Cognitive Coaching: Coaching Tools

It is very important for coaches to build rapport with people that they work with. This will help create the environment the partnership necessary for Cognitive Coaching. Rapport is important for coaches to be able to properly apply the response behaviors necessary for challenge and support which inspires transformational learning.

response behaviors in Cognitive Coaching

response behaviors in Cognitive Coaching

The four behaviours given here are useful in working with students, and as educators, we generally consider them useful for our students’ growth and development. It stands to reason that they are also important for when coaching teachers. These responses seem like a useful reminder to me of the types of conversations I should be having with colleagues in coaching. This lends itself to creating some templates to refer to/use when working with teachers.

Cognitive Coaching: Three Conversation Maps

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.
There are three maps that coaches can use in Cognitive Coaching: The Planning Conversation Map, the Reflection Conversation Map, and the Problem-Resolving Map. I decided to try to visually represent my understanding of the three maps. I have very little experience with drawing and do it quite poorly, but I think I was able to represent the main ideas of the three maps. The authors stress that the stages of the map do not have to be followed in sequence, and that it may be necessary to complete all the stages in a particular map. They also explain that it is possible to apply the maps in both formal and informal conversations; in informal conversations, the coach can also follow up on other necessary parts of the map at a future date. “The focus of coaching is on serving the needs of the person in the moment, not on completing the maps” (Jim Knight, 2008, p. 85)
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Cognitive Coaching: Supporting Professional Growth

License: CC0 Public Domain

License: CC0 Public Domain

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for the other related posts.

Cognitive coaching is a non-judgmental, constructivist approach to coaching. It aims to value the capacity of humans to use their mind in the process of development and growth. Cognitive Coaching assumes that humans have an intrinsic drive to learn and grow, and engages higher level thinking of participants to realize this drive. “[Cognitive Coaching] provides support for managing the tensions of autonomy and community” (Knight, 2008, p. 80).

As I read the description of a Cognitive Coach as a mediator who helps the coachee make sense of his experience to derive new learning (or meaning) that will be useful in navigating future experiences or meeting goals, the model got a bit clearer to me. This is phrased more elegantly as “the intention of the coach is to assist the learner in clarifying, developing, and modifying his or her internal schema (Costa & Garmston, 2002, as cited in Knight, 2008, p. 80).

The authors present theories by Robert Kegan that are related to Cognitive Coaching. These include three stages of adult development: socializing, self-authoring, and self-transformational. Adults at the socializing level assess their worth based on how others judge their value. Adults who are self-authoring hold personal values and use personal standards to judge their value. At the self-transforming stage, adults value challenges and tests as a way to grow and develop understanding. Most adults stay between the first two stages because they develop informational learning (knowledge and skills) rather than transformational learning (ways of knowing). Cognitive coaching can be used for transformational learning by providing the right balance of inquiry, challenge and support.

Cognitive Coaching is one of four support functions that we can see in education. Ellison and Hayes present Cognitive Coaching as the optimal support function because of its relationship to transformational learning. The other three support functions are evaluation (external evaluation), collaboration (collective evaluation) and consultation (goal setting by external evaluator).

I’ve read other research in education that speaks of the importance of teacher beliefs in the success of professional development. It seems to me that a non-judgmental, open environment for reflecting on experience through the lens of refining/reconstructing thinking, and challenging values, identify, mental models and beliefs would open the way for changing practice. I think it would benefit me to see this approach in practice. I’m wondering how Cognitive Coaching addresses the necessary informational learning for implementing change, along with the transformational learning that will drive the change.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Cognitive Coaching: The Five States of Mind

The Five States of Mind in Cognitive Coaching are efficacy, consciousness, craftsmanship, flexibility and interdependence.

Efficacy within a school leads to a positive environment where teachers believe that their actions will have positive results on student learning. Teacher efficacy leads to a general attitude of openness and and enthusiasm which leads to success, thereby feeding higher efficacy.

Consciousness is the State of Mind that allows attention to both internal processes, external cues, and past experiences to understand an experience. A conscious person asks internal questions to determine perceptions, biases and thinking processes, while monitoring the situation as it unfolds.

Craftsmanship is intrinsic motivation to strive for excellence. Teachers with craftsmanship aims for excellent for both themselves and their students. They use self-assessment to determine next steps for continued growth and development for continued excellence.

Flexibility is the State of Mind that opens us up to other possibilities and perspectives besides our own. It allows us to move pass our egocentricity to surprise and greater understanding. It is necessarily for interdependence and creativity, because multiple points of view build understanding and new solutions/possibilities.

Humans can be egocentric (self-centred), allocentric (other-centered) or macrocentric (system-centered). Interdependence is the state of mind that allows us to see past the egocentric self to the other two types of selves. Mutuality and reciprocity are important concepts in interdependence so that each person sees her contribution and her benefits from the system, with an understanding of the value of both.

