Working on What Works (WOWW):
Coaching Teachers to Do More
of What's Working
Michael S. Kelly and Robin Bluestone-Miller

orking on What Works (WOWW) ships.Teachers enter schools excited to give their
was developed by solution-focused students a love of learning and with the belief
brief therapy (SFBT) pioneers Berg that students want to learn.Again and again, be-
and Shuts in 2002 (Berg & Shuts, 2005). After ginning teachers report a "love of children" and
being piloted in urban schools in Fort Lau- a passion for teaching as part of their reasons for
derdale, Florida, the program has been piloted choosing teaching (Roehrig, Presley, &Talotta,
in other cities, including five schools we have 2002) .Yet research also shows that 50 percent of
worked with in Chicago (Berg & Shuts, 2005; those same excited, idealistic teachers will leave
Kelly, Kim, & Franklin, 2008). In this practice the profession of teaching altogether within five
highlight, we share some of our own preliminary years (National Education Association, 2007).
fmdings on how WOWW is helping to improve WOWW philosophy includes a list of assump-
teachers' perceptions of their classes as being tions about teachers, children, and parents (Berg
more manageable and how it is helping them & Shuts, 2005).The assumption is that teachers
to become better teachers. want to have a positive influence on students
and to feel like good teachers.
A PARADIGM SHIFT We offer the WOWW program as one way
School social workers hear a lot of venting from to help multiple levels ofthe school contextual
educators about problem students. It is tempting system. It is unlike other classroom approaches
for the school social worker to agree to observe whereby the classroom environment is inter-
the student and to notice the behaviors men- rupted so that the social worker can explain an
tioned by the teacher, thus paying attention to intervention and then students can respond to
what the student is doing wrong. What usually it. In WOWW, the basic tenets of SFBT, such
follows is a meeting with the teacher to discuss as looking for exceptions to problems and past
how the social worker will work individually successes as part of constructing solutions, are
with the child to attempt to "fix" the behavior revealed in contrast to other more manualized,
problems. A persistent question has nagged problem-focused approaches. There is a belief
school social workers: Are we really helping to that change is also going to happen.The class is
remedy this situation by opting out of working invited to recognize its strengths and to devise
in the actual learning environment? Although solutions to class discipline problems together,
we want to understand the teachers'experience, validating the students who are already following
we also want to encourage them to think differ- the teacher's rules and working well with others
ently about their classes and to focus on what is rather than singling out a few defiant students.
going well or on what is working.
Teachers are integral parts ofthe school cul- COMPONENTS OF THE WOWW PROGRAM
ture that we seek to serve, and we often serve Educators appreciate that there is no new cur-
them in collaborative and consultative relation- riculum to learn and no specific students are

