on whether or not there was a god and did not really feel comfortable being in church. I asked whether she had felt comfortable in the restroom, of all places.

She replied, “It’s like a palace – it smells good, it has couches, and it was quiet!”

And so when I signed up for a ministry in my church, I joined the Refresh Team. We clean the restrooms after each of our three services and re-stock supplies, ensuring that the restroom is a warm and welcome place for all visitors to our church.

Our restrooms are typically the second place visitors see when they visit our schools. For many students, restrooms offer more sanctuary than our classrooms and offices. They are places where students can scream and cry in frustration, grief and excitement and even contemplate the larger questions in life.

Keep your restrooms clean! You never know who may need that space. You never know – YOU may need that space!

office restroom

Who Are You?

RafikiWhoAreYouOK. Obviously, I could not resist. Disney films have a way of being so profound and yet so simple. Primple? Or simfound? I guess I won’t try to coin any new terms today. But have you ever really, thoroughly considered this question: Who are you?

Reflection is a tool that allows you to continually mold and shape your response to this question. Although not always done formally or in writing, reflection has played a large part in many aspects of my life: academic, personal/familial, and professionally. That is precisely why I feel that there is SO MUCH to learn and SO LITTLE time!

If you have not yet begun to engage in self-reflection or do not do so on a regular basis, I hope this post provides you with the impetus for doing so immediately!

As you continue your professional path, begin a new school year, or seek to implement a new idea, consider these questions (Collaborative Leadership: Six influences that matter most):

  • Who are you?
  • What are your aspirations and values?
  • Who do you want to be to the educational field?
  • What do you know and what can you teach that is different from the masses?
  • How will your voice speak to a need in the field?
  • What will you do if you have hesitations about standing out and being yourself?
  • How will you know you are ready?

We cannot teach or lead others until we fully understand ourselves and our purpose. Reflect on these questions. It is okay (even preferable) if your responses change over time. This change is what will help you to lead effectively and positively impact your school community. Find your voice. And then… ROAR!!!