A Case Study of Grade-Level Meetings and Coaching Conversations

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Virginia Tech

The goal of this research project was to determine the content of the discourse occurring in grade-level meetings and coaching sessions and participants' perceptions of how the conversations in these two venues impacted learning and practice for individual teachers. Learning Forward's Standard for Professional Learning (2001) recommended that teachers organize into learning communities providing continuous learning opportunities to enhance adult learning and collaboration. Little (2003a) found that research was lacking that described the dynamics of communities of practice that promote teacher learning. It was in the content of the discourse that a proxy for evidence was found that the actions of the instructional coaches and grade-level meetings impact teacher growth. A case study was utilized to examine these structures and processes for job-embedded professional development at a school located in the eastern United States.

Research questions focused on the nature of the discourse among teachers and coaches in the grade-level meetings and in individual coaching conversations. Teachers reported what they felt that they learned in the grade-level meetings and the coaching discussions. Additionally, teachers stated what they did differently as a result of this method of professional learning occurring in grade-level meetings and coaching discussions. Finally, the school's improvement plans were compared with the conversations in the grade-level meetings and coaching sessions.

Verbatim transcriptions of recordings of grade-level meetings and coaching sessions provided data which revealed categories of content, coaching roles, and patterns of discourse. The goals of the meetings and coaching were to ensure communication about school district policies and to set expectations for teacher performance and student learning. Assertions generated provided patterns of discourse that identified roles of the principal, coaches, and teachers.

This investigation utilized a descriptive content discourse analysis and found support for the finding that the actions of this emerging community of practice were directed by federal, state, and local polices for teacher performance and student learning. Patterns of discourse revealed roles of administration, coaches, and teachers as they collaborated to negotiate meaning through the building of a shared repertoire. Interview data revealed that these dynamics enhanced teacher growth in many cases; however, lack of teacher input may have limited some potential opportunities.

grade-level meetings, discourse analysis, community of practice, zone of proximal development, instructional coach