Course Syllabus

H-821: Literacy Coaching

 Fall 2015

September 3rd – November 19th 

Thursdays, 5-8pm


Lisa Messina

Office hours by appointment

In this course, participants explore what it means to be a literacy coach — an onsite, ongoing professional developer and instructional leader — by reviewing current research on coaching and interacting with coaches and teachers in local public schools. The course is appropriate for master's and doctoral students wanting to learn more about the theories and practices current coaching models rely upon to support and strengthen teachers' literacy instruction. Research and theory addressed in the course will focus on the intersection of the following fields: adult development, professional development, the relationship between teacher quality and student achievement, teacher change, and school improvement. Using a workshop format, course participants will address the following overarching course questions: What are the promises and pitfalls of instructional coaching? What does literacy coaching look like across grade levels and coaching models? How does research support or conflict with current coaching practices as enacted in schools? Which coaching practices do teachers, coaches, and researchers believe are effective? How can coaching support school improvement efforts? What skills and qualifications do coaches need and how do we evaluate their effectiveness? The course goes above and beyond H-810H: Introduction to Literacy Coaching by focusing on coaching practices and providing participants an opportunity to observe a coach in a local public school. The final assignment and weekly activities are designed to allow those interested in literacy education, professional development, and school improvement to pursue their academic interests as related to current literacy coaching research and practice.

Course Readings:

There are two required texts for this class:

  • Casey, K. (2006). Literacy coaching: The essentials. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

*Both required texts are on reserve in Gutman Library.

Portions of The Literacy Coaching Challenge can be read on Google Books (you can certainly read the first chapter for free … so don’t worry if you cannot obtain the book by the first class). Other course readings will be available online as free PDFs. Note: Any readings not available online will be linked on the H-821 course website or will be handed out in class.

Course schedule:

  • This course will meet from 5-8pm on Thursdays from September 3rd – November 19th. Class meetings will consist of roughly ¼ lecture and ¾ in-class discussion, analysis, and synthesis of readings and course materials. Throughout October and November, students complete a 10-hour field experience in the Cambridge Public Schools, shadowing literacy coaches, interacting with teachers, and gathering information for use in final papers.


Weekly Briefs (1 page):

  • Students complete 5 one-page briefs throughout the semester, synthesizing and reflecting on course readings. The briefs are to be uploaded to the course website by 3pm on Wednesday each week. Students will be responsible for reading each other’s briefs (partners or groups TBA). These briefs provide conversation starters and weekly check-ins regarding students’ growing understanding of coaching research, policy, and practice. No brief is due the first or last class, nor during classes where other written assignments are due (see chart below). There are 6 possible briefs, but only 5 are required. Therefore, students may skip one brief or submit a 6th brief for extra credit. See calendar below for due dates.

Synthesis Paper (10-12 pages):

  • Students complete an 8-10-page synthesis paper (due October 23rd) that presents an argument supported by a brief literature review and a “real world” connection. Students select a topic within the professional development, adult development, school change, or literacy education fields that directly connects with coaching and discuss the implications of the research in light of a real-world example. Examples of “real-world connections” include: a) an analysis of a state or district’s coaching policies and procedures; b) an interview with a teacher, coach, or administrator regarding coaching; c) an observation of a teacher-coach pair; d) a document analysis of coaching preparation materials (e.g. job descriptions, Powerpoints used by a district, etc.); e) a critical analysis of a new book on literacy coaching. The literature review portion of the paper will be guided by in-class readings; however, students are expected to include at least 4 sources beyond our syllabus. All information collected as part of H-821 may not be used for outside research purposes. Proposals fort his paper are due September 24th.

Field Experience (10 hours):

  • H-821 students must complete a 10-hour field experience. During October and November, students will be placed in a local public school to shadow coaches and observe a variety of coaching activities (e.g., professional development workshops, demonstration lessons, debrief sessions, co-planning, co-teaching, etc.). The goal of this field experience is to give students an opportunity to see coaching research and policy in action at the school-level. Time-sheets must be submitted along with final papers (described below). Students are encouraged to take notes throughout the observation (when not intrusive), as the field experience will serve as material for two course papers.

Field Study Paper 1 — “First Thoughts” (3-4 pages):

  • This is the first of two papers related to the field experience. Students describe the context of their field experience (i.e., teacher and student demographics, organizational structure, coaching structure and schedule, etc.) as well as two incidents or aspects of the coach’s work they have observed during their initial visits to the school. One description should focus on something that appears to be “working well” in light of course readings and discussions. The second description should focus on a “dilemma,” as noted by either the coach or by the observing student. The dilemma should describe a real tension for the coach, teachers, or children — something that is problematic or not as effective as it could be. Importantly, this dilemma should describe something no one has an easy answer to — in other words, students should not describe a tension for which they think they have a ready solution. These “first thoughts” papers are due on November 13th and may be shared in class with colleagues during that class.

