The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the factors that contributed to the engagement of middle and high school teachers in professional learning with instructional coaches, relative to disciplinary literacy. The study addressed the following question: What factors appear to influence secondary content-area teachers' engagement with instructional coaches, relative to disciplinary literacy? This study is set in a large suburban district and explores this question from the perspective of ten instructional coaches and ten teachers with whom they work.
Four primary data sources of were used: audio-taped focus group sessions with coaches, including researcher field notes; audio-taped interviews with both coaches and teachers; and surveys of coaches. Data analysis involved a multi-cycle coding process utilizing several coding strategies.
The analyses indicated that a number of interrelated and overlapping factors affected teacher engagement in professional learning. These factors were the following: school culture, coaching practices, coaches' interpersonal acuity, meaningful relationship between literacy and content, and teachers' inclination to reflect on practice. I found that the school culture encompassed and influenced the other factors. Three specific factors appeared to be effective in influencing teacher engagement included coaches' use of embedded literacy pedagogy with teachers who were resistant to professional learning related to literacy; modeling and observation that incorporated active, situated learning strategies; and identifying a meaningful connection between content and literacy.
The study provides an explicit rendering of coaching practices that appear to be effective and useful in supporting content-area teachers' engagement in the coach-teacher relationship. In addressing an underdeveloped area of the professional development research, the study can offer important heuristics for middle and high school literacy coaches who engage teachers in professional development related to understanding the intersection of literacies and the content areas.