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The Change Agent

Dr. Jim Knight

Senior Partner, Instructional Coaching Group

The Objective

An in-depth discussion of the necessary components for successful instructional coaching.

Show Notes

Dr. Jim Knight, Senior Partner at the Instructional Coaching Group, joins the podcast this week for an in-depth conversation on instructional coaching. What kind of specific knowledge and skills do coaches need to flourish, and what exactly should the coach/teacher partnership look like? Listen in to learn more about how your school can implement and support instructional coaching effectively.

Host Bio: Dr. Chris Balow is the Chief Academic Officer at SchoolMint. Dr. Balow has a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and served for 33 years as an educator in various roles with focuses on literacy, mental health, and the behavioral and emotional growth of students. He has worked the last 6 years in the educational technology field to promote student success on a larger scale.

Season 2 : Episode 7

Title: A Conversation On Coaching

Subtitle: An in-depth discussion of the necessary components for successful instructional coaching.

Voice Over (00:02):

Welcome to the ChangeAgents in K12 podcast. Join our host, Dr. Chris Balow, chief academic officer at SchoolMint, as we dive into thought provoking in-depth conversations with top educational leaders. Our goal? The advancement of education and improved outcomes for all students. Listen in, be inspired, and ask yourself, are you ready to be a change agent?

Dr. Chris Balow (00:28):

Welcome to the podcast ChangeAgents in K12. And today it's really a switch up for me. I've been interviewing basically superintendents, many of them in a row here. So I'm ready to switch that up today and have Dr. Jim Knight with us. Dr. Knight is the senior partner at instructional coaching group, and he is a research, uh, associate at the university of Kansas center for research on learning. He spent more than two decades studying instructional coaching, writing several books on the topic. Uh, Jim's articles on instructional coaching have been included in publications, such as the journal of staff development, principal leadership, the school administrator, Jim directs several research projects, including pathways to success, which is a comprehensive districtwide school reform project in Topeka. He also leads the instructional coaching institutes, which I've seen definitely. And Jim has presented and consulted more than 40 states, most Canadian provinces and all around the world. He's also won several university teaching innovation and service awards, uh, Dr. Jim Knight welcomed to the podcast.

Dr. Jim Knight (01:44):

Hey, you make it sound so good. It's, it's great to be here and I'm excited to have this conversation. I'm looking forward to it.

Dr. Chris Balow (01:49):

Awesome. Awesome. Well, uh, a basic question, but I think important is, um, for our listeners is what is instructional coaching?

Dr. Jim Knight (01:59):

Well, there are probably different definitions. Um, we would describe instructional coaching as a partnership between a coach and a teacher and that means they have equal power in their relationship. And it's the teacher talking to a teacher and the coach helps the teacher get a clear picture of reality that can happen in a lot of different ways. And then they help the coach through listening and questioning, uh, help the coach identify a powerful, emotionally compelling goal. That'll make a big difference, an unmistakably positive difference in the kid's lives. Then they help them figure out how they're gonna hit the goal by identifying strategies. Then they help the teacher get ready to, um, prepare, implement the strategy they're gonna use. So they usually describe it and model, and then the teacher, uh, and the coach make modifications until they hit the goal. So an instructional coach is essentially moving through a process and, um, helping the teacher figure out what they want to focus on and help them get to the goal. And to do that an instructional coach, unlike other coaches has strategic knowledge. They're, uh, they understand what effective instruction looks like, and they, they understand data. You can gather curriculum based data or classroom data. You can look at like things like how many kids are disruptive or how many kids are, uh, responding into questions. And, um, and they're a little bit like a curator in a library. You know, you go and you ask, where can I find this thing? And they help you find it. They don't tell you what book you read, but they help you look for what you need to do. And so they always put, they always in the interactions, the, the teacher always makes the decisions, but the coach is there with and valuable insights when needed.

Dr. Chris Balow (03:42):

Wow. Uh, to me, as I, as I hear you describe that coaching is a gift to the teacher, like, oh my gosh, to have a colleague like that, to have that high level of consultation and to be working together, what a gift to be able to have that.

Dr. Jim Knight (03:59):

Yeah, I love the way you, you put that. And I would agree completely. I think the coaching should be, it should be helping teachers reach more kids and it should making the teachers job easier. And, uh, and it's a professional discourse between two people who are equal. And just that just like, I might wanna have help from you on how to use some form of technology and I might come you, and you might give me some insights. Sometimes the instructional coach shares ideas. Other times it's not necessary. All the coach is doing is helping the teacher think through what they wanna do. They already have a plan. They're just helping them put the plan in action.

Dr. Chris Balow (04:31):

Right. And you know, I'm a big football fan and, uh, green bay packer fan to be exact and Aaron Rogers, great quarterback. He's got a quarterback, coach and Rogers has to go out and execute, but to have this coach with a second set of eyes, um, it seems perfectly natural that it would be similar in the classroom where you're, where you're executing plays.

Dr. Jim Knight (04:57):

Yeah. I think if you want to be really outstanding at what you do, you wanna be excellent. You almost always have a coach, whether you're a surgeon or an athlete or a violin player or whatever, there's there, it's helpful to have someone not to tell you what to do, but to, to help you see things, you might not see to share ideas that you can choose to use if they're relevant and so forth. So, um, I mean, most outstanding performers have a coach that has helped them get to that level of excellence, you know?

