Planning Questions for Coaching Conferencing and PLC Facilitation - Steve Barkley

Planning Questions for Coaching Conferencing and PLC Facilitation

albert einstein quote: "The important thing is to never stop questioning."I presented a session for instructional coaches looking to sharpen their questioning skills for conferencing and facilitating along with the deepening an understanding for coaching teachers on their use of questions. Here is the session description:

There is a strong connection between questioning and learning. Teachers’ questions can engage and model thinking processes that students develop to promote their own learning. Those coaching teachers need to practice the same questioning processes. Explore a questioning protocol that you can use to guide your work facilitating learning. The model examines questions for gathering information, working with information and taking action. Consider the complexity of questions rather than higher and lower order.

I used the Questions for Learning format to plan the purpose of questions and to have cue words for forming questions. (Download: Questions for Life.)

questions for life


Questions from perception, induction, analysis, and same/different work together to help gather information. When approaching or experiencing something new, these questions set the stage for exploring deeper.

In a Coaching Conference

  • As you planned this learning activity, how did you picture students responding initially to the task? Perception
  • How similar was that to their response? Same/Different
  • Which students persevered less than the majority of the class? Analysis
  • What generalization would you make about student perseverance? Induction

In a PLC Facilitation

  • What do you see as you look at the writing samples from the advanced students? Perception
  • How does their writing differ from students performing at the standard level? Same/Different
  • What generalizations can you make when observing the advanced students during in-class writing time? Induction
  • What are the next skills for advanced students to acquire? Analysis

Often in the midst of asking these gathering information questions, insights emerge. Frequently without even asking an insight question. Appraisal, summary and evaluation questions provide ways to work with information, in ways that increase meaning and understanding.

In a Coaching Conference

  • What connections do you find among student perseverance and mindset? Insight
  • In a nutshell, what builds perseverance? Summary
  • What is most important in creating a classroom environment for promoting perseverance? Appraisal
  • How much of an investment would you want to make in impacting student mindsets? Why? Evaluation

In a PLC Facilitation

  • What insight emerges from comparing the advanced writers across the grade level? Insight
  • Should we explore ways to provide some direct instruction specially for the advanced writers? Why? Evaluation
  • How would you rate the feedback that advanced writers are currently receiving? Appraisal
  • What should be our focus with the advanced writers? Summary

I find that I can often use evaluation questions to judge if it is appropriate to explore ideas, prediction and action. Note how the two evaluation questions above identify whether or not a commitment or desire exists to move toward action. Moving toward action too soon can lead to frustration because agreement or group consensus isn’t present for investment in action. If your evaluation question uncovers unreadiness, it’s best to consider uncovering more information and meaning which may lead to redefining a concern or selecting a different area for action.

In a Coaching Conference

  • What ideas do you have for increasing student perseverance/effort in problem-solving? Ideas
  • What problems might arise from investing time in this effort? Prediction
  • How would you start? Action
  • What is the first indicator you’d see or hear that would encourage you to continue? Perception

In Facilitating a PLC

  • What options are there for arranging time to pull advanced writers for direct instruction? Ideas
  • How can collaborating benefit each teacher? Prediction
  • Who should plan and provide the first sessions? How should we follow up with our own students? Action
  • What should we look for as changes in their writing? Perception

Notice that part of taking action is planning for the information to be gathered as action starts and develops. Often this builds in a continuous coaching element. What might a coach observe to assist the teacher(s) in reflecting on the decisions they have made?

I consciously turn to the Questions for Learning framework to preplan some of the questions I will use in an upcoming coaching session, facilitation, or PD workshop. Having a few anchor questions prepared allows me to be a better listener and thus increase the personalization of the process.

[PS. This workshop was delivered as a skyped-in, facilitated session for a coaches’ PD (about 90 minutes). If you’d be interested in such a possibility, reach me at]

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