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The Facilitator's Book of Questions: Tools for Looking Together at Student and Teacher Work

reviewed by Anita Varrati - 2005

coverTitle: The Facilitator's Book of Questions: Tools for Looking Together at Student and Teacher Work
Author(s): David Allen and Tina Blythe
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807744689, Pages: 160, Year: 2004
Search for book at Amazon.com

Effective supervision requires the application of skills that assist teachers to grow professionally with an emphasis on student learning. Glickman, Gordon, and Ross-Gordon (2004) maintain that supervision can be applied through a variety of tasks including “direct assistance to teachers, curriculum development, professional development, group development, and action research (p. 9).” The Facilitator’s Book of Questions provides tools suited for groups through the facilitation of protocol-guided conversations about student and teacher work. Because these conversations center on classroom-based problems, this book can be used as a tool to promote action research.

Possibly, the most important use of protocol guided conversations is the stimulation of critical reflection. Blasé and Blasé (2004) state that “reflective practice is founded on the assumption that increased awareness of one’s professional performance can result in considerable improvement of performance” (p. 86). Effective supervision must include opportunities for teachers to examine and think about their own practice. The protocol conversation provides an ideal vehicle to stimulate reflection concerning teaching and learning.

This book is represented as a tool to be used for the facilitation of conversations about student and teacher work in a step-by-step manner. As such, it dives right into the “how to” of the facilitation process. For readers who want more information concerning theory and various protocols, the authors provide references.

A protocol, by definition, is a structure that enables educators and interested others to look carefully and collaboratively at student and teacher work in order to learn from it (p. 9). Various protocols exist for collaborative dialogue, but the book focuses on three types. The Tuning Protocol helps individual teachers examine and refine their own classroom work through group feedback. Presenters accompany their presentation with examples of teacher or student work. The Consultancy is designed as a forum for participants to focus on a particular dilemma faced by the presenter. It is the presenter’s role to frame a question as well as share his or her reflections of the dilemma. While the Collaborative Assessment Conference provides a forum for the examination of student work, it does so without providing initial contextual information. Participants are provided the opportunity to examine student work and raise questions prior to the presenter’s thoughts on it. Choosing the appropriate protocol depends on what is to be accomplished. A key facilitator role is meeting with the presenter prior to the dialogue to determine the protocol that provides the best match.

The role of the facilitator before, during, and after the protocol meeting forms the essence of the book. A description of each phase provides a clear picture of how a protocol works and why good facilitation is essential. Before the meeting, the facilitator creates an agenda, notifies the group of the upcoming meeting, and works with the presenting teacher to adequately prepare for the meeting. During the meeting, the facilitator’s main responsibility is to keep participants focused on critical exploration of the question rather than judging the presenter or the work being presented. After the meeting, facilitation should be employed to ensure that the learning that occurred is implemented in a way that will effect positive classroom change and student learning.

To further assist those learning to use protocols, the authors address two key areas. The first is facilitation problems tied to logistics and participant behavior. Initiating any new process is a challenge. Prior knowledge of common problems with examples and possible remedies is valuable. The second area addresses how one can improve his or her performance as a protocol facilitator. Among the behaviors mentioned, self-reflection is critical. Just as we ask the participants to view the protocol as a way to improve professional growth, we must exact the same expectations on our facilitation skills.

This book serves as a good resource for instructional supervisors interested in promoting collaborative dialogue about teaching. It is intended as a handbook for those who will be facilitating such dialogue. As such, it gives supervisors a real process and protocols to make these conversations a reality. It would be helpful to use this book in concert with research and training in effective supervision, especially as a practical resource for group process activities and as a step to include with individual teacher action research projects.


Blasé, J. and Blasé, J. (2004). Handbook of instructional leadership: How successful principals promote teaching and learning.

Thousand Oaks , CA : Corwin Press.

Glickman, C., Gordon, S., and Ross-Gordon, J. (2004). Supervision and instructional leadership: A developmental approach.

Boston : Pearson Education, Inc.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 2, 2005, p. 333-335
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11375, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 10:25:36 PM

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