 Field Study Paper 2 — “Case Study, Analysis, and Recommendations” (5-7 pages):

  • The purpose of this final paper is to provide students the opportunity to transform field notes taken during observations into a brief case study, and then to analyze that case and provide research-based recommendations for practice. One way to tackle this final paper might be to re-address the two descriptions from the “first thoughts” paper and describe (given class conversations and reading materials) what the coach/principal/teachers might do to further successes and solve dilemmas. Final observation papers must be submitted no later than Monday, December 7th.

Grades will be assigned based on the following:


Weekly Briefs (5 1-pagers)

15% (3% each)

Synthesis Proposal (2-3p.)


Synthesis Paper (7-10p.)


“First Thoughts” Paper (3-4p.)


“Case” Paper (5-7p.)


Class Participation



  • A Note on Plagiarism: Students are expected to follow HGSE’s guidelines regarding plagiarism (explained on the H-821 website as well as in the HGSE Student Handbook online).

We encourage students needing accommodations in instruction or evaluation to notify us early in the semester. If you have a disability or health concern that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require adjustments or accommodations, please contact Eileen Berger, Access and Disability Services (ADS) administrator in Gutman 124.  No accommodations can be given without authorization from ADS, or without advance notice. If you already have a Faculty Contact Form for this course from ADS, please provide us with that information privately in our offices so that we can make those adjustments in a timely manner. All inquiries and discussions about accommodations will remain confidential. 

Course Calendar:



Class Number:

Assignments Due:

Sept. 3rd 



Sept. 10th


Weekly Brief 1

Sept. 17th


Weekly Brief 2

Sept. 24th  


Proposals for Synthesis Papers (2-3p.)

Oct. 1st


Weekly Brief 3

Oct. 8th


Weekly Brief 4

Oct. 15th


Weekly Brief 5 (Last class for module students)

Oct. 22nd 


Synthesis Papers (8-10p.) - We will share learning from papers in class. Final papers must be turned in by October 23rd.

Oct. 29th 

9 (class is online)

Online discussion posts

Nov. 13th


Observation 1 – “1st Thoughts” Paper (3-4p.)

Nov. 12th


Weekly Brief 6 (If you have skipped one)

Nov. 19th


Final Class                           

Nov. 26th 


Thanksgiving Holiday

Dec. 7th


Observation 2 - Case Study & Analysis (5-7p.)

*Only 5 briefs are required. H-821 students may choose to skip a brief or submit a 6th for extra credit.


Class Sessions and Readings

Class 1: 

—Establishing norms protocol—Course overview: goals, schedule, assignments (briefs/papers/field experience), grades, etc.

—Exploring initial notions of coaching.

Guiding Questions:

Who are we as a class, and how does that shape our questions, knowledge, and ways of working as a group?

What are some of the themes emerging from the literature on coaching?

What do we already know about literacy coaching, and what do we hope to gain by learning more about literacy coaching?

Readings (~45 pages): (to be completed before the 1st class)

  1. Neufeld, B. & Roper, D. (2003). Coaching: A strategy for developing instructional capacity—Promises and practicalities (Links to an external site.) . Washington, DC: Aspen Institute Program on Education and Providence, R.I. Annenberg Institute for School Reform. 
  2. Borman, J., & Feger, S. (2006). Instructional coaching: Key themes from the literature (Links to an external site.). Providence, RI: The Education Alliance at Brown University. 
  3. McKenna & Walpole. (2008). Ch.1: Models of coaching. In The literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8 (pp. 1-15). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Required book


  1. Hall, B. (2004, Fall). Literacy coaches: An evolving role. Carnegie Reporter: New York. Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  2. Dole, J. A. (2004). The changing role of the reading specialist in school reform. The Reading Teacher, 57(5), 462-471.
  3. Knight, J. (2006). Instructional coaching: Eight factors for realizing better classroom teaching through support, feedback and intensive, individualized professional learning. In The school administrator, 63(4), 36-40.


Class 2: (Brief 1 Due)

—A look into the theory behind literacy coaching: adult learning, adult development, and teacher change processes.

Guiding Questions:

What influences adult learning? What role does adult development play in teacher-change processes? Why can changing teachers’ practices be difficult?


