It's About the Questions!

If you’ve been in education for two days, you’ve probably come across tomes about effective coaching principles and coaching partnerships.  We all know that teachers who are well supported and well mentored have better chances of improving their instructional practices, hence improving student outcomes. 

A few months ago, a colleague at Insight shared an article with me from Educational Leadership about the importance of inquiry and coaching.  This little four-pager entitled, It’s About the Questions (Bearwald 2011) is one of the best professional “gifts” that I’ve received in a while.  It is a petite piece that packs in so much practical knowledge and good old common sense regarding effective coaching.  The title’s tag line says it all, “Effective Coaching thrives not on quick fixes and ready answers, but on questions and listening.”

I have had the recent opportunity to engage school leaders and coaches with Bearwald’s article during monthly instructional framework trainings in the Memphis City Schools system, and overwhelming, colleagues there echo each other in the article’s clear, succinct, and refreshing reminders it offers about what coaching can be when it is truly inquiry-based and ever focused on improvement.  A few key take-a-ways for me have been to:

  • ask precise and incisive questions,
  • ask questions that generate specific and relevant information,
  • ask questions that connect the past, present, and future,
  • ask questions that explore values,
  • occasionally, ask permission (love this one), and 
  • avoid asking why.

If you’re reading this post now, allow me to re-gift this article to you!  Check it out at About the Questions3.pdf.

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