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The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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REVIEW: The Principles of Appreciative Leadership Can Strengthen Schools
July 31, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

When someone recommended the book, Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization, I was intrigued. I guessed, correctly, that its recommendations would be aligned with Jim Knight’s partnership principles, and, when reading it, discovered lots of useful and practical ideas.
Co-authored by three writers associated with the Corporation for Positive Change, the book, at times, seemed a bit too “touchy-feely” for me. Nonetheless, much of the material can be a valuable read to those interested in strengthening their appreciation of others, their work, and even the world in which they live.
The book suggests five core strategies that can actualize appreciative leadership. They all emerge from the idea that we want to build on strengths, not anchor ourselves to shortcomings:Read More
Review: Shifting the Secondary Mindset from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered Coaching
July 14, 2015
DeAnna Miller is an instructional coach in the Enterprise City (AL) Schools and a member of the Alabama Instructional Partners Network. Here, she reviews a valuable book for coaches and principals at the junior and senior high school level. 

by DeAnna Miller

Coaching at the secondary level can be very challenging. Most teachers are content-specific and schedules are not completely conducive to collaborative planning. As a result, coaches can struggle to meet the day-to-day needs of the teachers they are trying to support.

This was my own struggle over the past school year. Being a new full-time secondary coach, I found my time and attention being split in many directions. However, I have found a new tool to help me overcome some of the challenges I faced this year, and I feel confident and ready for the new school year.

The new tool in my toolbox is Diane Sweeney’s coaching book, Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level (Corwin, 2013). Sweeney’s book is full of helpful concepts, theories and practices that she encourages readers to explore – not in a rigid manner, but in a thoughtful way – adapting what they can to the needs of their individual school and staff.Read More
Cognitive Coaching Tools Can Help Us Guide Rather Than Tell
July 10, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

It’s not too often that we like people telling us what to do or, worse, telling us what we did incorrectly. Yet as we know, feedback—both from others and from ourselves—is critically important to growth. That’s where cognitive coaching comes in.
Developed by Art Costa and Bob Garmston, cognitive coaching is designed to help the person being coached make better decisions and be more self-directed. They define cognitive coaching as a “nonjudgmental, developmental, reflective model” designed to “strengthen professional performance by enhancing one’ ability to examine familiar patterns of practice and reconsider underlying assumptions that guide and direct action.” (Cognitive Coaching, 2002, p. 5)
A supporting resource, Cognitive Coaching: Weaving Threads of Learning and Change into the Culture of an Organization (2003, 2013), edited by Jane Ellison and Carolee Hayes, provides examples of organizational use of cognitive coaching, ranging from the schoolhouse to the individual classroom.
Using the metaphor of weaving, Ellison and Hayes approached editing the book with this assumption:
“It is the task of leadership to examine each thread and find the best ones to weave a strong fabric that serves students first, while also expanding the development of professional staff.” (p. xiv)
The book is organized into three sections: (1) The organization as a system; (2) The school as the unit of change; (3) Classroom practices that “bring coaching into the lives of students.” Each chapter begins with a brief introduction so the reader can determine if its content is relevant to their interests. Hence, this is a book that can serve as a guide, not necessarily one that requires the reading of every chapter.Read More
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