  1. McKenna & Walpole. (2008). Ch. 2: Serving adult learners, Ch. 3: Serving adult learners in school contexts, & Ch. 9: The challenge of reluctant teachers. In The literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8 (pp. 16-54). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Required book
  2. Guskey, T. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and teaching: Theory and practice, 8(3/4), pp. 381-391. 
  3. Kegan & Lahey. (2009). Uncovering the immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock the potential in yourself and your organization (pp. 31-60).  Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press. iPa©
  4. Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset and school achievement. In Mindset: The psychology of success (pp. 57-66). New York, New York: Random House Publications. iPa©


  1. Breidenstein, A. et al (2012). Ch.1: Why leadership for adult learning is crucial. In Leading for powerful learning (pp. 1 – 13). New York, NY: Teacher’s College Press.
  2. Love, P. G., & Guthrie, V. L. (Eds.). (1999, Winter). Kegan’s orders of consciousness. In New Directions For Student Services, 88, pp. 65-76.


Class 3 (Brief 2 Due):

—A further look into the theory behind literacy coaching: the change process, school reform, and leadership.

Guiding Questions:

How can coaching operate as a school improvement mechanism? How can coaches act as agents for building capacity and coherence in a school? How do these processes go awry?


  1. Fullan, M. (2001). Ch. 3: Understanding change (Links to an external site.). In Leading in a Culture of Change (pp. 31 – 49). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Schmoker, M.J. (2004). Tipping point: From feckless reform to substantive instructional improvement. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(6), 424 – 432.
  3. Heifetz, R. & Marty Linsky, M. (2002). A survival guide for leaders. Harvard Business Review, 8(3), 381-391.
  4. Barth, R. (2006). Improving relationships within the schoolhouse.Educational Leadership, 63(6), 8-13.
  5. Fullan, M. & Knight, J. (2011). Coaches as system leaders. Educational Leadership, 69(2), 50-53.


  1. Elmore, R. F., & Henry, S. (2008). The (only) three ways to improve performance in schools. Harvard Graduate School of Education, Usable Knowledge Website.
  2. Elmore, R. F. (2003). A plea for strong practice. Educational Leadership, 61(3), pp. 6-10.
  3. Madda, C. L., Halverson, R. R., & Gomez, L. M. (2007). Exploring coherence as an organizational resource for carrying out reform initiatives.Teachers College Record, 109(8), 1957-1979.
  4. Taylor, B., Pearson, P.D., Peterson, D., Rodriguez, M. (2005). The CIERA school change framework: An evidence-based approach to professional development and school reading improvement. Reading Research Quarterly, 40(1), 40-69.


Class 4 (Proposals due):

Coaching within the context of schools and districts.

Guiding questions:

How is coaching supported or constrained by the context in which it happens? What is the role of the principal in a coaching program? What should coaches’ relationships with principals look like? How does coaching fit into a district’s vision for improvement?


  1. Niedzwiecki, A. (2007). Organizational barriers to effective literacy coaching (Links to an external site.). Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 59-64. 
  2. Ippolito, J. (2009). Principals as partners with literacy coaches: Striking a balance between neglect and interference (Links to an external site.). Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse
  3. Casey, K. (2006). Building a relationship with your principal. In Literacy coaching: The essentials (pp. 36-55). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Required book
  4. Shanklin, N. (2007). What supports do literacy coaches need from administrators in order to succeed? (Links to an external site.) Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse
  5. Toll, C. (2004, October). Separating coaching from supervising. English Leadership Quarterly, 27(2), 5-7. 


  1. Kral, C. (2007). Principal support for literacy coaching (Links to an external site.). Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse.
  2. Matsumura et al. (2009). Leadership for literacy coaching: The principal’s role in launching a new coaching program. Educational Administration Quarterly, 45(5), 655-693.
  3. Steiner, L. and Kowal, J. (September, 2007). Issue brief: Principal as instructional leader: Designing a coaching program that fits. Washington, DC: The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement.


Class 5 (Brief 3 Due):

—Looking at coaching across models and grade levels.

Guiding Questions:

How do different coaching models presume different coaching roles & responsibilities? What roles and responsibilities do coaches assume across grade levels? How should a school or district decide on a coaching model?


  1. McKenna, M. C., & Walpole, S. (2008). Chapters 6: Classroom-level Coaching & Ch. 7: Grade-level coaching. In The literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8 (Links to an external site.) (102-148). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Required book
  2. Sweeney, D. (2010). Ch. 1: The next generation of coaching…coaching student learning. In Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals (7-23). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  3. Dozier, C. (2006). “Ch.1: What is responsive literacy coaching (Links to an external site.)?” inResponsive literacy coaching. Portland, ME. Stenhouse Publishers. 
  4. Beverly, S. & Joyce, B. (1996). The evolution of peer coaching. Educational leadership, 53 (6), 12-16. 