CCC Code: 1532-8759/09 $3.00 C2009 National Association of Social Workers 35

the most natural environment. 36 Children &Schools VOLUME 31. et cetera. this behavior was counter could put away their pencils and stop doodling to the overall stated desire to have a respect. arid keeps it interesting. (SFBT basic tenet: Do something different if the therapy is not working!) Notes: WOWW = Working on What Works. Help students and teacher understand rating method and practice rating each meeting. 2008. Decide with teacher and class which behaviors in the rubric need to improve. mately 40 minutes.. Kim. I will report back to you what 1 see. Meet with teacher to discuss observations and for creating classroom goals. Using rating language. too. class to focus on were as follows: (1) being quiet with all of the students and the teacher present. and others could stop their side conversations Table 1: WOWW Program: Step-by-Step Phase 1: Compliments phase 1. "If we agree that we are at a six today. the coach asked the typical of a WOWW discussion. NUMBER I JANUARY 2009 . acting said. Adapted from Berg and Shuts (2005). (Building the rubric for self-assessment) 2. Draw consensus from teacher and class and record results every week. Phase 3: Goal setting 1. 1 to 10. notes strengths. with its emphasis on solution-building offering to help someone else. a 5 look like?" 5. (Rubric) Weeks 4 through 6: Observe for approxi." minutes for feedback. WOWW sessions. 2008). New goals can be added when other goals are accomplished or something needs to be changed. SFBT = solution-focused behavior therapy. Note class strengths by giving group and individual compliments to students Timing depends on each school's and teachers. instead. listening. saying something like the following: "I'm going Weeks 1 through 3: Sessions are about to be visiting your room to watch for all the things the class does that are good 40 minutes for observation and 15 and helpful. Table 1 shows how the WOWW notes as she talked but that there were students program sessions are structured. WOWW coach continues positive feedback.puUed out for the WOWW intervention. in the role of coach. 3. as being argumentative how can we move up to a seven or eight by and overly talkative during their language arts next week?" Students answered. The following example from our study is During the next step. Students were conversations. Notice that no students are singled ing for strengths and using scale questions to out and positive behaviors are highlighted in help the classroom. Encourage teacher to rate class at least once a day and post a chart. and goal setting. smiling faces. Allow 15 minutes 4. during session class how they could improve their behaviors 6 in a seventh-grade classroom: Students were to reach their goals.There is also increasing to the teacher during the language arts lesson. Several asked to evaluate the entire class on a 10-point recent reviews of SFBT research have shown that scale ranging from 1 = poor to 10 = excellent. Weeks 7 through the end of intervention 4. Discuss which behaviors on the scale need to improve. Discuss "best" classroom and ask. scaling. Introduce yourself to students. this approach produces solid treatment outcomes Most of the students rated the class a six be- comparable to other therapy techniques (Kelly cause not everyone was looking at or listening et al. ful learning environment. 6. Decide on rating method. 1 to 5. Obviously. Continuing same routine as above 2. with attention who looked as if they could do a better job of paid to specific SFBT techniques like interview. amplifies change. Make prediction for next meeting. "Some kids lesson.. 2. when the teacher or another student is talking. she observed by the school social worker. and (3) approach. Define in behavioral terms. The WOWW program is grounded in the SFBT (2) saying excuse me and thank you. Choose only one to two goals. 2008). 3. "Best Class in School. Continue giving positive feedback. The three specific the intervention focuses on doing all the work WOWW behaviors that were chosen by the in the classroom. 3. Phase 2: Rating phase 1. "What would a 10 look like?" "What would for feedback and discussion. evidence that these therapeutic techniques can The teacher agreed that some of the students be adapted successfully to a school context (Kelly had been answering her questions and writing et al. schedules. the rating discussion. 5.

nied by a brief scale designed by the researchers where do you think we can be on the 1-to-lO and completed by the participating teachers. Here is an example of = 2. The teacher debriefmg times are crucial to p < . there are whole-class cant outcomes. to school social workers trying to find positive and nonthreatening ways to help teachers and PREMLIMINARY DATA FROM PILOT students function better together in a classroom STUDY OF WOWW IN CHICAGO setting. maximize the effect of theWOWW program. In addition. It ementary schools in Chicago.05]. accompa- asked/'If we do some of these things next week. continued support and communication with Nevertheless.p< . a WOWW coach debriefmg from the same seventh-grade classroom discussed earlier: This pilot data (N =21) shows the promise of WOWW as an effective classroom manage- This teacher started giving more positive ment and staff development program (Kelly et statements and compliments to her students al." So the WOWW coach A pre. scale next time?" Items on the five-point scale assessed how In addition to the importance placed on get.05.9. the teacher is given views of students as better behaved and the same opportunities as the students to reflect their sense that students would also report on the classroom and to identify his or her own better behavior [i(20) = 3. The pilot study also fulfills many of Illinois' social-emotional described here was conducted with 21 teachers learning standards within the classroom environ- who agreed to participate voluntarily. In revealed that WOWW had statistically signifi- the spirit of collaboration. and lack of informa- when they said positive things to each other. teachers perceived their own classroom manage- ting students to mobilize around their inherent ment skills and how WOWW had affected their strengths. Unlike findings are summarized as follows: other classroom management models that might try gimmicks or external rewards.6.WOWW has an intuitive appeal this teacher. without the need for learning an entire KELLY AND BLUESTONE-MILLER / Working on What Works (WOWW): Coaching Teachers to Do More of What's Working 37 .22.and posttest design was used. the Loyola Family and Schools ing to use the active ingredients of SFBT to Partnership Program brought WOWW to five have meaningful effects on classroom behavior.unrelated to the lesson. the small sample size.The between the WOWW coach and teacher. tion on the benefits of the WOWW program The coach noticed how much the students for other classroom performance variables (for enjoyed working together in groups and example.8. discipline referrals. ample attention is paid to what the students' behavior. Repeated measures t tests teacher hopes to change about her classroom.05]. atten- seemed to participate more when the lesson dance) precludes an interpretation at this point was group directed instead of teacher directed. 2003). teacher resilience.? < . kindergarten through eighth-grade public el. that WOWW can have a significant effect on the The teacher appreciated this feedback and said many school performance variables that other she would try more group lessons.i(20) capacities and strengths.01]. However. effective classroom managers [t(20) = 1. ment. test scores. and student achievement. classroom management techniques have claimed e-mail notes proved to be a very good tool for to address (Marzano. It is a promising new idea that is try- In 2006 and 2007. 2008).p< .. indicating its effectiveness as an discussions as well as debriefings at another time intervention to improve classroom climate. In • WOWW helped to increase the teachers' these confidential sessions. are making and then doing more of what is • WOWW resulted in an increase in teach- working to turn those successes into larger gains ers' positive perceptions of themselves as for the whole classroom environment.. lack when they were paying attention to her or of a comparison group. the WOWW • WOWW resulted in an increase in teach- coaching intervention is interested in teachers ers' perceptions of their classes as better and students discovering what small gains they behaved [i(20) = 2.

