E-mail Coaching of Instructional Consultation Skills: Through the Eyes of Coaches and Consultant-trainees
Vail, Patience Lindsay
Rosenfield, Sylvia A.
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The demand for consultation services is increasing due to educational reforms and changes in special education legal mandates, yet consultation practice and training have not kept pace with this demand. To address the need for quality consultation training, an in-service training and e-mail coaching course in Instructional Consultation (IC) was delivered to school-based practitioners. IC is a collaborative consultation model founded upon systematic problem solving, effective communication, and the use of curriculum-based assessment (CBA). The current study examined the themes of e-mail IC coaching, as well as the participants' perceptions of the quality, benefits, and viability of the e-mail IC coaching process. Thirty consultant-trainees and four coaches who participated in the course completed feedback forms to indicate their perceptions of the e-mail IC coaching process. The coaches' e-mail coaching responses to the consultant-trainees were analyzed using grounded theory methods, and triangulated with the feedback form responses, to explore the themes of IC coaching by e-mail. Three findings warrant specific mention. First, coaches typically provided directive responses, especially Information/Suggestion and Positive Feedback. Second, consultant-trainees rated the coaching experience positively and reported that their skills developed significantly in all areas. Third, coaching that involved specific Information/Suggestion followed by specific Positive Feedback was associated with consultant-trainees' perceptions that their skills improved. Other study results suggested: (1) the content areas most frequently addressed included CBA, Defining the Problem, and Collaboration; (2) the amount and type of coaching provided to individual consultant-trainees varied somewhat, due to coaches' perceptions of the consultant-trainees' needs; (3) approximately 80% of the consultant-trainees felt they were able to apply most IC skills following training, with the exceptions of CBA and Interventions; and (4) consultant-trainees and coaches rated e-mail as easy to access and comfortable to use for coaching. The study results suggest that practitioners found e-mail IC coaching to be practical to use and beneficial for their development of consultation skills. While the above hypotheses must be validated, they help to inform the design of future e-mail IC coaching courses while additional research is conducted.