I appreciate that the five states of minds are significant in determining the experience of a person and his perception. I’m not sure how they will be applied in Cognitive Coaching. Does the coach explicitly go through the states of mind with the coachee, or implicitly use the states of mind in coaching? I’m confused as to how this would work, and look forward to finding out more as I continue the chapter.

I’m also curious about the phrase States of Mind, especially given the capitalization in the book. I’m familiar with Habits of Mind for IBDP and am wondering if the two terms are equivalent.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Cognitive Coaching

This is the ninth post in my series based on my reading of Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. You can filter my posts to find all the posts in the series by using the Coaching category.

Chapter 4: Cognitive Coaching is written by Jane Ellison and Carolee Hayes. The two authors established the Center for Cognitive Coaching to share the methodology.

Cognitive Coaching is a  methodology used to build the thinking capacity of participants. “The mission of Cognitive Coaching is to produce self-directed persons with the cognitive capacity for high performance both independently and as members of a community.” (Costa & Garmston, 2002, p. 16 as cited in Knight, 2008, p. 73).

The mission shows that Cognitive Coaching is results driven, focused on developing educators that are self-managing, self-monitoring and self-modifying so that they are able to live and work as individuals and as members of systems without any tension between those selves.

Self-managing refers to the ability to assess your existing circumstances, identify goals, and specify clear indicators of what a successful outcome would look like. Self-monitoring involves being able to listen, observe and collect data to see how well you are progressing towards your goals. Self-modifying refers to being able to use observations and data to modify thinking, actions, and plans to be able to better meet goals.

One sentence in this chapter gave me pause: “Cognitive Coaching expands the traditional work of an educator to include developing internal cognitive, social, and emotional capacities within others” (Knight, 2008, p. 74). I look forward to learning more about this. I’m also attracted to the concept that the self and system are interconnected, interdependent, and inseparable. I’d like me like to be whole, not broken up into pieces and I am curious to learn more about holonomy, which is a new word for me.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Instructional Coaching: Model and Observe

License: CC0 Public Domain

License: CC0 Public Domain

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Explore, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll, Identify and Explain.

Knight explains that modeling and observation are complementary activities that do not have to be stressful to the teacher. He stresses the important of the approach of equal partnership, with the teacher and instructional coach co-creating the form that will be used for recording observations. The teacher uses the form to observe the practice being modeled in a lesson; the coach uses the same form when observing the teacher’s teaching. Knight stresses the importance of recording what the teacher does well, as well as any suggestions, focusing on the teaching practice being explored. A form is usually adequate for observations, but in some cases it may be necessary to record data to determine the progress in using a particular teaching approach.
To me, the important consideration in any observation is to make sure that the collaborating teacher and coach both have clear, shared understanding of the purpose of the observation. It seems clear to me that to respect teachers as equal partners, they need to be part of the process of determining the focus, as well as planning implementation. To get the most professional growth out of an experience, it is important for teachers to engage in reflection; this works best if they fully understand the process and are completely engaged in it.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Instructional Coaching: Identifying and Explaining

Magnifying glass by Auntie P, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Magnifying glass by Auntie P, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Knight (Knight, 2008) presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Refine and Reflect. I’ve posted about Enroll before; this post address the next two components.

In the Identify Step, it is up to the instructional coach to respond to teacher interest and schedule a meeting as quickly as possible. This meeting is for the teacher and instructional coach to agree on the goal of their work with each other. The instructional coach may observe the teacher’s class if the teacher would like a suggestion of teaching practice to implement.
The next step is Explain. The challenge here is for the instructional coach to adequately and accurately explain the teaching practice in the amount of time that she has with the teacher. Knight presents five tactics to help with explanations:
clarify, synthesise, break down, empathise and simplify. A key idea in clarify for me is the importance of discussing teaching practices with other professionals in the same job to build thorough understanding of best practices. This is essential to allow synthesis where the instructional coach summarises the key features of the teaching practice. Synthesis can be combined with the breaking down of the practice. The instructional coach can help the teacher access the teaching practice by breaking down its components into manageable pieces to scaffold the process. This can help remove teachers’ anxiety. The instructional coach can further reduce anxiety by empathising with the teacher and anticipating the practical concerns that the teacher may have with respect to implementing the teaching practice.  And last, instructional should keep the explanation simple without dumbing it down.
Reflection: My Takeaways/Extensions
I hoped that moving to ISP and working with other people in the same position would provide an opportunity for constructing shared understanding that would help me in my coaching work (clarify). This has happened informally but I would love to see the collaboration formalised. I’m also thinking about how I can make better use of Twitter, Google Hangouts and the rest of my professional learning network for focused professional growth to support instructional coaching.
One suggestion in synthesis was to create checklists that could help teachers identify the teaching behaviours of the best practice being presented. I think that’s a good idea. Teachers often ask for models of teaching practice being discussed/taught. We have been having conversations in elementary school about making better use of the strengths within our school; this could take the form of peer observations, allowing teachers to exercise greater autonomy and create their own checklists based on observations. Peer observations and even online videos can be very useful for contextualizing the teaching practice and communicating it more effectively. 
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

