Moving Up a Weight Class – From Coaching Light to Coaching Heavy

I first heard the terms ‘Coaching Light’ and ‘Coaching Heavy’ when I was reading a post on Difficult Conversations over at Always Learning. If you haven’t heard the terms before, they come from the book Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives by Jim McKnight in a section written by Joellen Killion. She

assert[s] that there are two kinds of coaching – coaching light and coaching heavy. The difference essentially is the coaches’ perspective, beliefs, role decisions, and goals, rather than what coaches do… Coaching light occurs when coaches want to build and maintain relationships more than they want to improve teaching and learning. From this perspective, coaches act to increase their perceived value to teachers by providing resources and avoiding challenging conversations. (p. 22)

Coaching heavy, on the other hand, includes high-stakes interactions between coaches and teachers, such as curriculum analysis, data analysis, instruction, assessment, and personal and professional beliefs and how they influence practice… Coaching heavy requires coaches to say “no” to trivial requests for support and to turn their attention to those high-leverage services that have the greatest potential for teaching and learning. Coaching heavy requires coaches to work with all teachers in a school, not just those who volunteer for coaching services. Coaching heavy requires coaches to seek and use data about their work and regularly analyze their decisions about time allocation, services and impact. (p. 23 -24) (emphasis added)

I have started looking further into this idea of Coaching Heavy. I read the first chapter of the book on Google Books. I found another article by Joellen Killion on the same topic. I found another instructional coach who is making this same transition. After reading the distinctions between the two, I knew that Coaching Heavy is where I wanted to be.

But now comes the hard part. How do I make that transition? How do I engender the required sense of collaboration and preparation required not only by me but by the rest of the staff? How do I impose myself and my new-found interest in Coaching Heavy on those around me? How do I make Technology Integration a priority for others as well as myself?

The first thing I need is a plan of action that takes into account the questions above as well as the culture of my school. When I get to that stage, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to let me know.

(Note: I just read that the Laptop Institute is soliciting calls for proposals for their 2010 Institute. Is this something that could work as a workshop?)

Image: Watching the Detecto by massdistraction licensed under CC BY NC ND

4 thoughts on “Moving Up a Weight Class – From Coaching Light to Coaching Heavy

  • October 31, 2009 at 1:50 am

    Hey–thanks for the shout out here. I always find myself beaming with surprise when I realize that someone has read my blog. It was really frightening for me to make the transition toward a heavier coaching approach, particularly because beginning the work of coaching was turbulent for teachers in and of itself, but as I mentioned in my post, making this transition seemed to result in a level of stability that we did not have before and that is yielding rewarding results too. The planning piece is tremendous. I found it essential to work with district and building administrators to define our roles very clearly and align our vision for the work. Joellen Killion’s book, Assessing Impact, was a valuable resource as we began planning in strategic ways. If you’d ever like to chat more or if you’d like to see our resources, just let me know. Happy to share!

  • November 2, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This position (MSHS Technology Facilitator) is new this year, created to help support our transition to a 1:1 TabletPC environment with the goal of integrating technology in meaningful and innovative ways to improve student learning. Unfortunately, I’m finding it difficult to access the ever-important planning time, which I feel is imperative if this is to succeed. Part of that is my own fault. But part of that, too, is the culture and structure of the school: there is little set-aside planning time for courses/departments as it is. I would love to get some ideas of how interact with teachers to cooperatively plan. Maybe then I can approach teams with something concrete rather than the “let’s get together and see what we can figure out” mentality.

    I also think that working with admin is imperative. It puts you into that nether-region between admin and teachers but that is essential. It is almost like you are the buffer between the two groups. I think some time reviewing and improving upon the job description will be in order before the end of the year.

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