Dr. Chris Balow (05:30):

Yeah, for sure. Um, you, I, I like how you mentioned, you know, instructional coaching, you alluded to, I should say that it's not just academic instruction. It's it's behavioral. Um, I was a school psychologist and I consulted, we called it consulting, but it was basically coaching teachers on, uh, strategies to help manage challenging behaviors in the classroom. So coach would touch all those things, correct.

Dr. Jim Knight (05:58):

We would say, well, of course, every district will define the coach differently. So you could have an instructional coach whose focuses entirely on, uh, uh, reading strategies or literacy strategies or math instruction or something else. But in the way we conceive of it, um, we were, we are working with teachers, partnering with teachers to improve the wellbeing or the achievement of students. And we think they're both important. And when we improve the conditions for kids to have greater wellbeing, then engagement becomes a big part of what we do. And engagement I would argue is as, as important as achievement, because if you don't address engagement, a lot of kids are gonna drop out. You, if they don't feel safe in school, they don't feel they have a connection. They don't feel like they belong. We're gonna lose. So to me, engagement is an equity issue. If we want to keep all kids coming to school and succeeding, we have to make sure it's a place. They feel safe. And it's a place where they feel connection, where they have friends, where they feel like they belong engagements, broadly, three categories. As we describe there's behavior, do they look like they're learning and there's cognitive engagement? Are they actually getting out of the activity, what they're supposed to get out of it? And then there's emotional engagement and all three and emotional engagement is that they feel like they belong. And a lot of ways of defining that and how to gather that data. But yes, for us, I've written about this in, um, the learning professional, but, uh, for us engagement and achievement are both very, very important and one without the other doesn't really make sense.

Dr. Chris Balow (07:26):

Yeah, absolutely. And I, I love how you put that and engagement, um, occurs on many different levels and it's an absolute pre prerequisite, uh, for our kids. Um, well, um, I noticed you've written a new book, Dr. Knight.

Dr. Jim Knight (07:43):

Um, you noticed that cuz we wrote you and said, Hey, we wrote a new book, so it's

Dr. Chris Balow (07:47):

Oh, come on now. Don't um, we, we do a little prep work around here. Okay. Absolutely. Absolutely. We're not totally fly by night. No, no I don't. Yeah, no, that's, that's, that's great. I love it. Um, um, but the new book, um, the title was a definitive guide to instructional coaching. So definitive guide boy that that's, uh, promising a lot. I love it. Tell us about it. Well, it's

Dr. Jim Knight (08:11):

Well its, hubristic, I think to, you know, I'm gonna write the definitive guide, but, um, you know, we've been studying coaching for instructional coaching for more than an two decades now. And we made a lot of mistakes along the way. And uh, uh, that work has led us to identify some sort of, almost like a rubric for it. What do you have to have in place for a coach to flourish? And, uh, and I chose the title deliberately because I wanted to live up to the title in the writing. I said, I want to create this book that people can be pick up and they can go, oh yeah, we have to do that. That's important. And I wanted to keep it concise too. So it's shorter than most of my books, even though the scope of it is the broadest of all the books. It's kind of bringing together everything we've talked about and studied and learned about for 20 years in one concise and short book.

Dr. Chris Balow (08:59):

Yeah. Awesome. And, and I don't consider it hubris giving, given your background and your extensive research in, in the area of instructional coaching, you, you are the person who can do this. Um, well tell us, um, tell us a little bit about the book and this, this roadmap, this, this how to, I think is so critical. I've talked to a lot of, uh, district leaders and they understand the importance of coaching, but how do you actually get it up and running, uh, can be challenging. I'm sure.

Dr. Jim Knight (09:29):

Right. So I think that the, I love what you're saying. I think that, um, coaching is a different job and, uh, for coaches to flourish, they have different knowledge. They need to have different skills. And, um, and so all of those things are really, really important. And, um, and that's what we try to capture here. If you want to create a successful program. And I organize it into three parts, who am I, what do I do? And where do I work? And, uh, and so who am I is about the beliefs that guide my work, the communication skills I have and, um, how I act as a leader and leader leadership. I describe as leading yourself and leading others. So the, the beliefs for us, we, them as, uh, partnership principles as positioning ourselves as equals with teachers. And, um, that is we are a teacher talking to a teacher. And just because we became a coach, doesn't change the nature of the relationship. It should still feel the same. This is just two professionals engaging in a meaningful conversation. That's grounded in a, a set of, uh, principles. I won't go into the principles, but principles are important because they guide your actions. You know, um, everybody's actions are, are guided by a set of principles, whether you're aware of them or not, there's principles that drive what you, your principles could be. I want to engage my will for the good of other people or your principal could be, I'm all only interested in it. If it's good for me, you know, um, I'm the only person who matters in my interactions, but you may not be aware of the principles, but there are principles that guide your actions. So we, we studied those. And when I did my dissertation on this, we found that if we took what I call the partnership approach, grounded in equality and the autonomy of other people and engaging in a dialogue with other people and teachers were four and a half times more likely to embrace the strategies we shared than if we took a more fidelity braced directive approach. So that's the partnership principles, the set of beliefs. That's a teacher talking to a teacher, this, the second thing, uh, is coaching skills. And there's a whole, whole lot of skills or wrote a book called better conversations about this. But in, in the book, I focus in on three skills, the way you ask questions, the way you listen and the way you engage in dialogical conversations with other, other people. And to me, those skills are like you live in Minnesota. So, uh, it's like, um, playing ice hockey. You can't play hockey unless you know how to skate. It's just not gonna happen. And it's hard to be a coach if you're not a good listener and not a good questioner, you're not able to engage in dialogue. Absolutely. And then the leading go ahead.

