My Top 5 Resources for Instructional Coaches. Plus a Few More Good Ones.


These summer months are prime time for doing some reading, learning, and psyching up for the coming school year.  Since I know many of you are entering into your first year as a coach, I wanted to share a few of my favorite, go-to resources. Ones that I’ve read and used to help me figure out the role of instructional coach. And even if this isn’t your first year, don’t forget about shoshin or “beginner’s mind.” It’s a concept in Zen Buddhism that reminds us:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Pretty good little saying, huh?

OK, let’s get to it…

1. Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction by Jim Knight

I’m a big fan of Jim Knight. He’s like the guru of instructional coaching. This book is packed full of great tools and practical ideas for coaches. One of the ideas/tools he introduces is a framework called “The Big Four” which is made up of four high-leverage instructional practices that I think serve as helpful “buckets” for guiding your observations and feedback to teachers. This was the first book of his I read, and it has some great tools and practical ideas to offer.

2. Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight

After reading Jim’s first book on instructional coaching, I was on the hunt for more! I read this book last summer and really enjoyed it. One of my favorite chapters was on facilitating workshops for adults. I was able to apply much of what I learned from this chapter to the weekly professional development sessions I help facilitate with teachers. If you’re looking for some tips in this area, this would be a great book for you to check out.

3. Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick Santoyo

I heard about this one through the Coaching Teachers course I took on Coursera. The chapter of the book that I’ve gravitated the most towards, is on Observation and Feedback. Reading through this chapter, in conjunction with the Coaching Teachers course, gave me a new way to frame my debrief conversations: probing questions to ask, examples of bite sized and high leverage action steps and building in time for practice/implementation.

4. The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar

I’ve written about Elena’s book before, but it’s just so great I have to gush about it again. What I love most about this book is it makes coaching feel really approachable…like, “Yeah! I can do this!” Sometimes I get overwhelmed just after reading the first page of a book, but not this one. I just read and read and felt better and better about what I could do.

5. Simplified Coaching Planning Kit

Last, but certainly not least, I’m really excited to share with you guys a planner I created just for us coaches. It’s a planning kit actually, made up of all the different tools I’ve used to help me plan, organize, and coach. More info to come on how I plan to organize/use mine, but in case you’d like to take a peek and get a head start, you can find it here!

The Simplified Coaching Planning Kit was designed work alongside the Time & ToDo Planner. These two put together, make a strong team!



And now for a few more good ones. While these resources aren’t specific books or sites about instructional coaching, they have still helped me improve my work in different ways.

6. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

This books has somewhat of a cult following and I’m a member. I learned so much about effective systems and strategies for managing your time and tasks from this book. As a coach, you need to be reliable, dependable, and organized…someone who does what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it. This helps you build trust with teachers and can’t be overlooked. Having effective systems and structures in place helps you to be that kind of coach.

7. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

As a coach, your head is often swimming with ideas of “what could be”…from a personal level, to a classroom level, to a schoolwide level. The trick is deciding which ideas are worth taking action on and then making those ideas happen. And as a coach and leader, I would even say it’s your responsibility to capture those ideas and work on bringing the worthy ones to life.

8. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I really liked this book because it helped me take a close look at how I budget my time. When the school year starts, things can get crazy real fast and it’s easy for all of your time to get sucked up by school. Don’t let that happen! Interesting teachers/coaches lead interesting lives…that means they make time for side hobbies or passions, exercising, cooking…whatever it is you’re into outside of school. Right now would be a good time to start thinking about how you’d like to budget your time to make room for all the things that matter to you and see about making it happen!

Did I leave something off the list? Have a favorite book, blog, or other resource that you’d like to add? Share it in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,



4 Responses to “My Top 5 Resources for Instructional Coaches. Plus a Few More Good Ones.”

  1. Jennifer July 3, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    I had been trying to figure out what pieces I was going to use from you planning products and then you posted this on Etsy, I was thrilled and purchased it immediately. Now I just need a little advice on how to organize it. I’m going to purchase my arc disc binder next week, but not sure where to go from there.

    • Kristin Houser July 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Jennifer!
      I’m so sorry for the late reply…Wordpress didn’t alert me of your comment so I’m just now seeing it! Argh. Anyhow, I’m planning to share how I’m organizing mine in an upcoming post…hopefully this week. Or maybe you already have yours put together?!?
      Kristin :)

  2. Donna August 10, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    First thank you. I feel life like I learn so much from your blog. I became an school instructional guide on Tuesday and start Monday, not a lot of time to plan. I’m a high school IG, which of these resources do you think would be the most applicable?

    • Kristin Houser August 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      Hi Donna! Thanks so much for your comment and congrats on moving into coaching!…woo hoo! The author of student centered coaching actually recently released a second edition more relevant for coaches at the secondary level that would probably be a great place to start, here’s the link:
      Good luck this year!

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