Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction

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Jim Knight

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  • Praise for Unmistakable Impact

    A true master of “walking his talk,” Jim Knight humbly shares what he has learned about establishing environments characterized by empowerment, authenticity, joyfulness, equality, respect, and learning. He offers many powerful resources to guide principals and coaches in their transformation efforts.

    —Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

    A must-read for anyone who cares about learning—this book is from the heart. Knight uses his own experiences to describe processes and strategies for impacting student and adult learning in today's schools.

    —Sandee Crowther, President Phi Delta Kappa International

    Jim Knight's work has had a tremendous impact on the quality of our professional development practices that are job-embedded and meet the real needs of our teachers. He is a consummate relationship builder who models how to establish the types of relationships necessary for second-order change to occur.

    —Carolyn J. Teigland, Associate Superintendent for Education Services, Cecil County Public Schools, Elkton, MD

    Jim Knight outlines a clear path to success for educators to make sense out of the complex nature of external mandates, competing initiatives, and prevailing traditional models found within many schools and districts around the nation.

    —Ken Geisick, Superintendent, Riverbank Unified School District, CA

    Dedication

    This book is dedicated to my parents, Joan and Doug. I've always known that my parents loved me, believed in me, and supported me. The rock-solid foundation my parents gave me has made it possible for me to create this book and do most of the work I do. If this book is any use to you at all, you can thank my parents for making that possible.

    Copyright

    View Copyright Page

    Foreword

    The beauty of Unmistakable Impact is that it moves effortlessly back and forth from the big picture to micro application. It does so because the author, Jim Knight, is clearly deeply immersed in making the big ideas work.

    He makes the case that “dramatically improving instruction is a matter of focus, simplicity, precision, leverage, and a cut across humanity that infuses all of this work.” Knight then builds a powerful case on ideas that work through “partnership principles,” “the role of the principal as lead learner,” and grounds this work in “the Big Four” ideas that incorporate content planning, formative assessment, instruction, and community building. This set of ideas, clearly depicted early in the book, provides a comprehensive agenda for what school improvement should focus on, but Knight does not stop there.

    He then proceeds to furnish us with high-leverage strategies to get there. We get ideas and tools for “creating the Target,” “observing and monitoring progress,” and how the principal as lead learner needs to work closely with teachers while getting support from central office.

    Building on his already impressive work on instructional coaching, we see how the key components of coaching work in practice to achieve results. Unmistakable Impact drills into the role of workshops and follow-up based on equality, choice, voice, reflection, dialogue, and praxis. But these are not just normative niceties. They are buttressed by incorporating key impact factors like intensive learning teams, principals as first learners, coaches as integrators, and detailed design principles that provide clear guidelines for taking specific action.

    Unmistakable Impact is a treasure trove of ideas in two ways. It contains scores of ideas for “going deeper,” which Knight presents at the end of each chapter, complete with a short list of best source books. Second, each concept in the chapters is accompanied by a tool or checklist to carefully guide action. These practical tools are complete and invaluable. In addition, the Resources offer the whole Toolkit.

    Jim Knight models his advice to be a lead learner. He clearly constantly draws on recent best sources in the literature and makes them accessible to the reader. He holds up high but specific expectations for action within a framework of respect for practitioners. Unmistakable Impact contains the best of both worlds—compelling ideas and reader choice.

    The ideas in this book are entirely compatible with our own recent work in Ontario and elsewhere. We have found that good ideas, high expectations, precise application, leadership support from principals and coaches, and multiple partnerships produce amazing results in teacher engagement and student achievement (Fullan, 2010a, 2010b). Unmistakable Impact takes us deeper into the realm of grounded school improvement—a great contribution to the field.

    MichaelFullan, Professor Emeritus Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of Toronto

    Preface

    Every student receives excellent instruction every day in every class.

    Since the publication of Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction in 2007, my colleagues and I at the Instructional Coaching Group have been fortunate enough to work with school districts across most of the states and provinces in the United States and Canada. During our visits, we've had the good fortune to work with many, many great people who are deeply committed to improving student learning by improving instruction.