Dr. Chris Balow (12:11):

I was gonna say, as a school psychologist doing, uh, counseling and therapy with students and families, um, those were those kind of foundational skills we had to build. You know, how do you ask the right kinds of questions to get the person to really think about their psychological state, what behaviors they have to control or don't have control over. And, and that listening is so, so important. And you mentioned earlier too, about, um, the who, the, the communication skills. So, um, that, that sounds like, kind of rolls into that and, and leadership, you know, how to lead someone and how, how the teacher can be a leader simultaneously with, with the coach. Am I kind of getting that right?

Dr. Jim Knight (13:01):

Yeah I think so. I, I, I would say counseling's a good, a good counterpart for what we're talking about. And I'm really influenced by, um, in particular Miller enroll, next approach called motivational interviewing, which is a therapy approach where, what you're doing in motivational interviewing is helping the person identify what they want do, and then help helping them achieve it. You're you're not trying to talk them into anything you're just helping them sort of unleash a plan. And then also we're really influenced by solution focused coaching, which is about, you know, getting a vision of where you want to go to getting clear on what your goal's gonna be. So our questions tend to be more like motivational interviewing or solution focused questions.

Dr. Chris Balow (13:42):

Yeah. That makes sense. I wanna interject. I was just thinking, I've been reading a lot about teacher efficacy and that that's such an important variable, uh, research telling us on outcomes. And, um, so what, what you're saying that solution based, um, interviewing and motivational interviewing is almost it, what it, it seems like it could do is undo some irrational beliefs that a teacher might have about themselves or their students to, to break through and improve their efficacy.

Dr. Jim Knight (14:14):

Well, we're more motivated by a positive vision than by thinking about all the things that suck, you know? It's like, it's like, well, put it's really, you know, if you start to say, so, what would you like to, what would, what would you like it to look like? And how would you feel if it looked that way and sort of paint a picture for it? That's a lot more fun than telling me why hasn't it happened. What's going wrong? What are all the bad things? So that to me is a solution focus is to get to get there. Um, in terms of the leadership part, we talk about leading yourself and leading others, leading yourself is identifying your purpose, then figuring out how you're gonna find time to accomplish your purpose, then getting most the most out of your days by paying attention by not hurrying. And then, um, and then just what you were talking about. Self care, the people treat themselves like a friend as Kristen Neff says, and they're, they're compassionate towards themselves. And the same way, they'd be compassionate towards others. That's leading self. And then leading others is to, as Liz Wiseman says, be a multiplier with people and help them expand their capacities and learning how to interact in a way that helps 'em grow and be more. And, and it's particularly for coaches, it's about balancing ambition and humility. So being driven really have your act together, driven to make change happen. And at the same time, responsive and listening and adapting to what the person says and being humble and open to being changed. And one without the other, doesn't really get it done. You really need both, cuz if you're ambitious, but you're not really responsive, it's gonna turn people off and if you're responsive, but you haven't got your act together and you waste people's time, that's not to work either. You really need that ambition and having your act together and the responsiveness together. So that's the, the leadership part. And that's the first, I don't know what it would be three sevenths of the book. It's, uh, who you are, your beliefs, your communication skills and your, and your leadership, uh, leading yourself and leading others. And then you, you mentioned the, where, um, as, as part of that, that process. Well, the second part I should probably talk about is what you do. And so, um, let's say you're my coach and I'm a teacher mm-hmm and you're going to use what we call the impact cycle. So you would come to my class, you talk with me about how we could do it. And we, you say here's kind of a checklist of the whole process. Is there anything you wanna change? You wanna do it this way? And I say, I'm all in. I need help. Yes, please come. And so then you would say you need to get a clear picture of current reality. So you video recorded my class and uh, I watched the video, you watched the video and the, and you ask me some questions to help me unpack what happened in the video and in those questions, I start to say, you know, I don't think the kids were that engaged. And, um, I think I talked way too much, you know, I think I need more student talk. And so you just ask questions and you listen, but you guide me to, um, to set a goal, which is maybe I wanna, uh, have a certain level of engagement. You're gonna help me measure it in some way. There's lots of ways of doing it, but let's say it's time on task. How many kids look like they're learning? Or it could be exit tickets or what we call experience sampling. And then we figure out a, a strategy and the strategy is we're gonna do two things. We're gonna gonna show kids thinking prompts, which could be a work of art, or it could be a video clip, or it could be tell them a story, but we're gonna introduce this thinking prompt to the students. And then we're gonna ask questions to get them, to make connections back to the content they're studying. So that's our strategy. Sure. Then in the learning part of the impact cycle, you would help me learn how to do that. And so you would have maybe checklists of what good thinking prompts are. And you wouldn't say you have to do it this way. You'd just say, let's look this over and see which parts you wanna keep. How do you wanna modify it? And then nothing's one size fits all. How do we wanna make it work for you? And then you might show me another teacher, or maybe you might come in the classroom model, or maybe we watch a video, but at the end of the learning stage, the first stage is identify at the end of the learning stage. Now I'm ready to try it out. You've described it. I've seen it in action, maybe in a different ways. Then I try out my questions and my thinking prompts and, um, doesn't really workand then I get together and I say, you know, I I'm a little discouraged cuz it didn't work. And then, then together you and I, you again, through questioning not through telling me what to do. We say, well, maybe we need to pick thinking prompts that are more personally relevant to the kids. Let's try that out. And maybe we, I noticed they responded better to this kind of question and that kind of, and maybe we should make sure the questions are ones that don't have a right or wrong answer. So they feel more comfortable responding. And, and I wonder if we should call out to kids to involve them different things, we would just try stuff out and then eventually it works. We different kind of thinking prompt different, or maybe we say actually questioning isn't the thing. I think we have to do something different around Behe behavior. More, more sort of like behavior management strategies or so. That's the process we follow, identify, learn, and improve. That's the thing we do. Go ahead.

