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Teachers as Classroom Coaches: How to Motivate Students Across the Content Areas

reviewed by Dan Carrell - March 01, 2007

coverTitle: Teachers as Classroom Coaches: How to Motivate Students Across the Content Areas
Author(s): Andi Stix and Frank Hrbek
Publisher: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA
ISBN: 1416604111 , Pages: 190, Year: 2006
Search for book at Amazon.com

Given its title, the introduction to Teachers as Classroom Coaches: How to Motivate Students Across the Content Areas starts just where I had assumed it would: with an anecdote about sports, athletes, and coaches. But the introduction quickly shifts from athletic coaching to corporate coaching. This shift sets the tone for the rest of the book as it consistently describes and references a “coaching” style that is clearly geared not for athletics, but for the corporate world. This tone in itself is not problematic, but the suggestion in the beginning of the book—that the type of coaching in this guide for classroom teachers is modeled on athletic coaching—is quite misleading. Although teachers can “coach” academic and fine arts teams, classroom teachers who coach tend to coach athletes. Consequently, those teachers who choose to read this book are likely trying to figure out how to transfer their successful athletic coaching style from the gym or playing field to the classroom. However, this book is more in line with the growing business model in education—coaching for managers in the boardroom.

Section 1 of the book focuses on “Creating the Coaching Environment.” The seven chapters that make up this section establish ideas about how teachers can become teacher-coaches; how to assess student personality types for the purposes of teaming; and how to develop coaching skills such as listening and questioning, assessing performance, problem solving, and individualizing coaching. Section 2 focuses on employing “Classroom Strategies” that apply to discussions, deductive reasoning, fine arts integration, and project-based learning.

Each section and chapter opens with an “Essential Question” along with “Guiding Questions and Statements.” This is a familiar format to those of us who teach undergraduate educational psychology courses. It effectively supports the pedagogical techniques of inquiry-based learning and constructivism which instructors model and teach in their own pre-service teaching courses. Based on this format, my hope was that the book would properly address the same major researchers and landmark studies cited by undergraduate instructors and textbooks in educational psychology courses. Unfortunately, it did not. What it did do was cite secondary and tertiary sources within the field of research, and at times, claim well-established techniques and methods as original ideas of the authors.

For instance, the focus of Chapter 1 is on motivational theory and techniques for motivating and engaging students. With motivation theory being the focus of my own graduate studies within educational psychology, I was prepared to see references to common key researchers, such as Maslow, Bandura, Deci & Ryan, Vallerand, Dweck, Pelletier, Seligman, Weiner, and Locke & Latham This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it does include some significant researchers often cited in discussing and building upon established credible constructs in motivation, such as self-determination, self-efficacy, and goal orientation. However, the authors instead defer to companies and publications focused on corporate management and management education. For instance, in chapter 1, when providing an operational definition for the term “coaching” in the book, the authors cite Coach People Training (2003) as a primary source. The source cited, Coach People, Inc., does acknowledge on their company website that they work with non-corporate professions, such as athletes, but they also highlight that their primary clientele is made up of “corporate executives, CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, CPOs, entrepreneurs, consultants, sales associates, Hollywood actors, producers, writers, artists…” (“What is Coaching?” n.d.) This discrepancy in sources and audience between credible education research in motivation for students and corporate training for managers highlights the difficulty in connecting the ideas presented in the book to the common K-12 classroom and students.

By Chapter 5, the authors are beginning to offer models and strategies for effective teaching for teacher-coaches but without any references to primary sources. The models are often directly taken from already well-established constructs and pedagogical techniques, yet the authors never cite or acknowledge those pioneering precedents. In Chapter 5, the authors describe what they call “The 3-Step Reflective Process” (p. 66). These three steps essentially have the students (1) determine what their prior knowledge is that has helped them with a problem in the past, (2) assess the effectiveness of that prior knowledge on solving that problem, and (3) consider how one can apply that prior knowledge to a current problem. This reflective process is incredibly similar to the K-W-L method developed by Donna Ogle (1986), in which students are to brainstorm what they know (K) by listing their prior knowledge on a topic, set goals for what they want (W) to learn now, and reflect or evaluate what they have learned (L) from that prior knowledge. But never do the authors refer to or even acknowledge this well established method that K-12 classroom teachers use regularly.

Again, in Chapter 7, the authors present a discussion strategy they call “flexible jigsaw,” in which the teacher divides the class into groups, gives each group a reading assignment, and has the students answer a common set of questions on their assigned section of text. The groups then gather to discuss what they read, “learning from one another while clarifying aspects of the text that they may have found confusing” (p. 95). Classroom teachers and educational psychologists would recognize this as “jigsawing,” a structure for discussion invented in 1971 by Elliot Aronson with his graduate students in Austin, Texas (Woolfolk, 2005). But nowhere in this section, nor in the bibliography, do the authors cite this well-known source. Such an oversight gets to the heart of the research flaws in this book. It claims a number of long-standing pedagogical practices in the field of educational psychology as original to this book and its authors. Consequently, Stix and Hrbek undermine their own credibility as researchers by not properly citing these sources and recognizing the precedents of these models and strategies.

The third glaring example of this discrepancy is again found in Chapter 7 when describing the “Stix Discussion Method.” In this method, the authors describe setting up the classroom in an “inner-outer circle forum, with students in the outer circle feeding notes and clues to their speaker-representatives in the inner circle who argue the issue” (p. 103). Again, most secondary teachers who have utilized this arrangement and technique for classroom discussions would recognize this as “fishbowling.” The exception here is that no single author or creator of this method is cited in the field, but again, the authors’ failure to acknowledge the fact that this technique has already been widely used for years by teachers, counselors, and discussion facilitators greatly undermines the credibility of the book’s authors as experts in the field.

If Teachers as Classroom Coaches was presented as a meta-analysis of sorts, or perhaps a compilation of effective techniques in education with original sources cited, it would be an efficient and helpful collection of ideas and methods for teachers to quickly reference and employ. Instead, as it is presented as new and original ideas of the authors, classroom teachers are likely to feel insulted by its poor research and complete disconnect with long-standing teacher practices.

Student engagement and motivation are elemental to the focus of any current educational research. Furthermore, optimizing these levels of engagement and motivation is imperative in the classroom. An attempt to translate the high levels of intrinsic motivation seen in athletes in the practice room to students in the classroom is indeed a sound approach. Unfortunately, this text’s focus on applying the business model to education fails to work or, more importantly, to pay heed to already well-established educational psychology and pedagogical practices used by classroom teachers on a daily basis.


Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.

“What is coaching?” (n.d.) In Coach People Inc. (2001-2007). Retrieved January 31, 2007, from http://www.coachpeople.com/pages/whatiscoaching.html

Woolfolk-Hoy, A. E. (2005). Educational psychology (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 01, 2007
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 13681, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 2:28:11 PM

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  • Dan Carrell
    Cornell College
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    DAN CARRELL is Director of Student Teaching at Cornell College.
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