    Each visit, of course, is unique, but certain themes seem to surface repeatedly. Generally, instructional coaches love their work, and they are motivated by their ability to make a difference—every time they help a teacher to become more effective, they help every student that teacher will teach in the future. Instructional Coaches tell us that the partnership principles provide a solid foundation for instructional coaching. And, most important, we frequently hear that coaching is leading to real, significant improvements in teaching and learning.

    At the same time that we hear about the rewards and successes of coaching, we also hear about common roadblocks that many coaches and instructional leaders are encountering. In the majority of districts we visit, workshops, professional learning communities, and instructional coaching are all offered as supports for teacher professional learning, but those offerings are not sufficiently aligned. Districts are trying all kinds of different approaches and programs, but often each is implemented separately, with the net result being that teachers are overwhelmed by demands on their time, and coaches are underutilized as supports for implementing those programs.

    Additionally, we have found that school improvement plans are not used effectively to shape and propel positive changes in teaching. In truth, in most of the districts we visit, what theoretically should be the centerpiece for professional learning, the school improvement plan, is too long, too complicated, and understood by too few to be implemented with any kind of success.

    Finally, we have found that principals are underprepared to be the kind of instructional leaders they must be if their districts are to flourish. Principals need to understand good instructional practices, know how to observe teachers to gauge how effectively teachers are using those practices, and know how to design and coordinate professional learning that makes it possible for teachers to master those practices. Nevertheless, despite their need for extensive professional learning support, principals often receive less professional development than anyone else in a district.

    I wrote this book to address these issues, to build on the successes and address the roadblocks. This is my attempt to provide a simple map so that educators (central office staff, principals, instructional coaches, teachers, and all other educators) can align and integrate all professional learning for impact. A teacher should only be asked to attend a workshop, participate in a professional learning community (PLC), partner with a coach, or be observed by a principal, if those events will have an unmistakable impact on teaching and student learning. My goal here has been to create a map that is simple enough to be understood but sophisticated enough to guide schools to their real destination.

    Acknowledgments

    My own journey writing this book has been taken with many fellow travelers, people who have inspired me, kept me on track, and given me fuel for the expedition. I am tremendously grateful to all the people whom I mention below, and the many others who have dedicated their lives to creating outstanding learning experiences for our children.

    The person who had the greatest influence on my writing of this book is Michael Fullan, who was also very generous with his time to write the foreword. I recently read a quotation that accurately summarized how I feel about Michael's contribution to this book. When Dizzy Gillespie was asked to describe the impact Louis Armstrong had on him, he gave a great, concise response: “No him, no me.” I don't want to suggest that I'm in anyway like Dizzy, one of the greatest jazz innovators of all time, but Mr. Gillespie's comments nicely capture the impact Michael Fullan has had on my research and writing. Unmistakable Impact would not exist were it not for Michael's brilliant work in more than a dozen books on educational change and leadership.

    At the Kansas Coaching Project at the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas, I've been fortunate to work with outstanding researchers and colleagues. Don Deshler, my mentor, and the director of the center, has taught me an enormous amount about being a researcher and author and even more about how to be a decent person (still a work in progress, for certain). After close to 20 years of working with Don, I still always walk away from our conversations happier, more inspired, and—if I listened carefully enough to Don—smarter.

    Jean Schumaker, the former associate director of the center, dramatically improved the quality of my writing during our many one-to-one sessions at KU. Even more important to me, though, Jean has become an incredibly important friend to my family and me.

    My longtime colleague and friend Mary Brieck has done a fantastic job of doing the wonderful magic act of making most of the problems we faced on our project disappear. Together, we have won several grants; kept those grants in compliance; and, most important, shared a passion for the blues, especially Stevie Ray Vaughn.