Dr. Chris Balow (19:19):

Yeah. I love it. The impact cycle, um, in the world of school psychology, we'd call it the problem solving model. You've I'm sure you've heard of that. Um, similar in you're collecting information and what, what I love is as you describe the impact cycle, it's not about making major changes to your, your, your, yourself as a teacher. It's about these small tweaks, implement the strategy, evaluate it, iterate, and it's happening on a rather short cycle. It sounds like.

Dr. Jim Knight (19:52):

Yeah. First thing I would say is we do want a goal that will make a socially significant difference for kids. So we want a goal. That's a, a big goal in the sense of change, but we want a goal that's pretty easy to accomplish so, um, I don't want diminish the power of the goal. We say we want a powerful goal, but then we want the most friction free way to get to the goal, the quickest way to the goal and right. The cycle on average in our research takes about six weeks meeting every week, but that's week that's, that's an average. It could be, it could be, it could be a whole semester. It could be a shorter period of time, but on average it takes about six weeks to go through the whole thing.

Dr. Chris Balow (20:31):

Okay, good. Um, so tell us a little bit more about your, your seven, uh, components of, of the, of this big picture of coaching.

Dr. Jim Knight (20:42):

Sure. Let me wrap it all up. So there's under the who I am. There's your beliefs. There is, uh, your, your coaching skills. There's your leadership skills under the, what I do, there's the impact cycle and to do the impact cycle, I need strategic knowledge, which involves, uh, teaching practices. And I might create a playbook of high impact teaching strategies, and I need to know how to gather data just so we can set goals and monitor progress towards goals. Probably need to gather data every week. If you set a goal that I want my achievement scores to go up by 15%. And then I don't know, till the end of the year, it's a little bit like a GPS where you don't know if you're on track. You just, this tells you when you get there, it's not much help, right? So you need, you need to know, be able to gather data every week and put it together every week. And the last thing working in a system that supports you, uh, the seven success factor is, um, that you're in a place where you have time to do coaching and where the leaders understand what coaching is. And they are in theoretical alignment with you. That is, they believe in the partnership approach or whatever beliefs guide your approach. There's alignment between the bleeds. And maybe most importantly, everybody works together to make sure you've got time to do the work. And so there's role clarity, the coach and the principal or whomever, the coach reports to they've gone through the various tasks and said, and I really think you need to make sure you're spending 70% of your time on the impact cycle. You're gonna do that. You can't do these things and they break down all the rules and clarify what they, the coach will and won't do. And then, and then the coach needs a coach. You need what I call a, a learning architecture in the system. So everybody is supported. It seems a little bit like overkill, really. You need coaching for coaches, but if we need coaching for teachers because they're not, and the research is pretty clear, you only remember things for a little while. Yeah. And then it's gone. Yeah. So the coach is the memory, but then that coach needs someone who remembers how the process works. So they can provide that support and, and move it forward to, to really have a place where professional learning is just you, you you're gonna wanna have significant support.

Dr. Chris Balow (22:53):

Yeah. And you know, the, some of the coaches that I've worked with in the buildings that I've worked in, it's a hard, as you've described, it's a challenging job. And, and every professional needs a colleague that they can problem solve with. Um, I can imagine you, if I'm a coach, I might run into a teacher that's maybe resistant or whatever. Um, I need to talk to somebody about strategies as well, because none of us knows everything. And so I love that notion of learning architecture to, to really understand all the moving pieces and, and would say Jim, that the allocation of the appropriate level of time and resources is a, a shortcoming you've seen from time to time.

Dr. Jim Knight (23:39):

Well, I, I think it's often the case that the coach is, um, their role is not that clear. It hasn't been that clearly defined. And so then, then the coach ends up doing every little thing that has to be done that nobody else Uh, has on. And so consequently you'll have coaches who will have literally zero time for coaching, cuz they're too busy doing all the other things that have to be done, little things. So, and uh, and I think that's why I would say the most important thing is that the, that the coach has, you know, salted away time where this is, this is, has to happen if they don't have the time to do it. It's, it's little like time on task in the classroom. If you're not listening, you're not gonna hear the book. Well, if you're not coaching, not gonna have the outcome.

Dr. Chris Balow (24:26):

Yeah. And you know, I, my experience in schools is that, you know, there's sometimes initiative fatigue where, um, districts are doing, trying to do lots of different things. And if you don't do it well right off the bat, right. Teachers get a little bit kind of, uh, jaundice on, on the whole strategy. And so if you're gonna do it, do it right. That's my, my theory.