5 Ways to Enroll Teachers in Instructional Coaching

Credit:Registration desk sign by  NHS Confederation, License CC BY 2.0

Credit:Registration desk sign by NHS Confederation, License CC BY 2.0

Knight presents eight components of instructional coaching: Enroll, Identify, Explain, Model, Observe, Refine and Reflect. Rather than expanding on each component as per the book, in this post I will reflect on the first and how it relates to my job as elementary digital learning facilitator.

It would be very useful for me to use all five of the methods of enrollment. It is important for me to conduct one-on-one interviews with each teacher to develop a relationship with her, to explain my role with respect to instructional coaching, and to find out specifics about her classroom and the needs of her students. The one-on-one interview seems a good opportunity to set the stage for how I will work with the teacher throughout the year; she can better understand what I have to offer her and I can learn about what our partnership may look like. I think that it is important to meet with each teacher at the beginning of the school year, after he/she has had some time to get to know the students; if timing is an issue, I will concentrate on new teachers. Knight suggests that 15 minutes interviews are beneficial but a longer meeting of 45 minutes – 1 hour are most effective.

I usually attend team meetings once in every six days cycle. I’ve been struggling with how to make an effective contribution to team meetings that I attend. This chapter encourages me to use 20 minutes at team meetings for sharing opportunities for professional growth, for clarifying my role as a partner, to explain other relevant issues to instructional coaching, and to determine who would like to work further with me (possibly through Google Forms). I need to think further about how frequently this could happen; the chapter presents 20 minutes as a short amount of time but that’s 1/3 of each planning meeting.

I have large group presentations several times a year. I am usually tasked with providing professional development for teachers and teacher assistants during that time. It may be a good idea for me to focus on particular teaching strategies, employing technology in the process, allowing time for teacher reflection and feedback. This approach appeals to me as an admirer or the TPACK model.

Most of my coaching opportunities at the moment come from informal conversations. Typically, a teacher reveals a situation that she needs assistance with, and we set up a time to work on it together. I would like to change the focus from primarily technical problems to more instructional ones.

Some of my coaching opportunities come from the intervention of the principal. Knight stresses the importance of offering the coach as one avenue for support, rather than imposing the coach on a teacher (as a punishment/consequence).

I struggle as a digital learning facilitator to determine who my client/audience is. Knight suggests that for the role of instructional coaching, my audience are the people who WANT to work with me. I’ve always thought that I HAVE to work with everyone but CAN  focus on those who are welcoming. This slight shift in thinking could be instrumental in changing how I schedule my time and how I structure my work with teachers. This shifts the focus away from teams to individual classroom and teachers. This makes sense to me as each teacher’s context is different, and the most effective professional development is tailored for the particular context. I acknowledge the importance of one-on-one coaching but am wondering where group/team coaching may fit into my (eventual) model, especially given the research about the importance of communities of practice in sustaining change.


Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

The Coaching Partnership

By Obsidian Soul (Own work), License CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Obsidian Soul (Own work), License CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Chapter 2: Instructional Coaching, Jim Knight reminds us that instructional coaches support teachers with their specific needs to be able to implement research based best practices for teaching. Support could include model/demonstration lessons, observation of classrooms/teaching, support for professional goals, creation of appropriate assessments and the sharing of knowledge in accessible language; all actions are aimed at improving instruction.

Knight explains that instructional coaching relies on a partnership between the coach and the teacher. He goes on to elucidate the seven principles of the partnership. The are equality, choice, voice, dialogue, reflection, praxis, and reciprocity (pp. 32-33). In summary, it is important for each person to feel valued in the partnership, with opportunities for learning from and with each other to improve teaching/learning.
As a digital learning facilitator, there are several challenges to implementing the partnership principle in my work. At times, colleagues do not see the DLF as an equal partner. It can sometimes be a challenge to be considered an equal educator rather than the IT teacher (specialist). This attitude is changing; dialogue about coaching practice helps this change. Another challenge as a DLF is providing choice. I find it relatively easy to do this with individual teachers and small teams. However, I need to continue exploring more creative means for for giving teachers choice and voice when I am responsible for larger professional development sessions.
In preparing professional development as an instructional coach, there are four proven practices: classroom management, content, instruction, and assessment for learning. Classroom management is the first consideration in coaching because it will be difficult to successfully implement other practices if the classroom is not well managed. Next, it is important that the teacher understands the content, how much detail to communicate to students and how to do so clearly. The next focus is instruction, considering how the teacher will structure her lesson and teach the content so that all students can learn it. Finally, it is important to explore formative assessment, which is used to explore how well students are learning.
I can see how these four practices would make the process of working with teachers on technology integration more effective. The classroom management component may make coaching light the best approach at the beginning of the school year or with new teachers who are setting up the classroom environment. Once the classroom is well managed, we can move on with coaching heavy: content, instruction, assessment. Although this practices are presented linearly, I think that the process may be iterative within a unit as reflection may highlight the importance of modifying the practices (especially instruction and formative assessment) to meet the goal of teaching all students.
*Italics are my thoughts; the rest are notes from the chapter.
Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

