Differentiating Teacher Growth the Principals and Coachs Task

In earlier postings, I have discussed the important partnership of principal and coach to build continuous teacher growth. One critical element of that partnership is identifying teachers’ current (individual) development stage or skill level and planning the appropriate support for the teacher’s growth.

In a new book from ASCD, Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success….. A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders, authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral reinforce the need for administrators, coaches, and teachers working together. They suggest three driving forces (pg23):

Building individual relationships with teachers
Increasing teacher capacity
Strengthening teams and PLC

I have been becoming increasingly convinced that working with teams and PLC’s is the most efficient way for coaches to impact teacher skills and thus student learning.

Hall and Simeral present four developmental stages through which teachers generally progress as they become skilled in the art of self reflection. Identifying a teacher’s stage suggest strategies for the coach and principal to provide support. Here is a minimal list of identifiers: (pg 41-42)

Unaware Stage-Teachers tend to focus on routines, have no differentiation of instruction, define problems inaccurately and collaborate with colleagues on a superficial level.


Conscious Stage-Teachers make excuses for problems, have little student engagement in active, meaningful learning, occasionally differentiate, and collaborate inconsistently with colleagues.

Action Stage-Teachers accept responsibility for the success of all students, have lessons linked to standards, make regular use of assessment to monitor student progress and collaborate on a limited basis with colleagues.

Refinement Stage-Teachers reflect before, during, and after taking action, use assessment to drive daily instruction, modify lessons and plans to meet students needs and pursue opportunities to work and learn with colleagues.

You’ll find in depth descriptions and the coach’s role and strategies for fostering reflective growth in Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success.

Here is a strategy I have offered coaches and principals developing a differentiated plan for working with staff.

Identify classrooms in your school that are closest to full implementation of your vision for learning.(Student and Teacher Behaviors)

Identify classrooms in your school that must change the most to reach full implementation of your vision for learning.(Student and Teacher Behaviors)

Rank your classrooms along this continuum.

How many teacher fall in each section?


Label teachers current status

• Unwilling
• Unaware
• Getting Ready
• Started
• Developing

Design appropriate coach and principal behaviors to support.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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