Dr. Jim Knight (24:51):

Yeah. And so we would say the, the best way to learn a strategy is not to go to a workshop and then try to do it. Workshops are good because they sh give, create awareness of things. But within a couple of days, you'll have forgotten the best way to do it is to a set of goal, a change you want to see in your students and then try to figure out, well, what's the strategy I can use to try to hit that goal. So if you had a runner, for example, who's trying to run faster. They could sit in a course or they could have a coach who says, I wonder if you just lifted your feet up a little bit, let's just see how fast that goes and who is there and helps them integrate the knowledge and the knowledge you integrate. You know, in real life I saw real learning happens in real life. That's what sticks with you, the things you heard in abstract, they're there in the awareness stage, but you don't actually implement until you have that goal. And the coach has to be there to help you do it, you know, it's yeah. It's a lot harder to do it by yourself.

Dr. Chris Balow (25:46):

So really what you're saying is you really can't have effective, long lasting impact professional development, unless you have coaching as part of that learning architecture.

Dr. Jim Knight (25:58):

Well, I think it's gonna be, if I go to, let's say I go to a workshop on, um, let's pick something straightforward on, uh, say learning and I learn about 10 different learning structures for cooperative learning. I'm in the workshop. That sounds great. I really like this. Um, I, I should do this, but you know, next week I'm kind of busy and uh, I don't know if I can get around to it next week. And then the week after that, I can't remember it really, all that. Well, I remember it was a really great workshop, was a lot of fun. And like, it really only takes a few days. Like if you go two weekends without implementing the odds on you're implementing are pretty low. Yeah. But if I go to the workshop and I've got a coach and the coach comes to me and says, well, what's the change you want to see in your students first, maybe cooperative learning. Isn't the thing. And I explained the change and like we do the, the teacher says, yeah, I wanna work on cooperative learning cuz I wanna hit this goal. And then the coach is the memory. The coach is the one who provides the follow and the support and helps me figure out and adjust it and make it fit my personality, make it fit my coaching style and me do it in a way that works for kids.

Dr. Chris Balow (27:04):

Absolutely. I mean, there's a science to behavior change that I learned as a psychologist and you need things like feedback, modeling, observational, learning, um, all different things, reinforcement, all those things need to be in place. And if you just go to a workshop and you're on your own, that the likelihood of behavior change is low, just from a psychological standpoint.

Dr. Jim Knight (27:28):

And people might do it, but if they do it, they reteach themselves. They go back to the books and they go, what was that thing? Because it's gone in a couple of days and it's not, I mean, I give a lot of workshops. It's not the flaw, the workshop, uh, well it might be mine, but it's, it's in general. The problem, the problem is not the, the workshop. The problem is we just don't remember that, that stuff for too long. And um, and also it's, it's, you have to get out of your comfort zone to try something new and practice. And so it's right. And it's gonna be hard to go there without a coach. The other thing I'd say, just to define what we do is we really prefer self, uh, directed feedback rather than we telling the person what they liked, what, what happened and didn't happen. Okay. So, so that's why video for us is a really, really important part of professional learning. Sure. We wouldn't force it on somebody. If somebody says, look, I've got too many COVID calories. I don't wanna, I don't wanna see the video. It's okay. You, yeah. But, um, we'd offer, well, you could do audio or uh, or, you know, I could gather some observations, but we think the best scenario is where the person discovers for themselves. They look at the video and they'd go, oh, it looks like I asked way too many questions and questions weren't that effective or, oh, I can't believe how long I took kids to transition from one activity to the next. We could say that, but if they discover it for themselves, it's way, it's just way more powerful. And what's more, we tend to overexaggerate how valuable our feedback is. And I think, uh, what really matters isn't whether I've got a great feedback and all my good ideas, what really matters is what's the teacher want to do to try to move forward.

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Dr. Chris Balow (30:32):

I had a list, uh, question on my list to ask about technology and video. And it sounds like you're a proponent of that. And it, it seems, um, that what a great way for a teacher to go back and reflect maybe even more than once and look at different things happening, cuz classrooms are very complex environments. Um, so it sounds like you'd agree.

Dr. Jim Knight (30:55):

Yeah. I'll Tell, uh, we, we've known for a long time about the power of video and um, my friend, um, Mike ho who's the director of the center for research on learning at the university of Kansas. He, um, he did studies back in the nineties where tutors were learning a, a, an approach to tutoring called strategic tutoring. He would describe it and, um, they wouldn't do it. And you could see right on the video, how they were helping, they were doing the work for the students. They, you could, they, they would take the paper right away from the student and put it in front of themselves and work on the assignment. Okay. And, um, and then he created a checklist for what's supposed to happen. Had the tutors watch themselves on a checklist with the checklists in hand and then their behavior changed dramatically. But the trouble was, he had to bring in these big machines and some kid had to show you how to, to do it. Then you had to watch it in the staff lounge. It was such a hassle. Yeah. And, uh, and then you had to watch it with everybody else watching you. Cause there's only one TV and it's in the staff lounge. Sure. So in, uh, around 2012, maybe, maybe 2008, anyway, it was the world cup. And, um, it was, have been, must have been after 2008. So 2010, maybe any rate. Um, and I was watching the world cup of soccer. Jagger was in the stands, must have been England playing. He had this little thing, it was a flip camera and I thought, oh, we gotta get those for our coaches. And so, uh, two weeks later we were using flip cameras. Then as the iPhone developed and became a tool, it became, um, a part of the repertoire of all the coaches we work with. And I, 2014, I wrote a book on video called focus on teaching, which is, um, all about the fact that, you know, there's a reason why every great every middle school football team in America probably watches themselves on video. It's, it's, it's steroids for learning it's really. And until you really see it you're, you often don't get it. So, right. And the other thing is I'd say is that, um, no matter who you are and no matter what your profession is, you don't have a very clear picture. It's extremely rare for somebody to know what it looks like when they do what they do. The video gives you a picture of that in a way that's powerful. It sounds painful to watch sometimes, but it's, but once you get used to it, you go, there's that guy who looks like me, and then you can, you can start to learn from it.

