Collaboration Communication Skills
Most teachers have limited experience engaging in professional dialogue about their teaching and student learning. Conversations tend to be more “show and tell” or offering help and easily tangential. Research suggests these kinds of conversations do not improve practice.
Research has identified two patterns of conversation: Supportive practices and Developmental practices
A 2006 study by W. David Stevens at the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago has revealed barriers to meaningful collaboration, even when schools embrace the concept. The study identifies two kinds of collaborative practices. Supportive practices include teachers offering advice, suggesting approaches to tasks or concerns, and generally helping one another with daily classroom work. These typically occur informally and affect only one or a few teachers. In coaching these conversations focus on building and maintaining relationships more than on improving teaching and learning. Conversations focus on providing resources and sharing materials and avoid more “challenging” questions.
Developmental practices, on the other hand, are interactions that spur improvements in overall instruction and change classroom practices. These require collective and structured efforts. Wiggins in 2009 said that quality professional development can only occur when conversations are based on the discussion of established quality criteria and how the current practice aligns with the criteria.
Inside the Classroom a Study of K12 Mathematics & Science Education in the United States (Horizon Research, 2003)recommends that teachers need opportunities for examining their own practice, engaging in lesson study conducted with skilled, knowledgeable facilitators to provide teachers with helpful learning opportunities to improve their practice.
Focus of collaborative conversations – focusing on the work of improving teaching and learning like a laser focusing intense energy into a small and direct area.
What is the impact on student learning? Student Work:
  • Is the tangible bridge between student and teacher
  • Provides concrete evidence of what the teacher intended and student learned
  • Offers a baseline for improvement of teaching and learning
Coaches need to assist teachers to look for evidence of:
Intended – what students should learn
Enacted- what teachers teach
Assessed –what is assessed
Learned –what students learn
Focus on the areas of quality lessons that most lessons need improvement in:
Task: Setting, Audience, Product; Opportunities for collaboration. Use questions to clarify the task (REAL Problem, Purpose, Product, Audience)
Standards: (21st Century, AASL, and Academic you intend to assess) only 2or 3
Student Steps and Teacher Notes: Cohesive - Detailed, clarifies the product, adds scaffolding tools where needed.
Assessment:How will you assess the standards you listed? Rubric? Checklist? Test? How will you assess product and process? Formative Feedback (that helps move student to the next step)
Technology: Adds value to the teaching and learning; Reason for using technology (i.e Communication? Collaboration? Co- Create? Contribute?)
Resources: Curricular, Web site, information, electronic and non electronic; how to cite.
Coaches Need to Avoid:
— Being negative- they are an advocate, not a critic.
— Being arbitrarily judgmental. Judgments are expressed in a variety of ways: word choice, “tone” of voice, and body language.
— Directing- they are there to provide support.
— Imposing their ideas

Professional growth occurs when we engage in focused conversations around evidence of teaching and learning. These conversations:
  • Must be anchored in common definitions of quality indicators for teaching and learning (Local Definitions/ Guidelines, Critical Friends Discussion Protocols, Learning Activity Checklist, Lesson Improvement template, Five Lesson Improvement Questions, Collaboration Log and guide).
  • Focus on the collaborating teacher’s work and its impact on student learning. Where they are now. Factual evidence of how they are currently teaching and integrating technology. Employ clarifying questions for the teacher to get a clearer picture of what and how they are teaching. Asking questions around the intended and enacted curriculum, assessment of student performance (achievement and attitudes), and impact on learning. This is important for the teacher to get a clear picture of their lessons and student work produced – a baseline for improvement. Pausing in the conversations allows both coach and teacher to think.
  • Include well placed probing questions that allow the teacher to think more deeply about their teaching. Probing questions are difficult and take time and practice to use effectively.
  • Begin in the comfort zone for the teacher but should include some discomfort and risk questions depending on the level of trust between coach and teacher. Coaches also need to move to the edge or beyond their comfort zone to move teachers to move beyond theirs. When coaches coach in the comfort zone too long they limit the impact of their work and waste precious time and the resource of coaching. Our beliefs about coaching impact this.









Communicate frequently with your principal what you are doing in your coaching.
Reflecting on your coaching communication skills will lead to better coaching sessions (Looking for a good tool to reflect on coaching):
Coaching “informally” – It’s a part of my job. Tend to be supportive practice and not developmental – does not change the quality of lessons, may incorporate more technology and resources. Identify the role you assumed in your last coaching session. To what degree did you incorporate good questioning, What was your focus? (lesson improvement, resources, tech tools) Reflect on what communication skills you want to focus on in your next session.
Starters: It’s homecoming week and your collaborating teacher has just informed you that he/she is just too busy to meet this week. You had planned for a short meeting to update plans for working on a unit coming up in the next month. What is your reply?
Take a step back and think about what is going on here – what other issues are at stake? What communication skills can you use to improve the collaborative relationship with this teacher? (It may be homecoming week this week and next week it will be the opening of bow season or testing or something. Remember the time chart. Ten minutes is still 10 minutes. Its all about Relationship)
What can be your coaching goal/commitment?
(Remember it takes at least 20+ hours to result in a change of practice)
10 minutes a week
30 minutes/wk
30 minutes bi-wk
1 hour weekly
10 minutes a week
30 minutes/wk
30 minutes bi-wk
1 hour weekly
10 minutes a week
30 minutes/wk

1 hour weekly
10 minutes a week
30 minutes/wk

1 hour weekly
40 minutes a month
2 hours /month
1 hour /month
4 hours / month
6 hours per year
18 hours per year
8 hours per year
36 hours per year




10 minutes = 2 pts
Goal: 100 pts 1st semester
30 minutes =5 points