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  • Writer's pictureSteve Barkley

Planning Questions for Coaching Conferencing and PLC Facilitation

Steve Barkley's work in the area of instructional leadership is nothing short of amazing. He has spent over 40 years serving as an educational consultant all over the globe. I have learned from his books and podcast for years and recently had the privileged to connect with him when we both served on the Art of Coaching panel discussion at Jim Knight’s Teaching Learning Conference. In a follow-up conversation with Steve, we discussed how wonderful it was to be in a community of instructional leaders supporting each other. Unbeknownst to Steve, that conversation sparked an idea to start sharing some of the wonderful work taking place in the area of instructional leadership and Reflections from the Field was born. I can’t wait to share the work of the instructional leaders who have committed to sharing their work through this initiative so we can all grow together. I am deeply honored to share Steve’s work to kick it off. Enjoy his post and happy learning ~ Sherry St. Clair

Planning Questions for Coaching Conferencing and PLC Facilitation | Steve Barkley

I use the Questions for Learning format to first identify and plan the purpose of my questions and then turn to cue words for forming my questions.

Questions from perception, induction, analysis, and same/different work together to help gather information. When approaching or experiencing something new, these questions set the stage for exploring more deeply.

In a Coaching Conference

  • As you planned this learning activity, how did you picture students responding initially to the task? Perception 

  • How similar was that to their response? Same/Different 

  • Which students persevered less than the majority of the class? Analysis 

  • What generalization would you make about student perseverance? Induction

In a PLC Facilitation

  • What do you see as you look at the writing samples from the advanced students? Perception 

  • How does their writing differ from students performing at the standard level? Same/Different 

  • What generalizations can you make when observing the advanced students during in-class writing time? Induction 

  • What are the next skills for advanced students to acquire? Analysis

Often in the midst of asking these gathering information questions, insights emerge. Frequently without even asking an insight question. Appraisal, summary and evaluation questions provide ways to work with information, in ways that increase meaning and understanding.

In a Coaching Conference 

  • What connections do you find among student perseverance and mindset? Insight

  • In a nutshell, what builds perseverance? Summary 

  • What is most important in creating a classroom environment for promoting perseverance? Appraisal 

  • How much of an investment would you want to make in impacting student mindsets? Why? Evaluation

In a PLC Facilitation

  • What insight emerges from comparing the advanced writers across the grade level? Insight 

  • Should we explore ways to provide some direct instruction specially for the advanced writers? Why? Evaluation 

  • How would you rate the feedback that advanced writers are currently receiving? Appraisal 

  • What should be our focus with the advanced writers? Summary

I find that I can often use evaluation questions to judge if it is appropriate to explore ideas, prediction and action. Note how the two evaluation questions above identify whether or not a commitment or desire exists to move toward action. Moving toward action too soon can lead to frustration because agreement or group consensus isn’t present for investment in action. If your evaluation question uncovers unreadiness, its best to consider uncovering more information and meaning, which may lead to redefining a concern or selecting a different area for action.

In a Coaching Conference 

  • What ideas do you have for increasing student perseverance/effort in problem-solving? Ideas 

  • What problems might arise from investing time in this effort? Prediction 

  • How would you start? Action 

  • What is the first indicator you’d see or hear that would encourage you to continue? Perception

In Facilitating a PLC

  • What options are there for arranging time to pull advanced writers for direct instruction? Ideas

  • How can collaborating benefit each teacher? Prediction 

  • Who should plan and provide the first sessions? How should we follow up with our own students? Action

  • What should we look for as changes in their writing? Perception

Notice that part of taking action is planning for the information to be gathered as action starts and develops. Often this builds in a continuous coaching element. What might a coach observe (perception) to assist the teacher(s) in reflecting on the decisions they have made?

I consciously turn to the Questions for Learning framework to preplan some of the questions I will use in an upcoming coaching session, facilitation, or PD workshop. Having a few anchor questions prepared, allows me to be a better listener and thus increase the personalization of the process.

Steve Barkley has over three decades of experience working with school administrative and teacher leaders, including instructional coaches, throughout the United States and internationally. As the author of Instructional Coaching With the End in Mind and Questions for Life, Steve promotes questioning as a key skill for guiding educators’ reflection and exploration that lead to their growth and increased student success. He shares a framework and examples applied to coaching and facilitating PLCs. You can reach Steve with your questions or to seek some input on questions you are planning to use in your coaching or facilitating at


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