Dr. Chris Balow (33:16):

Love it. Love it. Um, have you ever used it in, in a way of, um, showing a teacher in exemplar of, you know, here here's a strategy or a technique here's someone actually doing it?

Dr. Jim Knight (33:28):

So we, we do that all the time. We show videos of, of in our case coaching. Um, but, uh, what we found is this is consistent with our set of beliefs, is we wouldn't say, let look at how great this person is. We would say, here's a video. What do you like? And what don't you like? Okay. That's what we, what we found is if we say this is the way it should be, that people, uh, tend to resist that a little bit. But if we say, I want you to look at this you're professional, what do you like? What don't you like? How would you change it? Then they're more open to learning from the video. And, you know, it's the rare, perfect example anyway. And so I think, although people sometimes have a tendency to go negative, I think, however, you look at the video you're you're with the way you think is what should come out as you look at it. So now if I'm the facilitator and there's things I like, and I, I don't think people have seen them wanna point them out. I'm gonna say, well, your interpretation of this is all the matters. Here's how I see it. But what you see is the critical thing. I don't want you to miss out on something else. I wouldn't, once I try to start talking them into it, it's over. So I don't wanna talk them into it. I just wanna say here's another way of looking at it. What do you think? You know, I, I always want, want them to be the, one's doing the thinking.

Dr. Chris Balow (34:42):

Sure. So you, you, you wouldn't, uh, so it's how you kind of portray it, but you definitely use an example video, um, that they can observe and learn from. And as you said, there is no perfect, uh, example of,

Dr. Jim Knight (34:57):

Of, well, there may be, but yeah, there may and schools around the world are doing that now out. So I talked about that idea of an instructional playbook and, um, in Asia and Australia and north America and Europe, I know schools where they're creating playbooks and then they're linking them back to videos of teachers using the practices that are their high impact teaching strategies. So if you wanted to learn about it, you can maybe go to Google or something and click on a link and see somebody, that particular strategy. And then there's things like the teaching channel, which I already share all that stuff.

Dr. Chris Balow (35:27):

Yeah. Um, question came up in my mind a while back. Um, what's your thought on principles trying to act as a coach? I, I hear that happening sometimes.

Dr. Jim Knight (35:40):

That's a big question. So, um, first off, uh, we usually react to administrators different than differently than we react to peers. Mm-hmm I had a coach for a long time, uh, from the Franklin Covey organization. For about half a year and, he was coaching me on time management. And, uh, and so each week we talk about how I use my time and what I could do to be more effective. And it was built around the seven habits of highly successful people and, um, we had a confidential relationship. Now my, my opportunity there was paid for by the university, he, of Kansas because I think they figured if he can get his act together, we can get more out of it. But any rate I had, I had this person and at that time I had a really absolutely wonderful boss and, um, my mentor and my, and my friend and, uh, person I have the most respectful or probably of anybody I've ever known. And, um, yet if I thought my coach is gonna go back and talk to Don and tell him all the, all the time I spent watching hockey or whatever it is, I would've been careful about what I said. I wouldn't have been quite as open knowing that it wasn't gonna go back to the evaluator, changed it. So when we are being, we tend to, you know, show the shiny side of the apple and not the dark side. Having said that I think for a principal to take a coaching approach makes a lot of sense. And so for coaches principles to engage in conversations where the teacher is making the decisions and problem in solving for herself or for himself, that's really important. We've partnered with a group in Australia, growth, coaching international, and we provide training for administrators so they can learn how to do that approach to coaching, but it's different than the impact cycle. The impact cycle takes a fair bit of time. You know, you're gonna take a few hours each week yeah. To prepare for the teacher, gonna have to meet six weeks, not a lot of principles, given all the other pressing demands on their time, have the time to, to do that. They might be able to do one cycle so they can kind of walk the talk, but more than that is gonna be tough, but they can take a coaching approach. They can develop a process, they can ask good questions. They can listen effectively. They can, uh, interact in ways that, um, empower the teacher to make decisions for themselves. So that that's kind of how I see it. Um, and, uh, even though the teacher is gonna relate in most cases relate differently to someone who evaluates them. I think it's still a lot more effective to have a coaching structure, to follow and having coaching skills to have those conversations, to make them more effective.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:23):

Well, that's great advice. Um, I've done a lot of research recently on the problem around teacher attrition and looking at the studies. And one of the biggest factors on, uh, teacher attrition is the lack of administrative support and not evaluation. No one's been evaluated into better practice typically, but, um, right. That great support, um, is so important for, for teachers. And, and so, um, which of, um, which of your books might provide some great guidance for principles to think along these lines?