Choose 1 (We will discuss options in class):

  1. Smith, A. T. (2007). The Middle School Literacy Coach: Considering Roles in Context. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 56, 53-67. 
  2. Snow, C., Ippolito, J., & Schwartz R. (2006). What we know and what we need to know about literacy coaches in middle and high schools: A research synthesis and proposed research agenda. In Standards for middle and high school literacy coaches (Links to an external site.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. 
  3. Sturtevant, E. (2004). The literacy coach: A key to improving teaching and learning in secondary schools. (Links to an external site.) Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. 
  4. Walpole, S., McKenna, M.C., Uribe-Zarain, X., & Lamitina, D. (2010).Relationships between coaching and instruction in the primary grades: Evidence from high-poverty schools. The Elementary School Journal, 111 (1), 115 – 140. 
  5. Bean, R.M., Draper, J.A., Hall, V., Vandermolen, J. & Zigmond, N. (2010).Coaching and coaches in Reading First schools: A reality check. TheElementary School Journal, 111 (1), 87-114. 


  1. McKenna & Walpole, S. (2008). Ch. 8: Literacy coaching in the middle grades. In The literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8 (Links to an external site.) (149-188). New York, NY: Guilford Press.


Class 6 (Brief 4 due):

—Looking a bit more closely at building and navigating complex relationships.

Guiding Questions:

What do coaches’ multiple relationships with teachers look like? What beliefs guide the work of coaches with adults, and what tools are needed to navigate those relationships successfully?


  1. Rainville, K. N., & Jones, S. (2008). Situated identities: Power and positioning in the work of a literacy coach (Links to an external site.). The Reading Teacher, 61(6), 440-448.
  2. Peterson, D. S., Taylor, B. M., Burnham, B., & Schock, R. (2009).Reflective coaching conversations: A missing piece (Links to an external site.). The Reading Teacher, 62(6), 500–509. 
  3. Ippolito, J. (2009). Investigating how literacy coaches understand and balance responsive and directive relationships with teachers (Links to an external site.). . In J. Cassidy, S. D. Garrett, & M. Sailors (Eds.), Literacy coaching: Research & practice: 2009 CEDER yearbook (pp. 45-66). Corpus Christi, TX: Center for Educational Development, Evaluation, and Research; Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Education. 
  4. Morel, N. (2014). What is my role in the coaching relationship? In Learning from Coaching (pp. 14-22). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Fullan, M. (2001). Ch. 4: Relationships, relationships, relationships. InLeading in a Culture of Change (pp. 51 – 76). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Class 7 (Brief 5 Due):

—Looking at coaching activities — activities, structures, and processes demystified.

Guiding Questions:

What are the major activities that coaches engage in? How do (and should) coaches decide how they will spend their time?


  1. Casey, K. (2006) Ch. 5: Eight ways to study instruction & Ch. 6: Models of intensive classroom support. In Literacy coaching: The essentials (96-158). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. . – required book
  2. McKenna & Walpole, S. (2008). Ch. 5: Providing professional support. InThe literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8 (Links to an external site.) (75-101). New York, NY: Guilford Press. . – required book
  3. Neufeld, B. & Donaldson, M. (2006). Collaborative coaching and learning in literacy: Implementation at four Boston Public schools (Links to an external site.), Education Matters. Cambridge, MA. 
  4. Sweeney, D. (2010). Ch. 2: Getting student-centered coaching up and running. In Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals (25-42). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


  1. Casey, K. (2006). Ch. 2: What a coach needs to know and be able to do. InLiteracy coaching: The essentials (pp. 96-158). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  2. Walpole, S., & Beauchat, K. A. (2008). Facilitating teacher study groups (Links to an external site.). Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse.
  3. Moran, M. C. (2007). Differentiated literacy coaching.

---------------------------------------- H-810H Students Depart -----------------------------------------


Class 8 (Brief 6 Due):

—Using data to inform coaching work.

Guiding Questions:

How do coaches use needs assessments and student achievement data to inform       their work with teachers and teams, as well as school-wide planning?   


  1. Casey, K. (2006). Ch. 4. Getting started: Teacher strengths and needs. InLiteracy coaching: The essentials (pp. 56-92). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. . – required book
  2. McKenna, M. C., & Walpole, S. (2008). 4: The role of assessment in coaching. In The literacy coaching challenge: Models and methods for grades K-8 (pp. 55-74). New York, NY: Guilford Press. . – required book
  3. Mokhtari, K., Rosemary, C. A., & Edwards, P. A. (2007). Making instructional decisions based on data: What, how and why. The Reading Teacher, 61(4), 354-359. 
  4. Murnane, R., Boudett, K., City, E., & Forman, M. (2008). Using assessment to improve instruction. Harvard Graduate School of Education, Usable Knowledge Website.


