The gradual increase of responsibility: Scaffolds for change
Collet, Vicki S.
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My purpose in this collective case study was to identify ways in which teacher education, and coaching specifically, supports teacher change. I was particularly interested in considering what types of feedback are best at what times in the teacher education process. I investigated how coaching and other teacher education processes support teachers’ application of learning to differing contexts. This study was guided by three research questions: (1) What instructional processes and practices do participants enact in the university reading clinic and in their classrooms? (2) Are changes in participants’ instructional processes and practices evident, and if so, are they sustained over time and across settings (i.e., university clinic and classroom)? and (3) How do coaching interactions change over the course of the clinical experience? Theories of social constructivism, gradual release of responsibility, and cognitive flexibility guided all phases of the study. This study was conducted over an 18-month period and in three different settings: a university reading clinic and two schools. Participants were two inservice teachers enrolled in a literacy specialist master’s degree program. Primary data sources for this study included observational field notes, teacher interviews, and weekly teacher reflections and lesson plans. Data analysis followed a case-study model (Creswell, 2007), including interpretation of the data, establishing patterns, and developing generalizations. Findings from the study suggest a model for coaching and teaching that acknowledges the learner’s previous knowledge and experience and continuously gauges support to stay within the ever-escalating zone of proximal development. This model, which I’ve termed the Gradual Increase of Responsibility Model (GIR), is based on Pearson and Gallagher’s (1983) Gradual Increase of Responsibility Model. The model portrays scaffolding practices that provide decreasing levels of support to the learner. These levels are: modeling, making recommendations and providing/referencing resources, asking questions, affirming, and praising. Application of this model is influenced by the people involved, processes being enacted, and contextual factors. Implications for teachers, coaches, professional development, and teacher education were drawn from the findings of this study.