Dr. Jim Knight (39:00):

Well, I think, uh, John Campbell and Christian van Berg's book on coaching for administrators okay. Uh, would be a really good one around administration. And then in terms of just communication skills, my book better conversations as is probably designed to do, to do that, but perfect. But for if I was gonna go with just one book, I would pick John and Christians and go with that. I think it's, it provides you with a framework and, uh, they talk about the partnership principles, which is very similar to our beliefs. Yeah. Um, and, uh, they, they, they talk about listening and coaching skills. They're both, uh, great people too. So their, their works really worth looking at.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:40):

Oh, excellent. Thanks for that share.

Dr. Jim Knight (39:42):

I just wanted to say one more thing though. I don't think it's that principles don't want to provide support. I think they're just too busy.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:49):

Yeah. I agree. Absolutely.

Dr. Jim Knight (39:50):

You know, they're, they're, they're run off their feet. They want the same outcomes we want, they want, uh, the, the best possible lives for everybody in the system, but they've got somebody in their office for two hours talking about why the, there aren't better vegan options in the cafeteria. And then they've gotta go do the, you know, and they've gotta go to meeting after meeting. And then if they're in high school or middle school, they're going to the football games on Friday night. And when they go to the football games, somebody's talking to them about some, I mean, they're, they're so busy that they would love to be able to give more, more interaction, but, and they also don't get much professional development. So nobody's teaching them how to be coaches. Yeah. You know, so, but I think if you can give them, even if you've only got 10 minutes, here's how you can have a, a, a sort of a life giving conversation. I think that that professional development could be really helpful.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:41):

Great, great advice. Um, well, our time's getting a little short here. Um, great. But let's let, would you have, I've talked to many superintendents and they understand the, the importance and the tremendous impact of instructional coaching. What three suggestions might you give to a district leader who's really, um, considering implementing instructional coaching?

Dr. Jim Knight (41:05):

Well, the first thing is I think, um, if you don't implement coaching, you're saying the status quo is good enough. Okay. So the first question would be, be to consider would be, is right now good enough. Like, is this enough? If we don't do anything else, if we don't improve, can we just stay here? It'd be okay. Most people want to get better. You know, so that's the, the first thing, the second thing is I think, um, off the top of my head that I think that the coaches need significant professional development to succeed. It's a whole different, uh, job. And we, I'm not trying to advertise our, our, our work here, but we have a course that runs for 16 weeks, for three hours a week, they get seven books in the, a male and you need intensive professional development support, uh, to be an effective coach. And, uh, so I, I think don't just assume it's, I'm gonna hire you and throw you out there, how, whatever your approach is. I think you, you, you have to provide significant support. And, um, I think, I mean, again, just off the top of my head, like I was thinking well for the, for administrators to, to learn how to coach would be important, but I think to think about this concept of a learning architecture, how can we assure that everyone in this system is getting the support they need so that we can really have our professionals learning in an optimal way, you know, continuous growth and improvement. And so how do we make sure everyone who, who, who needs support is getting the support. Everybody who needs a coach is getting the coach. Those are my three quick things off the top of my head.

Dr. Chris Balow (42:46):

Great. Excellent. Another question actually just came to my mind out a blue. Um, so, uh, you know, coaching occurs, you know, at different grade levels. What, what are your thoughts about at the secondary level? Let's say I teach advanced chemistry. Is it important that, that a coach be a content expert as well? It seems that that would really be a challenge to find content experts in all these areas.

Dr. Jim Knight (43:16):

Well I have limited research on this, but the research I have, um, working on primarily in middle school, not in, uh, uh, upper grades. Uh, is that, um, the coaches feel more successful outside their content area, uh, that if they, if, if they're teaching in their content area, their quick thing is, oh, when I taught this, this is what I did. This is how I did it. And if they're teaching outside their content area, they, they have to listen better. And they're a little bit more in the role of being a student and they're more effective. Now that's a limited amount. Now I know, um, if I go to a school and they say, we want you to spend the day coaching teachers, if they say like, I once went to a school and I said, we want you to spend a day modeling these content enhancement and teaching practices. My first class was, um, uh, what we used to call home economics. Teaching, people how to do a recipe. Next class was 3d art. I mean, these are two things that are not got a whole lot of content expertise. Sure. Um, so if they had said to me, we're gonna have you talk to English teachers. Well, I did two years of a doctorate in English before I switched to education. And so I'd feel past my comps. I'd feel more comfortable working in my area. Yeah. But the feedback we've received from coaches is, um, instructional coaches, remember instructional coach is not about helping teachers improve their content expertise. I actually think that happens better on teams. Ah, they bring together all the people who teach the same class and they develop guiding questions, learning maps, assessments together. When you talk to five other people at your table who are teaching the same content, your content expert expertise is gonna go up dramatically. So to me, that makes sense more in, in groups, but then when you take those ideas and you apply them back to the classroom, then you need, then it's helpful to have a coach.

Dr. Chris Balow (45:07):

Sure. Well, that, that's super helpful to me. Um, well, Dr. Knight we've come to the end of our time here today. It's been a really, really informative interview and I know my listeners are really gonna enjoy it. Um, but before I let you go, you have to help us with our fast five where we get to know you a little bit. So I'm gonna ask you five quick questions and you rapidly respond and, and you can explain your, explain it as well. So let's start off first one, who is your hero?

