States of Mind












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


Craftsmanship: Seeking precision, refinement and mastery. Striving for exactness of critical thought processes. (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 craftsmanship. The coach's role here is to help new teachers analyze their instructional effectiveness and efficiency, which can lead to instructional mastery.

All teachers want to offer good instruction and to help their students do well. Educational science is providing evidence that some instructional practices are more effective than others. Because coaches are often experts, Abrams warns them to “tread carefully” with this state of mind, because the tendency can be for them to jump in with a pile of suggestions for the way a lesson could be taught, or taught better. This may overwhelm the person being coached and undermine his sense of efficacy. She urges coaches to ask questions that focus on specifics. Useful phrases may be “What was the main thing you wanted the students to be able to do at the end?” or “Let’s talk about the criteria you used in the rubric.”

That does not mean that a coach should not offer suggestions and resources. As the conversation continues, the coach may share a strategy or research that the new teacher could use by saying such things as "Some teachers I know have had success with..." or, "I read an article that seems related to this...” followed by, "Do you think something like that could work with your students?"

clipScenario: “Go out in the hall!”

Fresh out of an accelerated alternative route certification program, Mrs. Janice is a forty year old former journalist with no teaching experience.

Mrs. Janice shut the door when the bell rang to signal that class was about to begin.  However, in reality, class was nowhere close to starting. It took almost twenty minutes for Mrs. Janice to settle the students down. Next, she attempted her lesson for the day. The lesson plan was reasonable on paper and Mrs. Janice started well with an advanced organizer, but soon her plans were overtaken by chaos. Kids were out of their seats, talking to their neighbors, shouting to their friends across the room, texting others and even listening to music with the hoods of their sweatshirts up to conceal the head phones.

When the noise became too much for Mrs. Janice to continue, she began to take action. One by one she sent the most disruptive students out into the hallway. After each expulsion, she began her lesson again, but soon the chatter resumed and Mrs. Janice sent several more students out of the room. This continued until nearly half the class was no longer present in the classroom. During the lesson, Mrs. Janice also sent a student who had not completed the homework out into the hall along with a child who entered the class late after returning from a dentist appointment.

As her coach, I first heard about the number of students sent out from an assistant principal. When I saw Mrs. Janice after school for our weekly meeting, she said, "I guess you heard I sent most of the students out in the hallway yesterday. It seemed the only thing to do. I had a good organizer and I wanted to use it."

“Yes, I heard you sent kids out,” I replied. “I know you spent a lot of time developing the organizer. Tell me more about your students and how you decided the organizer would work for them.”

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