States of Mind






(This scenario is based on a real situation of coaching a student teacher.)


Efficacy: Knowing that one has the capacity to make a difference and being willing and able to do so. (Abrams, 2001)

Abrams tells us that a coach uses what a novice teacher says as a guide to the ways of thinking that need "shifting" before that teacher can address other problems with instructional practice. Consider this example of a student teacher's problematic thinking. Notice how the coach responds in order to shift the teacher's thinking and foster efficacy.

After a lesson observation, even when the coaching conversation starts with, "What did you think went well today?" new teachers and student teachers can feel so overwhelmed that they can't see their own successes. Abrams gives the example of a statement like, “I can't deal with those kids,” as an indication that the new teacher needs some support with efficacy. When a coach hears a such a statement, Abrams recommends asking, “What has worked with them in the past?”

clipScenario: "It sucked."

The lesson started well. The students were engaged in a think-pair-share activity focused on ways to recycle at home. The students had good ideas and generated a chart to show the range of different approaches. Then the teacher wanted to transition to a review game. She had not thought through the rules well and the kids were full of questions. The game eventually got underway, but still the students were calling out questions. The class ended in a rush. Luckily, the teacher and I were able to conference immediately after. When we sat down, the student teacher had tears in her eyes. Before I could say anything, the student teacher said. "Don't ask me what went well. Nothing did. It sucked."

I responded. “I know it can seem that way. Our minds often only focus on what went wrong, even when there were things that went well.” After a few seconds, I continued. “I noticed that the students were on task and volunteered a lot after they worked with a partner on the recycling question. Tell me about how you set that up."

Funding for this website came from the Virginia Department of Education Award #879-SY08 CFG to Dr. Sandi Cohen and Dr. Ruth Ferree at the Curry School of Education. Questions should be sent to Dr. Ferree at