Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gradual release of responsibility

I located a self-assessment for literacy coaches on the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse and took it. My biggest areas of weakness involved system-wide change. This was not a surprise considering I have only a tangential role, at best, in this area. Beyond that, one area that I felt needed to be developed was around gradual release of responsibility. The term only felt familiar. Having hunted down some information, I can say I now recall reading about the theory and do practice it with my students.
Douglas Fisher and his writing partner Nancy Frey have written and spoken extensively about the gradual release of responsibility and developed a visual model based on the idea. They describe the four steps as:
  • Focus lesson- I do
  • Guided instruction- we do
  • Collaborative learning- you do together
  • Independent learning- you do alone
Douglas Fisher talks about his model in a Monograph and in a publication of program research for Jamestown Reading NavigatorSarah Cooper reviews Fisher and Frey's book, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility, 2nd Edition, and provides details of the specifics of gradual release of responsibility in her article.
In many ways this is the approach I utilize in resource room instruction. The teacher gave the initial focus lesson and some guided instruction, but my students were not ready yet to move on. Sometimes that means I completely reteach all or some part of the lesson then provide more guided practice. We don't actually do homework- that is the independent practice needed. By reteaching, however, I have empowered the student to be more independent and more able to complete the homework. When I do primary instruction, I follow a similar progression, but can spend more time priming the original instruction rather than sending my struggling learner off with inadequate understanding.
When it comes to coaching, however, things are a bit different. I may only see my collaborating teachers every couple of weeks. I need to set the ball in motion, provide remote support as necessary, and see how things are when I return. This makes the concept a bit tricky.  I cannot be very recursive because I am not there. I must rely on the adult learners to self assess, persevere through challenges and seek support as necessary. Bridging the change from student to adult learner takes some refinement.

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