Podcast: Questioning Skills in Coaching | Steve Barkley

Podcast: Questioning Skills in Coaching

Questioning Skills in Coaching

Steve explores three areas of questioning to guide coaching conversations: Finding out and Knowing, Reflection, and Exploring Future Actions. Examples used in pre and post conferencing are included.

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Steve: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.

Steve: 00:31 One key element of effective coaching is asking questions that support teacher critical thinking and reflection. In this podcast, I’ll explore questions for finding out and knowing. We’ll look at questions for thinking and reflection. And lastly, we’ll look at questions for exploring future action. Let’s jump in.

Steve: 01:00 Perhaps one of the greatest things for a coach to hear in the middle of a conference with 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 it indicates to me that 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.

Steve: 02:17 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 pre-conference, 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? 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.

Steve: 03:42 What do you think you’ll find as you look through 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. I’ve actually had experiences in a pre-conference where at the end of it, because of the reflection that 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 right now because the piece that I wanted to work on, I 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?

Steve: 05:48 What questions come to your mind as the lesson unfolded? 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. If you ask the question and the person doesn’t begin to 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 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?”

Steve: 07:19 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 risks are there in extending that time?” 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 that 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 listening you did to the teacher’s response. Investing in increasing your questioning skills will extend the impact of your coaching.

Steve: 09:14 I hope I’ve added a question or two to your coach’s question bank. Thanks for listening.

Steve [Outro]: 09:22 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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