10 Roles for Coaches

Joellen Killion identifies ten different roles for coaches. I’ve summarized them below (Knight, 2009, pp. 9-14).

Type Data coach Resource provider Mentor Curriculum Specialist Instructional Specialist
Description Helps teachers make sense of data to improve learning Provide additional resources to meet student needs (e.g. preferences, interest, academic ability) Support new teachers in learning professional norms, policies and practices at a school. May also assist in teaching about curriculum. Help teachers understand what the adopted curriculum is. Helps teachers determine the teacher styles and approaches appropriate to the curriculum and for the particular students.
Impact Changes in curriculum and instruction

  • Move on
  • Reteach
  • Assign more practice
  • Provide extension
Additional resources

  • Lessons
  • Unit plans
  • Assignments
  • References
  • Guest speakers and other community resources
Helps new teachers become comfortable with routines and expectations at the school, and possibly provide support with curriculum, instruction and the overall classroom. Teachers understand the scope of concepts, pacing, sequencing of activities for learning, what successful learning looks like, developing appropriate assessment. Differentiate instruction to support the learning needs of all students. This includes consideration of types of activities, student groupings, classroom norms and expectations, use of resources.
Challenge  Creating trusting and safe environment for thorough data analysis Can be time intensive – coaches must manage the amount of time spent on this task in relation to other tasks. Balancing support (dependence) with building capacity in the new teacher (independence).  Limitation of experience or subject knowledge may make it difficult to support certain teachers. It is a challenge to have a broad enough base of instructional strategies to meet all students.


Type Classroom Supporter Learning Facilitator School Leader Catalyst for Change Learner
 Description Works with teachers in the classroom to model teaching strategies, observes, gives feedback, co-teaches. Provides opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge and skills to improve student learning. Advocate for new initiatives and assist teachers in implementing them. Analyzes practices and routines for opportunities for improvements that will help meet school goals. Coaches work on their own learning to strengthen coaching practices.
 Impact Collaboration between coach and teacher:

  • Coplanning
  • Coteaching
  • Observing
  • Giving feedback
  • Reflections about teaching and learning
Student achievement data is used to determine the needs of teachers. Resulting opportunities may be workshops, book studies, action research, pilots, etc. Collaborate with others, modeling how to be a professional educator; usually called on to chair committees, teams or task forces. Dissatisfaction with the status quo leads to analysis and reflection that will keep practices meaningful and current for the curriculum and students within the given context. Attend workshops and conferences to develop skills in coaching; write to model learning and to develop understanding; reflect on and report on learning and working as a coach with the aim of providing the best support possible to teachers.
 Challenge This is an intrusive role that may threaten some teachers. It is difficult for a coach to meet the needs of all teachers; professional learning communities help resolve this challenge. Coaches are teachers rather than supervisors but may be called upon to perform administrative tasks. It is difficult to know what is the right amount of uncertainty to create for (positive) change rather that (negative) disruption. It is easy to push this role aside with the variety of other roles that coaches have to play.


I sometimes find it challenging as a coach to balance the roles because different teachers need different roles at different times. However, it is important for me to consider the context such as the time of year and what else teachers are responsible for in considering how to best support them through coaching. It is also important for me to work with other coaches in elementary so that we can support and balance each other in supporting teachers. Joellen Killion gives the following example of how coaching roles may change over the course of the year (Knight, 2009, p. 15).

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 16.03.20

Coaching teachers also depends on how long both the teachers and the coach have worked in their particular role, and how long they’ve worked together. Coaches who are new to a school must first establish their status and build a relationship with teachers. They also need to demonstrate their skills so that teachers trust their competence. Still, the role that a coach is called on to play will depend on the experience of the teacher. Sometimes a teacher does not welcome the role that a coach would like to play; it is up to the coach to come up with an alternate approach for the desired outcome. In general a coach is more successful if well supported by the principal through communicating expectations to teachers and coaches, and regularly meeting with coaches to assess their progress. Many criteria contribute to creating the particular culture that a coach may find herself working in; it is important to get to know the culture to determine which coaching roles and approaches will best work with teachers in the culture.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2009). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.