Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Reflections of Elementary School Literacy Coaches on Practice: Roles and Perspectives

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Reflections of Elementary School Literacy Coaches on Practice: Roles and Perspectives

Article excerpt

In this study, we examined the perceptions of Ontario elementary (primary K-3 and junior 4-6) literacy coaches to determine their roles, beliefs, and practices. We interviewed thirteen literacy coaches working in one Ontario school board about their literacy coaching. All coaches interviewed were teachers with specialized experience working in a literacy intervention program in their school board. We identified three major topics in participants' statements: coaches' role, barriers to effective literacy coaching, and overcoming barriers. This research offers suggestions for change in practice and provides insight into the role of literacy coaching as a mode of professional development in a Canadian urban centre.

Key Words: professional development, primary/junior teachers, literacy, elementary schools, Ontario education

Dans cette etude, les auteures analysent les perceptions de formateurs en litteratie (maternelle, primaire, premier cycle du secondaire) en vue de mieux cerner leurs roles, leurs croyances et leurs pratiques. Elles ont interviewe treize de ces formateurs a l'oeuvre au sein d'une commission scolaire ontarienne, tous des enseignants ayant acquis une experience pointue dans le cadre d'un programme d'intervention en litteratie. Les auteures ont identifie trois grands themes dans les propos des participants : le role des formateurs, les obstacles auxquels font face les formateurs en litteratie et les methodes employees pour surmonter les obstacles. A la lumiere de leur recherche, les auteures proposent des suggestions de changements a apporter dans les pratiques ainsi que des reflexions sur le role du formateur en litteratie dans le perfectionnement professionnel au sein d'un centre urbain canadien.

Mots cles : perfectionnement professionnel, enseignants du primaire et du premier cycle du secondaire, litteratie, ecoles primaires, education en Ontario.


Literacy coaching, a relatively new professional development initiative within Canadian schools, is steadily gaining in popularity despite a limited evidence base to support it (Dole & Donaldson, 2006). Casey (2006), a veteran literacy coach, maintains that although research supports the theoretical basis for literacy coaching, "we literacy coaches are doing our jobs day in and day out without research's seal of approval. Studies of our form of professional development are scant" (p. 191). Rodgers and Rodgers (2007) similarly note that the implementation of literacy coaching in schools has preceded research on the practice. The lack of an evidence base for literacy coaching has, perhaps, contributed to some of the problems faced by literacy coaches that some researchers have identified, including role confusion, teacher resistance, and limited administrative support. Considering the time, money, and resources that are spent to implement literacy coaching across Canada, it is important to clarify the specificities of the coaching role, including coaches' perspectives on what is needed to improve it. To do this, we interviewed literacy coaches in a school board in Ontario about their beliefs and practice in relation to their coaching. Considering the limited research about literacy coaching in Canada, we provide in the present study much-needed insight into how to make this area of professional development more effective.


Conceptualizing Professional Development

According to Vygotsky (1981), learning is deeply embedded within culture and social relationships, making these relationships key components of learning. Understanding professional development from a Vygotskian perspective has many implications for literacy coaching (Rodgers & Rodgers, 2007). In traditional forms of professional development (which are often offered in one-day workshops), teachers are passive participants in the learning. Such modes of professional development have been found to be largely ineffective (e. …

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