Key Habits to Build for Stronger Instructional Coaching Conversations

image of finger with bow tied around it with text "Build these habits for stronger instructional coaching conversations"

An important element of supporting teachers effectively is having instructional coaching conversations.

And at the core of those effective conversations between coaches and teachers?

Strong questioning habits. 

Jim Knight, author of “The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching,” shared three key habits that teacher coaches should practice to improve their questioning techniques, and as a result, their coaching conversations.

Keep reading for highlights of this PLtogether Lounge Talk between Jim Knight and Edthena founder Adam Geller about which habits can lead to stronger instructional coaching.

You can find a video of the full discussion at the bottom.

Coaching Conversation Habit 1: Developing a Question Bank

Jim Knight’s instructional coaching model highlights the importance for coaches to have the skill of effective questioning during coaching conversations.

background photo of red racecar on race track with two passengers with text "Your questions can help drive a coaching conversation forward" for post about questioning techniques

Citing inspiration from coaching expert Christian van Nieuwerburgh, Jim’s first recommended habit for instructional coaches is to create a bank of favorite questions.

Here are some that Jim Knight himself as an instructional coach asks to empower teachers:

  • If you woke up tomorrow and a miracle had happened, what would it look like?
  • What’s something you could do to take a tiny step toward X goal?
  • What would the students be doing differently if Y changed and how would you know?
  • What gives you the most energy when you’re looking at this list of classroom strategies?

With a personalized bank of favorite questions to ask teachers, instructional coaches have go-to coaching conversation prompts that drive more teacher-led insights.

Coaching Conversation Habit 2: Create a Questioning Ritual

After developing a bank of questions, coaches practice incorporating those questions into their instructional coaching conversations.

Jim Knight recommends that instructional coaches “become aware” of the conditions during the conversation itself.

Coaches can reflect on questions they have asked a teacher and then consider:

  • What was the trigger that led me to ask the question?
  • Was there a coaching conversation routine the routine I did?
  • What was the reward for asking the question?

With these insights, instructional coaches are more likely to continue repeating the same effective questioning techniques.

Coaching Conversation Habit 3: Video Record Your Instructional Coaching Conversation

“The most powerful thing in terms of improving your coaching skills is video recording your conversation,” said Jim Knight.

Using classroom video recordings for teachers and instructional leaders to look back at for analysis is more common nowadays.

Jim Knight also strongly suggests video recording instructional coaching conversations.

A best practice for adult learning, video recording and analysis enables coaches to go back and see which questioning techniques went well, or didn’t, during a coaching conversation.

Perhaps an instructional coach watches back their recent conversation with a teacher and realizes they didn’t effectively ask something but rather used a leading question that essentially instructed the teacher what to do.

In the same way that teachers use video for professional development and to identify skills to improve, coaches can, too.

As Jim Knight said, “Video is rich data. You get so much more video than you do from memory but even more than from audio… It’s amazing what video will reveal.”

Building coaching conversational habits drives stronger teacher support

For stronger instructional coaching conversations, it’s important for coaches and school leaders to develop robust questioning habits.

Jim Knight emphasized the importance of developing a personalized question bank, noticing and following a questioning routine, and analyzing video recordings of instructional conversations for coaches’ reflection and growth.

Watch Jim Knight: Why You Need to Videotape Your Coaching Conversations

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