Coaching Cycle Active Listening Coaching Language Data-Driven Conversations Coaching Notes Reflective Practice


“Reflection is the intellectual work of teaching and learning and is key to deeper understanding, greater meaning, and continuous improvement.” Kathryn Kee et al., Results Coaching
“Your goal is to help the teacher learn how to reflect on her own teaching by leading her to self-analyze.”
Irene Fountas and Gay Sue Pinnell


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Reflection can be defined as “a careful self-analysis of one’s own work” (Rodgers and Rodgers, 2007). In this Section, we view and analyze how coaches support teachers to develop reflective practice and use it to make instructional decisions. All the coaching moves described in previous sections of this module – building trust, listening, using collaborative language, collecting observational data –are tools coaches rely on in this pursuit.

Dewey (1938) explained that we don’t learn directly from experience or observation; we learn from understanding the significance of those experiences and observations. Reflection is a major pathway to develop that understanding.

Teaching beginning reading, especially with children who may be experiencing difficulties, requires what Schön (1987) called “reflection in action” – “thinking what they [teachers] are doing while they are doing it.” The teacher is noticing the reading and writing behaviors the students are exhibiting, as well as her own language and teaching moves and their impact on the students. Making moment to moment instructional decisions based on considering these observations allows her to fine tune her teaching to student needs.

Reflection in action is challenging, especially if we are learning new instructional practices or trying to take the ones we know to a deeper level. Coaching supports teachers to unpack, before and after teaching, what is happening during the lesson to understand its implications for teaching. This is referred to as “reflection on action.” (Schön 1987)

Therefore, the goal of coaching is not just to support teachers in implementing instructional practices, but more importantly to develop a long-term reflective approach to their teaching. Bates and Morgan (2017) cite Wall and Palmer’s view that “Coaches’ roles ‘should not be to tell the answer, provide the research, or find the solution’ (p. 629). Instead, Wall and Palmer suggested that creating ‘moments of stillness’ allows teachers ‘to think deeply and find the answers on their own. (p. 629).’”

Coaches will scaffold support for reflection based on the level of knowledge and experience of the teacher. With teachers new to instructional approaches being proposed, effective coaches will use questions to encourage teachers to make their own observations about their teaching and build on their responses to deepen understanding and guide them to implementation. With teachers with strong expertise, coaching conversations where the coach and teacher collaboratively reflect, search for explanations and try out tentative theories continually sharpen and reinforce reflective practice, and help both teacher and coach come to more useful instructional decisions.

Throughout this section, some approaches you will see coaches apply include:


Coaching to Support Reflective Practice

  • Develop the conversation from ideas/concerns from the teacher;
  • Ask questions that solicit reflection about the lesson or previous lessons;
  • Collaboratively analyze specific examples from the lesson of the children’s reading/writing behaviors and the teacher’s decisions and language (using the coach’s notes);
  • Paraphrase, extend and deepen teachers’ responses;
  • Add to the teacher’s knowledge base by providing rationales for what worked and/or for alternatives;
  • Model the coach’s own process of reflection (“I wonder if…”, “I was thinking maybe…”);
  • Honor engagement in reflection, whether it leads to productive instructional moves or not;
  • Link insights from reflection to instructional moves to continue, change, or try.


  • Bates, C.C. & Morgan, D.N.(2017). Moments of Stillness: Creating Time to Solve Problems of Practice. The Reading Teacher 71(1), 111-114.
  • Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G.S. (2009, Fall). Keys to Effective Coaching: Cultivating Self-Extending Teachers in a Professional Learning Community. The Journal of Reading Recovery, 39 –47.
  • Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan.
  • Kee, K., Anderson, K., Dearing, V., Harris, E., & Shuster, F. (2010). Results Coaching, The New Essential for School Leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin
  • Rodgers, A. & Rodgers E.M. (2007). The Effective Literacy Coach: Using Inquiry to Support Teaching & Learning. New York: Teachers College Press
  • Schön, D.A., (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.