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Special Article

Kagan Coaching Competencies

Kristi McCracken

To cite this article: McCracken, K. Kagan Coaching Competencies. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #62. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. www.KaganOnline.com

Dr. Vern Minor, a Kagan trainer, used a structured conversation strategy called Talking Chips with teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators from the Pasadena Unified School District as he trained them to become Kagan coaches. This structure allowed participants control of the conversation by using pens as communication regulators. Placement of a pen in the middle of the table signaled readiness to speak. Their pens were left in the middle until each team member had shared an idea.

This turn-taking device helped to encourage reluctant participants and to curb the extroverted ones who often monopolize the sharing. When teachers use this structure to help students conduct more academic conversations, they are encouraged to build on others’ ideas and keep the conversation going for several rounds.

The implementation of these types of collaborative structures takes time and practice. Kagan has hundreds of structures that facilitate engagement and hundreds of PUSD K-12 teachers have been trained to utilize these structures to enhance their students’ collaborative skills. While the training is engaging, inspirational, and comprehensive, implementation is greatly enhanced when accompanied by in-the-moment coaching.

This real-time coaching model differs from the feedback system that is most commonly used in schools. The Madeline Hunter clinical supervision feedback system uses a pre-conference between administrator and teacher, followed by an observation and a post-conference session to improve instruction. This traditional feedback model is time-consuming for administrators who are already time crunched. The resulting delay in feedback can cause a lag in the implementation of suggested improvements.

The Kagan coaching model believes in improving teachers through coaching rather than evaluation.

The Kagan coaching model believes in improving teachers through coaching rather than evaluation. They use in-the-moment feedback to improve collaborative structures and then watch with teachers to see how student engagement improves. Coaches compliment teachers on several aspects that are going well and then give one tip that could improve their students' collaborative interactions.

New teacher mentors, athletic coaches, life coaches, and instructional coaches all require certain competencies to successfully guide those they coach. Good Kagan coaches are most effective with a specific skill set that can be developed. Gaining competency and confidence requires practice so participants in Minor’s training analyzed their areas of strengths and those skills sets that might need growth to be successful with this style of coaching.

One of the most important skills is the ability to build rapport. This begins by allowing teachers to choose the structure they want to be coached on. It continues when coaches are cognizant of the effect of their presence in the room. Developing a supportive tone and demeanor are critical.

When coaches are watching a teacher, they may be thinking about what to coach them on and unconsciously adopt a thinking face. Since 75 percent of communication is nonverbal, coaches often have to “fix their face” in order to build rapport.

The second coaching skill is the ability to observe and analyze. This requires listening closely to teacher directions and student compliance. A task analysis is done to see if all steps to the structure were followed and if students are correctly executing the directions.

Another important skill for Kagan coaching is listening intently and questioning. Coaches ask clarifying questions before offering correction. They are careful to keep the intonation neutral and begin the conversation with acknowledgement. When teachers start asking the coach questions, the process gains momentum.

The fourth critical skill to the success of this model is being able to provide timely, specific, and impactful feedback. When teachers see that one small change in the way they instruct can provide immediate results for more positive student interactions, it builds a desire to have more coaching because it increases their effectiveness.

Finally, the goal for the coach is to facilitate learning of the new structure for the teacher. In-the-moment correction starts with observation, but once students are interacting the coach, moves next to the teacher to praise and offer one impactful suggestion. It may start with a directive phrase like, “What I need you to do right now is stop your kids and...” ┬áThe coach steps away so that the teacher can deliver the new direction. Then the coach stands next to the teacher and watches students to see if they are doing what was requested.

Fidelity to the steps of the cooperative structures helps promote more positive student interdependence as well as individual accountability. When students work in cooperative groups with equitable participation and simultaneous interaction, it helps to increase achievement. The newly trained Kagan coaches are ready to implement their coaching skills to help facilitate more effective collaborations.

This article was reprinted with permission by the author.