Goals are essential, but they don’t mean much without a pathway to reach them. For this reason, instructional coaches must have a deep knowledge of high-impact teaching strategies. Coaches partner with teachers to identify, explain, model, and adapt teaching strategies so teachers and their students can meet goals. These high-impact strategies are often organized, summarized, and described in what I call an “instructional playbook” (described at greater length in Chapter 6).
In my opinion, every instructional coach needs to have an instructional playbook consisting of three sections:
A short list of the high-impact teaching strategies that coaches most frequently use with teachers;
A set of one-page documents summarizing the purpose, research, and essential information for each teaching strategy; and
Checklists for the strategies that coaches share with teachers.
The playbook is a living document that should be used to organize learning about teaching strategies. Coaches should revisit all aspects of the playbook frequently, revising the contents as they identify new and better strategies.
As my colleagues Ann Hoffman, Michelle Harris, Sharon Thomas, and I explain in The Instructional Playbook (2020), anyone who aspires to be an effective instructional coach needs an instructional playbook.
Part of what prompted us to write that book was our discovery that many coaches cannot name the teaching strategies they share with teachers or are unclear about how the strategies they share are to be effectively implemented. Since the job of an instructional coach is to support teachers as they try to get better, coaches need to understand—and understand well—the strategies they share.
Playbooks are essential because they make learning real. Far too often, we pretend professional development will have a positive impact on what takes place in classrooms when we know that in reality, usually nothing will happen after the event. A presenter might offer an entertaining and interesting work- shop, but unless the participants do the hard work of deeply understanding strategies and how to use them, they won’t implement them. The shelves in teachers’ classrooms around the world are filled with books that were never opened once the workshop was over. Instructional playbooks are designed to change that by empowering coaches and teachers to take research off the shelf and put it into action in the classroom.
In short, instructional playbooks are organizational tools that professional developers use to (1) identify high-impact teaching strategies and (2) explain those strategies to teachers so they and their students can meet powerful goals. Instructional playbooks are essential because too often, teachers don’t have the specific, practical information they need to implement teaching strategies effectively even after reading books or attending professional development sessions. Like all professionals, teachers need ideas to be translated into explicit, actionable knowledge if they are going to implement them. As instructional coach April Strong explains, “the instructional playbook brings clarity by breaking things down, step-by-step, to make an impact on how our teachers are instructing our students.”
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