Mentoring and coaching to support colleagues | Teachers College Press

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By: Vicki S. Collet, author, Differentiated Mentoring and Coaching in Education

Vicki S. Collet is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas, Associate Director of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project, and author of Collaborative Lesson Study: ReVisioning Teacher Professional Development.


As lifelong learners, teachers are always striving to improve teaching. Besides focusing on your own class, are you also helping other teachers improve their practice?

Whether you are an instructional supervisor, a mentor for an early-career teacher, a team leader or department head, or an administrator or instructional coach working with experienced teachers, you provide support to improve teaching and play a leadership role. coach. Even if you don’t have an official coaching role, you probably occasionally come up with your own teaching ideas in an effort to help someone else. The Incremental Responsibility (GIR) model, described in my book, Differentiated mentoring and coaching in education: from the teacher in initial training to the expert practitioner, can make you more intentional about this work.

The GIR Model for Mentoring and Coaching is an approach developed through research to differentiate the support we provide to our colleagues. Just like our students, teachers are at different stages of their learning and they grow in different ways. They will benefit the most from coaching that meets them where they are, addressing their unique needs.

five moves

The five coaching movements of the GIR model are: modeling, recommend, To ask questions, to affirmand praise. Being purposeful about how you choose and modify these moves while working with a colleague will make your support more effective. I’ve listed the moves in order, from most favorable to least favorable, as shown in the template below:

Differentiated mentoring and coaching in education: from the teacher in initial training to the expert practitioner (p. 3), by Vicki S. Collet

Change media

The GIR model reverses the popular gradual release of responsibility model*, looking at support from the learner’s perspective. But, just as our students don’t all need a role model for every new concept, the teacher we support may not need the most supportive move. We choose and use the movement that fits the need, and we change our support over time as teachers grow as we go.

Think of a teacher you work with. Think of a challenge they face. Now think about which of the 5 coaching actions could be the most useful. Here is a quick list of these moves and when they might be called:

Move When to use
Model Teacher lacks experience with particular content or practice
Recommend The teacher has requests or questions, or a limited teaching repertoire
Question To encourage planning, problem solving and reflection
To affirm Good things are happening, but the teacher is looking for confirmation
To rent out The teacher no longer seeks to coach for confirmation

Tools for the job

The 5 coaching moves are tools you can use; you choose based on the current context – the teacher and the situation.

When I met a group of coaches, one of them, who was new to the job, felt a little hesitant about his skills. We had talked about the GIR model, and she said, “I want to make sure I’m doing this right! Can you tell me what should I do right now? »

Group coaches who had experience with the model stepped in. “The problem,” said one, “is that every teacher is different.” Another said: “What you do for one might not be what another teacher needs. It’s different every time! I nodded and pointed out, “When we meet as coaches, I make suggestions on what training move you might consider depending on where you are in the training cycle, but it’s always acts what your teachers need.” I went on to outline how they might consider each of the coaching moves and think about what might be most effective at that time. This would be the movement they would push…but not to the complete exclusion of others.

Although coaching generally moves from most favorable to least favorable, the path is not linear. Your insight, observation and attentive listening will help you choose your move.

A continuum of support

The 5 Coaching Moves are helpful in supporting teachers at any point along the continuum of experience and expertise. The need for these trips differs between teachers and over time. For example, modeling (the most favorable move) occurs when a trainee teacher has her first internship experience, visiting a school to observe a teacher in action. However, even a very experienced teacher can benefit from modeling; for example, a new technology application could be demonstrated, or a whole-class discussion approach could be modeled if this is an area of ​​interest. If you are mentoring a first-year teacher in the profession, recommendations on available resources might be warranted. For some, asking questions to support thinking about potential changes will provide enough support. An elementary teacher may ask for recommendations to improve her math teaching, but benefit from just hearing affirmations about her already strong teaching during guided reading.

When I spoke to a mentor who worked with a student-teacher trainee, she described how the GIR model guided her. “She really needed the modeling,” she said, “and at first even that wasn’t working out. She didn’t know what to watch out for. Modeling started to work better once I gave her some very specific things to watch out for. Then they moved on to recommendation – a phase that lasted a very, very long time! Questioning became the dominant movement (although recommendation lingered) much later. And the mentor felt that they never praised when she praised the intern’s work; it looked even more like an affirmation, as the trainee seemed to be looking for validation.

A coach who worked with an experienced teacher to implement close reading said, “She really didn’t need the modeling or the recommendation either. I jumped in with the questioning. This helped support her thinking and thinking. But later, when the same teacher was working on differentiation – a complex pedagogical skill – modeling and recommending were included before moving on to less supportive coaching approaches.

Successful coaches and mentors adapt based on the complexity and difficulty of the task, as well as the experience of the teachers. The 5 coaching movements of the GIR model can be selected, if necessary, as working tools. Differentiated Mentoring and Coaching in Education is your professional guide to using these 5 tools.

The right tool for the job

The GIR Coaching Model can be used as a guide no matter who you are working with. But where you start and how you move there will change each time. Although coaching conversations will include a healthy mix of recommendations, questions, and affirmations, you can be intentional about which one you lean on the most when working with a teacher, focusing on the coaching movement “to your money”.

My husband has a garage full of tools, so it amazes me when he “needs” to buy a new one. He explains, however, that having the right tool for the job means it gets done more efficiently and efficiently. Likewise, using the right tool at the right time makes coaching more productive. As you think about how to support your colleagues in their efforts to improve teaching, having these 5 moves in your tool belt will strengthen your work.


* Pearson, PD, & Gallagher, MC (1983). Teaching reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8(3), 317-344.


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