  1. Vogt, M. J., & Shearer, B. A. (2006). Reading specialists and literacy coaches in the real world (2nd ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon. (Chapters 3 and 4, pp. 42-81.)
  2. Hasbrouck, J. and Denton, C.A. (2007). Student-Focused Coaching: A model for reading coaches. The Reading Teacher, 60 (7), 690-693.


Class 9

Synthesis Paper Due Saturday, October 31 (by Sunday morning really):

—Exploring protocols and facilitative leadership.

Guiding Questions:

How can coaches work as “facilitative leaders” in groups of critical friends?  How can coaches use protocols to collaboratively set agendas and expand thinking?  What positive role(s) can protocols play in coaching work, and what are the limitations?


  1. Allen, D. & Blythe, T. (2004). The facilitator’s book of questions (Chapters 1-3). New York: Teachers College Press.
  2. Facilitative Leadership - HANDOUT
  3. School Reform Initiative. (2010). A Rationale for Protocols. (Links to an external site.)
  4. School Reform Initiative. (2010). Protocols to review (Links to an external site.): Micro-lab, Tuning, Consultancy, Charrette, Future, Text-related protocol


  1. Key, E. (2006). Do they make a difference? A review of research on the impact of critical friends groups. Paper presented at the National School Reform Faculty Research Forum. Pennsylvania State University
  2. Vescio, Ross, & Adams. (2006). A review of research on professional learning communities: What do we know? Teaching and Teacher Education24 (2008) 80–91.
  3. McDonald, J., Mohr, N., Dichter, A. & McDonald, E. C. (2003). The power of protocols: An educator’s guide to better practice. New York: Teachers College Press.



Class 10

—Considering coach preparation, standards, qualifications, and hiring.

Guiding Questions:

Considering the enormous scope of this job, what qualifications do coaches need (primary vs. middle/high school coaches)? What skills and previous experiences should coaches bring to their work? How can we balance the ideal with the real when hiring coaches?


  1. Casey, K. (2006). “Ch. 2: What a coach needs to know and be able to do.” inLiteracy coaching: The essentials. pp. 96-158. – required book
  2. Kowal, Julie & Steiner, Lucy. (2007). Instructional coaching (Links to an external site.).
  3. International Reading Association Standards for Reading Professionals (Links to an external site.), 2010. 
  4. International Reading Association (IRA). (2004). The role and qualifications of the reading coach in the United States (Links to an external site.) (Position statement). Newark, DE: Author.
  5. International Reading Association (2006). Standards for middle and high school literacy coaches (Links to an external site.). Newark, DE: Author.


Class 11:

Observation #1 Papers due November 13th.

  • Looking at the potential impact of coaching

Guiding Questions:

How does (or might) literacy coaching actually change teachers’ practices and/or increase student achievement?                           

  1. Shanklin, N. (2010a). Literacy coaching: What are we learning (PDF)? In J. Cassidy, S. D. Garrett, & M. Sailors (Eds.),~Literacy coaching: Research & practice: 2009 CEDER yearbook~(pp. 31-44). Corpus Christi, TX: Center for Educational Development, Evaluation, and Research; Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Education. 
  2. Steckel, B. (2009). Fulfilling the promise of literacy coaches in urban schools: What does it take to make an impact? (Links to an external site.) The Reading Teacher, 63 (1), 14-23. 
  3. Blachowicz, C.L.Z., Obrochta, C., & Fogelberg, E. (2005). Literacy coaching for change. Educational Leadership, 62 (6), 55-58.


Class 12 (Last Class):

—Looking a bit more closely at coaching research. What does “effective” really mean (in schools, and in the research community?)

Guiding Questions:

Sure this all sounds good … but does any of it actually work?


  1. Marsh, J. A. et al. (2008). Supporting literacy across the sunshine state: A study of Florida middle school reading coaches (Links to an external site.). Arlington, VA: Rand Corporation. PLEASE READ CHAPTERS 7 and 8 - and any other parts you want.
  2. Cornett, J & Knight, J. (2009). Research on coaching (Links to an external site.). In J. Knight (Ed.),Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, pp. 192-213.
  1. Biancarosa, Bryk, & Dexter. (2010). Assessing the value-added effects of literacy collaborative professional development on student learning (Links to an external site.). The elementary school journal. 111 (1). 8-34.        


November 27th      - No Class - Thanksgiving Day

December 6th       —    Final Papers due by 5pm on our course website.


Course Summary:

Date Details Due