Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2004
Gail V. Ritchie, an NBCT and PhD. in Virginia, reviews this book about coaching as a relationship between equals. The book discusses how to create change and overcome resistance.
Citation: Barkley, S.G. (2004). Quality teaching in a culture of change. Allentown, PA: Performance Learning Systems.
By Stephen G. Barkley
2004 (205 pp./paperback)
Performance Learning Systems
by Gail V. Ritchie
Fairfax County, Virginia
I volunteered to do a book review for two reasons—one professional
and one personal. Since I work in the Office of Staff Development
with the people who organize and facilitate my school division's
mentoring and coaching programs, I thought this book might
be a helpful resource for them (and I was right!). Second,
what teacher can pass up the opportunity to get a free book?
This book was a real eye-opener for me. During my classroom days,
I served as both a mentor and a coach. In both roles, I was
considered the "expert" who was helping the "novice" learn
the craft of teaching. Barkley's notion of a coach is quite
different. He says that coaching should be a relationship
between two equals. Coaching is not about fixing problems;
rather, it is about "polishing the stone" (p. vi). Through
a process of ongoing dialogue, the emphasis is on support
for continuous improvement. Where mentors help, coaches assist.
The "coachee" takes ownership for his/her own improvement
and sets the agenda for the assistance. The focus is on improvement,
The book is very practical and provides numerous examples to illustrate
the points made. The first section of the book explains what
coaching is and is not. Barkley explains how coaching adds
quality and helps move teachers from good to great. While
there are three kinds of coaching-technical, challenge, and
collegial-the focus of the book is on collegial coaching.
Coach and coachee are peers, there is a high degree of trust
between them, and they work together in a non-evaluative mode.
Because coaching, as described by Barkley, is not judgmental, it is
highly brain-compatible and takes those involved in it beyond
the "survival" motivation level to the "fun" and "freedom"
levels of motivation. As Barkley says, "When there is collaboration,
when coaching is taking place, when people are allowed to
take ownership of their own learning and their own professional
improvement, they are motivated by power, freedom, and fun."
Barkley devotes an entire chapter to the skills of coaching:
•Asking empowering questions
• Positive intonation and body language
• Confirmatory paraphrasing
• Attentive and empathic listening
He encourages the use of "fierce conversations" (p. 55) so that
teachers become "fiercely self-aware" (p. xiii) of the art
and science of teaching. They become true reflective practitioners.
Coaching should follow a specific process, and in the second section
of the book, Barkley explains the three major segments. Chapter
5 explains the pre-observation conference, in which, through
conversation and questioning, the coach helps the coachee
uncover his/her vision and agenda. Chapter 6 explains how
the coach collects the requested data during the observation.
Finally, Chapter 7 outlines the components of the post-observation
If the book ended here, it would be a wonderful guide for implementing
peer coaching. However, the book goes beyond good and becomes
great (exemplifying Barkley's call for teachers to go beyond
good to great) by including a third section that addresses
issues of change, provides ideas for overcoming resistance
when trying to implement collegial coaching, and features
successful coaching programs from across the country. Chief
among the advice is the reminder of Wheatley's "Every change
begins with a conversation" (p. 153). To counter arguments
of "not enough time" and "too stressful" Barkley suggests
highlighting issues or circumstances that point to a need
for a coaching program. Begin with a small group of interested
people and grow from there.
The final chapter highlights coaching programs that are already
underway. These exemplary programs help the reader "see"
what Barkley has been advocating in the previous eight chapters.
As I read about these different programs, I realized how
seamlessly Barkley's concept of collegial coaching would
synthesize with professional learning communities. I also
had a glimmer of how this system of peer coaching could
be nested within the Japanese lesson study model of teachers
collaborating, observing, reflecting, analyzing, and evaluating
I've already passed the book along to my Acting Director, with
a recommendation that all those involved in our coaching
programs read it.