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Shake Up Learning Show

Feb 18, 2020

Access full blog post and show notes here.

If you’re a tech coach or instructional learning professional, you won’t want to miss this interview with Jim Knight. 

Jim is sharing The Instructional Playbook he uses to create strong relationships between coaches and teachers and how professional development has changed over the years. 

Taking on the role of a coach can mean different things to different people, but you really want to maximize your impact on instructional and student learning, this episode is for you!

But first...


I want to give a shoutout to my TCEA Conference Volunteers: Meredith Jones, Lyndi Valicek, Kate O’Leary, Sloane Chinners, Nicole LaPoint, and Janet Winninghoff.  TCEA would not have been the same without all of your work and help.

You can view all of my presentations from TCEA here.

Do you have a question or idea to share on the podcast? Leave me a message here.

Quick Tip of the Week

This week I have two quick tips for you. There are two Chrome extensions that I use every day and had to share them with you. Check out Tab Scissors to split your Chrome tabs into two screens. Then once you need to put them back together, use Tab Glue

These are perfect for when you need to compare documents, are grading papers, or are doing research for a lesson plan or project.

The Instructional Coaching Guru

Jim Knight is a true expert in the field of instructional coaching. He’s written and co-authored several books on the subject and has spent more than two decades studying the fields of professional learning and instructional coaching. 

Jim is a Senior Partner of Instructional Coaching Group, a research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, and the recipient of several university teaching, innovation, and service awards.

There is no better person to learn from if you’re looking into instructional coaching as a career path or if you are looking to implement coaching in your school.

Honoring the Profession of Teaching

I ask all of my potential interview guests to share what they would like to shake up as an educator. Jim believes that honoring the right of educators to make choices and decisions within their classrooms. 

“If we want the schools our students deserve, teachers must receive excellent professional development, and that starts with honoring the professionalism of teachers by ensuring they have real choices to make about what happens in their classrooms.” - Jim Knight

Professional development so often is a set of decisions made at an administrative level that is passed down to the educators in the classroom. By removing the right of those educators to make pertinent decisions about how to educate, we “deprofessionalize the profession.” 

What is Instructional Coaching? 

Jim describes instructional coaching as involving four things starting with exuding a way of being. This is the way you work with people. Essentially the conversations you have with teachers as a coach should be very similar to the way you spoke with them as a fellow educator. You are a partner.

Next, you need a process. Jim uses the Impact Cycle. First, the teacher videos a lesson, goes over the data and then picks a goal to make the lesson more effective. From there, the coach and teacher create a strategy to accomplish the goal.

Coaches should have great listening skills and have strategic knowledge about a certain area of professional development, whether that is technology, literacy, or something else. The coach has expertise but should show up as a partner to their educators to implement practices to create better learning experiences in the classroom.

How to Create the Feeling of a Partnership with Your Educators

Sometimes it can be hard to set up the relationship between coaches and teachers to feel like a partnership versus an evaluation. This is why Jim teaches coaches to work through the Partnership Principles

The thing to remember is that you’re not there to get the teacher to do something or point out what is right or wrong in what they are doing. The process the teacher should be moving through is a series of decisions they make about how to better their lessons and teaching style. 

Often the biggest hurdle to overcome for coaches is that they have likely not ever been treated as a partner within the professional development space. You have to keep treating teachers as professionals so that they see you as a resource versus another evaluation checkpoint.

Impact Cycle: The Process of Digging Deeper 

One of the key processes that Jim teaches in the Impact Cycle, are questioning strategies that help professionals think more deeply about a problem. This cycle was built on years of research.  

Every coach needs to keep working to find the best questions to ask their teachers. Jim shares the research process that he followed to find the questions that made it into the Impact Cycle, but also notes that this is an improvisational practice. 

New, great questions are being found and implemented every day, so keep that in mind as you develop your processes.

Misconceptions About Coaching

While many feel that coaches are there to provide them with an answer, that’s not really their purpose. The coach is not there to provide a solution. Instead, the coach should be sharing options and empowering teachers to make decisions. 

As a coach, it is your job to walk alongside your educators and build their confidence in their ability to create strategies and implement a winning curriculum. As teachers, we want to help and provide the answers, but you need to be sure your educators come to conclusions on their own.

What is The Instructional Playbook

Many coaches don’t have a deep understanding of the practices they share, and as such, Jim has created The Instructional Playbook to bring them fully into their strategies. It is about finding simple and clear explanations to provide to the teachers you support.

It is also a receptacle for documenting the processes in action. This way you can see what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix it. This is the piece of the process that allows you to research and implement new strategies.

The Power of Video

Video has been a fantastic way for teachers to see the reality of their instruction.  In the past, video was much more complicated and required additional equipment. . That is no longer an issue in today’s world with cameras available on almost every device, so teachers and coaches should be using video as the starting point of their research.

When a coach is video the teacher facilitating a lesson, there is a certain amount of disruption that helps jumpstart improvement. Many professionals have a fear of being recorded because they don’t want to see themselves, but you can break that by reminding them of the benefits. 

Having teachers watch each other, and doing themed instructional rounds will help teachers and coaches become experts in each individual practice. When you look at the way you coach and teach, that’s when you get better.

Connect with Jim

Every student, every class, every day, should have an excellent learning experience, which is what Jim’s company is all about. When you respect teachers, give them a voice, and give them some control, they will blow you away with their lessons.

Jim’s Books: 


Podcast Question of the Week

  • What is one takeaway or improvement you would love to see in professional learning?
  • Post your answers in the Shake Up Learning community or on your favorite social platform.

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Post your answer to your favorite social media platform using the hashtag #ShakeUpLearning, or share it in the Shake Up Learning Community on Facebook!

More Resources for Instructional Coaches and Tech Coaches

Check out all of the coaching resources on THIS PAGE.