. 107-116. M. though it is our hope in 2008 to bring the WOWW program to more classrooms in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Classroom solutions: WOWW approach. Michigan.. Robin Blue. May 30. S.J. is faculty member. NUMBER I JANUARY 2009 . 820 N. Kelly. e-mail: mkell17@luc. (2003). C. thor and bring the ethics issue to the attention stone-Miller.. S REFERENCES T he NASW Press expects authors to ad- here to ethical standards for scholarship as articulated in the NASW Code of Ethics Berg. Presley. Attracting and • submitting only original work to keeping quality teachers. School of Social Work.We hope to study the pro- gram in those settings with a larger sample size and classrooms acting as comparison groups. ginning teachers: First-year challenges and beyond. Accepted August 13. 1. others National Education Association.VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Research on Social Work curriculum. These standards include actions Kelly. & Franklin. Lewis Towers 1245. work they have actually performed It is far too early to say whether WOWW is an intervention that can positively affect such important variables in schools. Meta-analysis of solution-focused brief therapy. D.Address correspondence authority. Loyola University. In the meantime. we are training a number of social workers and counselors so that they can work NASW PRESS POLICY ON more consistently with the teachers beyond the ETHICAL BEHAVIOR scope of this research program. Family and Schools of the appropriate professional body or other Partnership Program. M.. IL 60611. (2005). R. & Shuts.. the NASW Press may notify the au- Schools Partnership Program. Family and process. South Bend. Chicago. (2008). Kim. from http://www. for Authors.A. PhD. New York: Oxford University Press. • taking responsibility and credit only for Kim.. PhD. Brief Family and Writing for the NASW Press: Information Therapy Center. Solution- Jociised brief therapy in schools: A 360-degree view of such as practice and research. September 1997 38 Children drSchools VOLUME 31. &Talotta. related journals html • fiilly documenting their own and others' Roehrig. IN: Notre Dame Press. Milwaukee. Peer review confidentiality will not to Michael S. 18.1997 Approved by NASW Board of Directors. (2002).nea.J. (2007).J. 2008 As reviewed and revised by NASW National Committee on Inquiry (NCOI). Retrieved August 4. apply where there is evidence of plagiarism. Loyola University. L. Wliat works in schools: Translating • honestly acknowledging the work of research into acii'oH. S. Alexandria. Kelly. is assistant professor and coordinator been identified at the review or publication of research and outreach. If possible breaches of ethical standards have Michael S. (2008). Stories of be.2007.