Podcast: Coaching Questions for Finding Out, Reflection, and Exploring Future Actions - Steve Barkley

Podcast: Coaching Questions for Finding Out, Reflection, and Exploring Future Actions

When coaches are conscious of the purposes of the questions they ask in coaching sessions, their questions are clearer and they can better focus on listening. That listening allows the coach to follow the teacher because the next questions emerge from that listening. Finding out questions provide the coach with an understanding behind the teacher’s planning and actions. Reflection questions generate teachers’ exploration of learning that arises from their experiences. Exploring Future Action questions guide teachers’ implementation of insights and learning to increase student success.

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Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00.330] – Steve [Intro]

Welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders out loud podcast. As instructional coaches and school leaders, you have a challenge to guide continuous teacher growth that promotes student success. This podcast looks to support you with strategies from our experienced guests and insights that I’ve gathered across many years. I’m thrilled you’re here. Thanks for listening.

[00:00:25.210] – Steve

Perhaps one of the greatest things for a coach to hear in the middle of a conference with a teacher is the response from the teacher of “that’s really a good question.” And whenever I get that, I smile back at the teacher because it indicates to me the teacher’s recognition that my work in questioning has caused the teacher to consider something that he or she is considering to be of value. As I think about this, I see three categories that you can consider as purposes for your questions. I call the first one finding out and knowing, the second, reflection, and the third, exploring future actions. Finding out and knowing. I’m big on using the term knowing the teacher’s agenda. It’s important to me that I know what thinking is going on behind the teacher actions that I’m observing. What did the teacher think in planning this lesson? What decisions did the teacher consider in planning and during the lesson? And how did the teacher come to make the decisions that she made in a preconference? An example might be what did you know about the students as you planned this lesson and how has that knowing influenced what you planned?

[00:02:28.350] – Steve

Another in a pre-conference might be how important is this piece of the curriculum to your learners and why? In a post conference, it might be, when during the lesson did you see what you thought you would see when you were planning and what did you see that differed from what you thought while planning? Another post conference might be this – you asked me to record this particular action. What do you think you’ll find when you look at the data that I’ve collected? The specific example could be – you asked me to record the questions that you use. What do you think you’ll find as you look at the list of questions? In many ways, the finding out questions, the knowing questions are really for me. I want to know the teacher’s thinking before I share my thinking. So my decisions about what I’m going to say or how I’m going to say it are influenced by my understanding of the teacher’s thinking. Reflection. With reflection questions, I’m looking at sparking the teacher’s thinking. Through that reflection, the teacher may consider something that he or she would not have consciously thought through had it not been for the questions coming from the coach.

[00:04:08.190] – Steve

I’ve actually had experiences in a pre-conference where at the end of it, because of the reflection the teacher has done, the teacher may look at me and go, you know what? I don’t even need you to come into my classroom now because the piece that I wanted to work on, I’ve actually thought through that consciousness is an important outcome from reflection. Reflection questions in a pre conference might be something like this. So you’re planning to have students work in groups of four. What have you experienced when you’ve done that in the past? In a pre conference, a reflection question might be, how much of this lesson are you able to plan prior to the lesson versus how much of this lesson will have to be decisions you’re making as the lesson unfolds? In a post conference, reflection questions might sound like this, how do you think my presence impacted what happened in the lesson? What questions came to mind? What questions came to your mind as the lesson unfold? And are there questions that are remaining at the end of this lesson? What would you say you learned while teaching this lesson? It’s critical to give enough time when you’re asking the reflection questions in conferencing.

[00:05:51.250] – Steve

If you ask the question and the person doesn’t begin a response right away, be careful not to begin to offer possible answers, but to just extend that pause time and wait time. Exploring future actions is mostly a post conferencing type of question. It is used at the end of a pre conference to set the focus for the observation. So it might be at that point, what’s the best way for me to record information in my observation so that it will be most useful to you? Or what’s the question on your mind that you’d like to use this coaching observation to answer? In the post conference? The exploring future actions questions can take you in the direction of how could we go about finding the answer to that question? Or you were interested in the questions that you got students to ask during the lesson? What ideas do you have for changes to increase the number of student questions you received? Or in the post conference you’re thinking of extending the time for students to work on this project? What do you see as the benefits to be gained from extending that time, and what risk are there in extending that time?

[00:07:41.540] – Steve

Two clues for increasing the effectiveness of your questions. First, consider what’s the purpose of the question? Am I finding out? Am I seeking thinking, reflecting? Am I looking ahead? Thinking of the reason for your question will help add clarity. Your question and it sets up for the second most critical part, and that’s to be listening. Avoid trying to think of your next question while the teacher is speaking. Dedicate your time to listening, and then give yourself pause time at the end of the teacher’s answer to think of that next question. Only then can your questioning truly follow the teacher. Because your question comes from the depth of listing you did to the teacher’s response, investing and increasing your questioning skills will extend the impact of your coaching.

[00:08:51.450] – Steve [Outro]

Thanks for listening, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn @stevebarkley. Or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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