Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

A High School Coach Mentored by John Wooden

Reflective practice and ongoing learning: a coach’s 10-year journey
Gallimore, R., Gilbert, W., & Nater, N. (2013). Reflective Practice and Ongoing Learning: A Coach’s Ten Year Journey. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2013.868790

Commitment to ongoing learning is a hallmark of effective sport coaches. Available literature indicates: (a) coach learning inquiries have become more common but mostly conceptual not empirical; (b) the few available empirical studies provide only brief snapshots of ongoing learning efforts and seldom track learning impact; and (c) ongoing learning for sport coaches should be coach-driven and contextually-situated. To help close the gap between conceptual advice and empirical evidence, this paper shares our collective reflections on a unique, 10-year ongoing learning effort initiated and sustained by an American high school basketball coach in a suburban Midwestern community. This story is compelling, not only because of its sustained longitudinal nature, but because of the peer teaching role played by the iconic American basketball coach John Wooden. The story we tell is based on our conversations and interviews with the high school coach, media documents, systematic observation of the coach’s practice videos seven years apart, and perspectives from his school administrators and one of his former players. Ermeling’s four-feature reflective practice typology is used to frame the coach’s ongoing learning effort, and connect the story back to the coach development literature.


teaching, coaching, continuous improvement, learning teams, improving teaching and coaching, John Wooden

John Merrrow, PBS education reporter, posted an interesting comment on his blog.
John Merrow, education correspondent for PBS Newshour, posted an interesting comment on his blog. Here are some key points he made:

“Referring to teachers as Coaches has been in vogue for the last dozen years or so. . . . . “Coach” was understood to be a high compliment, a term of great respect. It carried the message that this particular teacher understood individual differences among his or her students and had the skills to bring out the best in each kid. That was then…..

Times have changed, and, if I were still teaching, I don’t think I would want people calling me “Coach.”

Here’s why: the bottom line mentality is increasingly in charge in public education, with 25 states (and counting) judging teachers according to their students’ test scores. That’s a key provision of the federal government’s “Race to the Top” program as well.

This bottom line philosophy is built on the concept of winners and losers, profit and loss. In education the bottom line is, of course, test scores. And the Coach is responsible for the bottom line.

And, so, to me anyway, calling a teacher “Coach” is less a compliment and more a way of setting her up to fail. Football and basketball coaches have win-loss records that determine whether they keep their job or get fired, and I fear that’s the road education is rushing down.

Here's a link to his complete post link: and his invitation to reply, which I did as follows:

“Winning” is not the only outcome effective sport coaches pursue, and not the only lesson they can teach teachers. Academic researchers Côté and Gilbert argue effective coaches aim for developmental growth, what they label the 4 Cs: competence, confidence, cooperation, and character. These outcomes were the goals for ESPN’s coach of the 20th century, UCLA’s John Wooden. He insisted that effective coaching is teaching. Coach attributed his teams’ successes to what he had learned in the 1930s as a high school English teacher––the importance of continuous improvement of instruction. He liked to point out it took 16 years of incremental teaching improvements to earn a national title. Analyzing Wooden’s continuous improvement process, researcher Brad Ermeling identified four elements that all teachers could put to good use:

1. Identify critical instructional issues.
2. Prepare and implement instructional plans.
3. Use evidence to drive reflection, analysis, and next steps.
4. Persistently seek detectable improvements in learners' performance. 

Wooden never said anything about winning or wins to his players. He defined success not as winning but as “peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." He believed helping learners achieve that peace of mind is a byproduct of teachers teaching for competence, confidence, cooperation, and character. There are many teachers already doing that, and they don’t care what you call them. Teacher, coach, mentor, just tone down the talk of scoring testing points and let them get on with their work. The students will be at school tomorrow.

Focus more on processes to achieve valued outcomes

Brad Ermeling alerted me to this blog posting by Daniel Markovitz in the Harvard Business Review.

Markovitz points out several potential dangers of so called “stretch goals” including sapping motivation, fostering unethical behavior, and encouraging excessive risk-taking.
Better, he argues, to set reasonable goals and focus on process improvement. Process improvement refers to what is required to achieve goals, sometimes referred to as opening the “black box” to see how something works in order to make it work better.

He closed the blog with two sentences written for a business and industrial audience that could also be addressed to education, medicine, and behavioral interventions among others.

“The heavy lifting has to be done at the outset — a deep understanding of the current condition is a prerequisite for true improvement. This approach also requires a subtle — but critical — shift in focus from improving outcome metrics to improving the process by which those outcomes are achieved.”

Education reformers and policymakers are now engaged in a great debate about the value of standards and assessment. Once in a while someone alludes to Markovitz’s point that settings standards and developing outcome metrics accomplish little unless the mediating process is examined and improved. In education that mediating process is what transpires in classrooms. Teaching that provides effective learning opportunities for students.

Pyramid of Teaching Success in sport

Coach John Wooden developed his Pyramid of Success for individuals. Inspired by Wooden, The Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport is a graphical conception of the qualities of effective coaches. It has been used as a tool in professional development programs for youth sport coaches.
The Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport was presented and described in a 2010 journal article by Wade Gilbert, Swen Nater, Mark Siwik, and myself. For a PDF of this article, click here.
The Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport (PofTSS) reflects a conviction that effective coaching is dependent upon teaching success. The PofTSS draws on multiple sources: (a) the authors’ experiences across diverse careers in sport psychology, educational psychology, collegiate and professional sport, coaching, business performance and occupational stress, (b) four decades of coaching research, and (c) first-hand experience studying, playing for, and working with legendary sport coach John Wooden.
The PofTSS includes 15 blocks and 10 pieces of mortar, and focuses coaches on improvement of their teaching skills. This emphasis on self-improvement rather than measuring oneself against the performances of others is consistent with current views on how best to develop human potential across domains.
here for a PDF of the Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport. The Pyramid is copyrighted by BeLikeCoach and is available for public use to anyone devoted to the improvement of coaching.

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