Dr. Jim Knight (45:37):

Okay. So I'm gonna say, it's my wife. Um, uh, she's stuck with me for 19 years and if that's not heroic, I don't know what it is, but she's, uh, she's an artist and, uh, like a photographer and a writer and a musician there's poor beauty to her voice in everything she creates. She's a teacher. Uh, that's, it's just beautiful. And, um, and there's no person in my life who's changed me more than her. So I would pick her. And I thought about Don Desler too, who was my academic mentor, but if I really I wanted to cut to the heart of a hero. The person who's had the biggest impact on my life. It's definitely her.

Dr. Chris Balow (46:17):

Oh, wow. Well, she needs to listen to this podcast. And Donald Desler I've read much of his work.

Dr. Jim Knight (46:26):

He's my advisor. He, so we have an, we have an, we have an award called the Don Desler leadership award because he, academically Don Desler and Michael Fullen are the two people who had the biggest influence. Michael. When I was in Toronto, I, I, I studied under him. And then Don was my director for 20 years. I worked at the center that Don was, I still am at the center. Don was the director.

Dr. Chris Balow (46:48):

Well, I, he, he transformed the world of, uh, teaching students with learning disabilities. And, um, I, I read most of his stuff. That's so, so neat. Um, what are your hobbies?

Dr. Jim Knight (47:01):

So I, it's funny. I broke my hip, uh, bicycling, uh, July 4th, about 7:00 AM. And, uh, I was in the hospital getting, uh, treatment and it was clear. I wasn't gonna be able to do all the things I used to do. I'm really recovering pretty good now, but it's in the hospital for 17 days and this, this one, um, nurse said to me, so do you have any hobbies? And I just about cracked up, cuz I'm so busy. The last thing I need is hobbies, but, but I mean, I love music. I would say probably my hobby is music. If you look behind me, if you could see my table behind me, it's got all these records on it. So I'm a big fan of vinyl and I love all kinds of, almost all kinds of music. So I'd say music is my hobby.

Dr. Chris Balow (47:41):

Awesome. If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Dr. Jim Knight (47:46):

So the sky's the limit?

Dr. Chris Balow (47:47):

Sky's the limit.

Dr. Jim Knight (47:49):

Well, I mean, I think you can make the case that the best restaurant in the world is the French laundry in, um, in, uh, Napa. And so I don't know what they'd be cooking at the best restaurant in Napa, but I would take their menu for sure. So I'd go, I'd go with that just everyday.

Dr. Chris Balow (48:04):

That's what you'd, you'd find it, something worth eating.

Dr. Jim Knight (48:08):

Yes, definitely.

Dr. Chris Balow (48:09):

If you could share a meal with one, um, individual living or dead, who might that be... At the French laundry?

Dr. Jim Knight (48:18):

Of course. Right. Well, leaving aside, Jenny, that would be my first choice, but um, my, my wife, um, and leaving sort of spiritual leaders out of it, uh, gosh, there's just so many people, but, um, I guess, uh, let's go with JS Bach. I mean, it'd be interesting to try to understand how he did all that or any great composer, you know, but there's so many people, I mean, like there's, so many would be fun, you know, um, to, to learn from and then living, I mean, um, yeah, there's, I've had the pleasure of talking to many of the people who I would choose this conference. We just did. I talked to Dan pink and um, oh, nice. Uh, and it'd be great. And I've worked with the tool Gandhi and he would be somebody I'd love to have dinner with too. So, um, Isabelle Kelson was there. She'd be, she was so charming and wonderful. So there's a many, many different people, but let's, let's go with Bach. Let's go there .I don't know what he'd be eating, cuz he is used to living in the 16th or 17th century or whatever it was, but.

Dr. Chris Balow (49:21):

Yes. Growing up. Um, who was your favorite teacher?

Dr. Jim Knight (49:25):

All my favorite teacher was probably Don Desler. You know, it wasn't until I got to university, I, I, I had a lot of teachers who weren't my favorite teacher. I had a lot of teachers who were bullies, you know? I mean there, there were teachers I really liked who were compassionate towards me. Mr. Rudick was one I had, I think in the second grade, second or third grade and um, I had a teacher name Mrs. Thompson, who she just once asked me, are you doing okay? And it kind of like ninth or 10th grade, you know, I a grumpy teenager.

Dr. Chris Balow (50:02):

And you still remember that to that day?

Dr. Jim Knight (50:04):

Yeah. I remember. Just, just the fact that she would say that little thing and then had a teacher name, uh, named miss stump. And um, she came to see me when I was in the hospital once I got her boxing and um, and I used to kind of make fun of her, uh, as a snarky little teenager in the class with bad behavior. And um, and then when I talked to her one to one, my whole relationship to her transformed when I saw her residue. So a lot of there's, a lot of teachers, uh, had a couple French teachers. I wasn't a very good student in French, but I, the teachers were wonderful. And uh, so a lot of teachers over the years that I wouldn't say were, um, it seemed more about power than it was about learning. And then there were other two teachers were, they were just the opposite. They wanted to help me flourish. The names I've mentioned are probably, probably some of those.

Dr. Chris Balow (50:53):

Awesome. Well, Dr. Jim Knight, I wanna thank you for spending time on the ChangeAgents in K12 podcast. It's been just super enjoyable for me. Um, and thank you.

Dr. Jim Knight (51:06):

Oh, thank thank you. I loved the conversation.

Voice Over (51:10):

Thank you for listening to the ChangeAgents in K12 podcast brought to you by SchoolMint. Find us on all major podcast platforms and make sure to subscribe, so you never miss a show. See you next time.

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Season 1

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