KU News Release

June 8, 2012
Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860

KU author pens book on school program with 'Unmistakable Impact'

More Information

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas-developed program that matches teachers with coaches to improve education is making an “unmistakable impact,” as is the new book that makes instructional coaching available to entire schools.

Jim Knight, director of the Kansas Coaching Project at KU’s Center for Research on Learning, has authored “Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction.” The book brings the concept of professional learning to not only teachers and their peers who are trained as coaches, but to everyone from superintendents, principals and people with a vested interest in the quality of education. It was recently named the Corwin Press 2011 Book of the Year.

“This book fulfills Corwin’s goals as a publisher: It is written by a well-respected author, amazing speaker and presenter, and active consultant; and the content is focused on both an incredibly timely yet timeless topic regarding improving teaching and instruction,” said Lisa Cuevas Shaw, executive director of Corwin Press’ editorial division.

Knight, who has been working with schools across the United States and numerous other countries to implement professional learning, said the new book gives everyone in the school ownership in improving teaching.

“One issue we’ve run into is, unless the school is organized right, coaches and teachers couldn’t reach their full potential,” Knight said.

Professional learning is the core concept of the Kansas Coaching Project. It matches teachers with coaches who are not outside consultants, but peers at the schools, to implement proven teaching strategies. Schools that have implemented the system have seen improvements in test scores and better student outcomes.

The new book outlines the process of creating a “target design team,” a concept that is being put into use in schools using professional learning.

“The people on the target design team are teachers who go out and interview every other teacher in the school and ask them, ‘How do you think we should be teaching?’” Knight said. “At the same time they’re doing that, administrators take observations throughout the school on all kinds of factors such as numbers of disruptions, challenges, opportunities and so on. Then all the data is compared and together they come up with a draft of what their target should be.”

When the draft is ready, all involved parties vote anonymously on whether they agree with its recommendations, goals and ideas.

“It’s just a simple way of involving everybody. You keep working until everyone understands, agrees with and is committed to the plan,” Knight said.

The book can be beneficial for any school interested in improving its teaching through the practice of professional learning, whether they’ve already implemented the practice or worked with Knight’s team or not. Anyone charged with the task of improving instruction at a K-12 school could benefit from the text. Individual chapters address the role of principals, superintendents and others in implementing professional learning, the value of workshops, communication skills and putting a plan in place.

“It’s, first off, about clarity in focus in schools,” Knight said of the book. “Second, it’s about seeing teachers truly as professionals who have a say in what they do. They’re not some nameless person working in a factory. They can make decisions about the educational process and how best to educate our students.”

Read a past story about the Kansas Coaching Project here.

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