    At the Kansas Coaching Project, while writing this book I have been working with two fantastic research teams. Indeed, many of our findings mentioned in this book were arrived at through the efforts of my colleagues. On the Teacher Quality Study of Coaching, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, Mike Hock, Irma Brasseur-Hock, Tom Skrtic, Barbara Bradley, Jana Craig Hare, Jake Cornett, Michael Kennedy, Leslie Novosel, Belinda Mitchell, and David Knight have deepened my understanding of what effective coaches do, who they are, and what impact they can have on student learning.

    The Pathways to Success project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education GEAR-UP Program, provided the setting for much of my foundational work on instructional coaching. My colleagues Devona Dunekack, Bill Towns, Lynn Barnes, Shelly Bolejack-McBeth, Stacy Cohen, Jeanne Disney, Marti Elford, LaVonne Holmgren, and Ric Palma and I have worked together for more than 10 years, and I am very fortunate to work with such a great, positive, high-energy team. I am also especially indebted to Ethel Edwards, an honorary member of the Pathways Team, who collaborated with me to develop the first intensive learning teams, which were implemented as a part of the Pathways to Success project.

    Two people at the Kansas Coaching Project have been especially helpful as I've written this book. Carol Hatton has completed many, many important tasks, such as refining the reference section of the book and overseeing multiple edits, and her efforts have allowed me the freedom to write the book. Marilyn Ruggles has sought out references and summarized multiple books that were necessary resources for this publication.

    My colleagues at the Instructional Coaching Group always push my thinking and help me to ensure that our ideas and not merely conceptual but also practical. Along with Lynn, Devona, and Shelly from the Pathways to Success project, I'm fortunate to work with Ann Hoffman, Ruth Ryschon, Tricia Skyles, Conn Thomas, and Sue Woodruff.

    I'm also tremendously grateful to the following reviewers who took a great deal of time to read early manuscripts and then provide excellent advice on how I could improve this work. Thanks to the following reviewers' comments, this work is easier to understand, more meaningful, and more useful: Stephen Barkley, Katherine C. Boles, Donald Deshler, Michael Fullan, Ken Geisick, Carolee Hayes, Shirley Hord, Charlotte Ostermann, Dennis Sparks, Bill Sommers, Vivian Troen, Carolyn Teigland, Georgia Wentzell, Doris Williams, and Sue Woodruff.

    I've been fortunate to work with many outstanding colleagues who have supported me as I've written this book. Kirsten McBride is a gifted copyeditor who has found hundreds, possibly thousands, of ways to simplify, clarify, and improve my writing. I've yet to write a page that Kirsten couldn't improve! At Corwin, Megan Bedell has done a fantastic job coordinating my very complicated review process. Sarah Bartlett has provided great assistance (and patience!) readying the manuscript for production, and Melanie Birdsall has been a wonderfully creative colleague shepherding the book through production. Dan Alpert, my editor at Corwin, has been provided daily support and encouragement as I've written this book. Dan is always gracious, attentive, and insightful, and I've been fortunate to be guided through the book publication process by such a professional and warmhearted editor.

    As much support as I've received professionally, I've received even more at home. My children, Geoff, Cameron, David, Emily, Ben, and Isaiah, inspire me and encourage me. What a joy it has been to watch my children grow into adults, having their own unmistakable impact on the world. My wife Jenny is the love of my life, my thinking partner, my motivation, and as anyone who knows me can tell you, I struck gold when after over a hundred marriage proposals, Jenny finally said yes.

    Publisher Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:

    • Steve Barkley
    • Teacher and Principal Trainer/Education Author
    • Performance Learning Systems
    • New Hope, PA
    • Katherine C. Boles
    • Director of Learning and Teaching Program and Senior Lecturer
    • Graduate School of Education
    • Harvard University
    • Cambridge, MA
    • Donald Deshler
    • Professor of Special Education and Director of the Center for Research on Learning
    • University of Kansas
    • School of Education
    • Lawrence, KS
    • Carolee Hayes
    • Co-Director
    • The Center for Cognitive Coaching and Kaleidoscope Associates, LLC
    • Highlands Ranch, CO
    • Shirley Hord
    • Scholar Laureate
    • Learning Forward
    • Dallas, TX
    • Tricia McKale Skyles
    • Educational Consultant
    • Safe and Civil Schools
    • Eugene, OR
    • William A. Sommers
    • Principal
    • Spring Lake Park High School
    • Spring Lake Park, MN
    • Dennis Sparks
    • Leadership Development Consultant
    • Ann Arbor, MI
    • Vivian Troen
    • Lecturer and Senior Education Specialist
    • Brandeis University
    • Waltham, MA

