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Jim Knight

David McKinney/University Relations

Jim Knight directs a project to improve instructional coaching in schools, and has written a book on what he has learned. He decided to move to Lawrence from Canada after attending a Center for Research on Learning conference 10 years ago.

CAMPUS CLOSEUPJim Knight - Research associate, Center for Research on Learning

Years at current job: Ten years this summer — I'm finally getting a blue parking sticker!

Job duties: I direct the Pathways to Success project, which is a partnership between KU and the Topeka School District. In my role, I collaborated with my colleagues at CRL to envision and write the proposal that won the funding. I have developed a model for instructional coaching, which we have implemented in the district, and I've coached the coaches and directed others who work on the project. I also write about what we're learning in articles, in books, and I present to various audiences around the country.

Recently, I was also happy to learn a proposal I submitted with my colleagues was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. That project will provide funding for qualitative and quantitative research on coaching. Instructional coaching is an approach to school improvement that puts respectful partnerships between change agents and teachers at the heart of school change.

Do the findings of the Center for Research on Learning present opportunities for improved education? If so, how does CRL take its findings to students and teachers for application in the classroom? Yes! In fact, I came to CRL from Toronto, Canada because I was a community college teacher who successfully used the CRL materials, and I wanted to learn more from the researchers here. CRL has established a network of professional developers who share information with teachers across the country. Each year we have many conferences that bring literally hundreds of professional developers and school leaders to Lawrence. My first experience in Lawrence was at one of those conferences, and I fell in love with the town that first visit.

How can instructional coaching be used in a university setting to improve education or job performance? Within our coaching model, instructors and professors could use that approach as a way to communicate ideas while also providing time for students to reflect and engage in dialogue about what they were learning. People can download a free copy of my book on the topic at PartnershipLearningFieldbook .pdf.

Speaking of your book on instructional coaching, how does this relate to your work at CRL? My life's work, really, has been figuring out how best to make effective instructional practices available to teachers. Instructional coaching has proven to be a reliable way to make it much easier for teachers to use CRL's scientifically proven materials.

What do you enjoy most about your profession? I'm not sure if enjoy is the best word, but what I like best about my work is I really believe I am doing the work I am called to do. I really feel that sometimes I am just being pulled along by the opportunity to do something meaningful, that I am really just a lucky passenger on this journey, working with great colleagues at CRL and on my project.

What are some aspects of your job others might not realize you're involved with? People may or may not realize how much this work fills up my life. If I am out on a run, for example, there will be a good chance I'll be thinking about this work. If I'm waiting in line somewhere, or if I have a few minutes to spare, I might take out a notebook to jot down some notes. Thanks to the awesome people I work with, we're making progress, but there is still so much more to figure out, and the challenges we face along with the opportunities, both keep me thinking.

As a project director, do you enjoy overseeing the work of others, or being directly involved in the research more? I think I have to say I enjoy aspects of both. I love the people who work on my project. They are courageous, positive people, who lift me up a lot of the time, and I'm proud of them and what they do. And I also love the challenge of imagining ways to help schools do a better job of reaching children. My work is not always fun; there are a lot of roadblocks, but when I get around those roadblocks and make a difference for kids, that really does make it worthwhile.

How closely does the Center for Research on Learning work with Psychology and Research on Learning? I'm not sure who at CRL has worked with Psychology and Research on Learning, specifically, but CRL researchers are very open to working with many others in the university community, and indeed, we work with people outside of KU as well. There are a lot of brilliant people within the KU community, and we benefit a lot from their ideas, wisdom and creativity.

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