    About the Author

    Jim Knight is a research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning and the president of the Instructional Coaching Group. He has spent more than a decade studying instructional coaching and has written several books on the topic, including Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction published by Corwin and Learning Forward (2007). Knight co-authored Coaching Classroom Management. He also edited Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives.

    Knight has authored articles on instructional coaching in publications such as The Journal of Staff Development, Principal Leadership, The School Administrator, Kappan, and Teachers Teaching Teachers.

    Several research projects directed by Knight include an Institute of Education Sciences–funded qualitative and quantitative assessment of coaching and Pathways to Success, a comprehensive, districtwide school reform project for the Topeka Public School District in Kansas. Knight also leads the coaching institutes and the Annual Instructional Coaching Conference offered by the University of Kansas.

    Frequently asked to guide professional learning for instructional coaches, Knight has presented and consulted in more than 35 states, most Canadian provinces, and in Japan. He has a PhD in education and has won several university teaching, innovation, and service awards. He also writes the popular http://radicallearners.com blog. Contact Knight at jimknight@me.com.

    Core Questions for Impact Schools

  • Final Thoughts

    Creating an Impact School is not for the faint of heart. It requires reconstructing the entire way in which professional learning is organized and delivered. In Impact Schools, everything—teacher evaluations, workshops, teams, and coaching—is coordinated for maximum positive effect. Additionally, the scope of professional learning is narrowed so that what is learned can be learned well—first by coaches and administrators and eventually by all teachers in a school. In an Impact School, there is no gap between learning and doing. As Michael Fullan says, “the learning is the work” (2008, p. 79) and in an Impact School everyone learns so that they can do a better job right away.

    Leading an Impact School asks a lot of everyone in the school. Principals need to embrace being instructional leaders, and they must develop the self-and project-management strategies that allow them to make instruction their top priority. Central office staff must make instruction a priority and become actively involved in the nuts and bolts of professional learning. Instructional coaches, workshop leaders, and team facilitators must master a host of new skills and attain a deep, practical understanding of all the practices on the Target. Teachers and all other educators need to learn, implement, and master the new teaching practices and engage in honest conversations about what is working and what is not working. In addition, teachers need to seek out and act on the precise feedback that can come from instructional coaches and from watching themselves on recordings of their teaching.

    Impact Schools also demand that everyone works together to create a new kind of school culture, one based on partnership rather top-down directives, a culture based on love more than bullying and fear. Impact Schools start from the default assumption that teachers are smart, good people who more than anything else want to help their students succeed.

    The work is hard, but the rewards are great. A fully realized Impact School is characterized by the quality and respect of the conversations taking place there and embodies a love of learning that is modeled by everyone in the district. Love of learning is infectious; it is energizing, joyous, and humanizing. In schools where professional learning is at the core, teachers come to work excited by the prospects of what new idea or practice they might do every day. In this way, each day, an Impact School moves closer to the goal: every student receives excellent instruction, every day, in every class.

    Resource A: Impact Toolkit

    Administrator Resources

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Big Four Observation Tools

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Teacher Progress Map (TPM) Resources

    1. To protect the non-administrative nature of coaching, we suggest that coaches do not use the teacher progress map.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Coach Resources: What Coaches Do

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Additional Tools

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Intensive Learning Teams

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Copyright © 2011 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, http://www.corwin.com. Reproduction authorized only for the local school site or nonprofit organization that has purchased this book.

    Resource B: Research

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