Authors: Leonard Medlock Demetric Sanders Aaron Sharp Course: Date: EDUC 200B December 14, 2010

“The coach is first of all a teacher.” – John Wooden, UCLA Head Basketball Coach 1948-1975 “If you can coach, you can teach.” – “M”, Coach, Teacher, Dean (Interview 11/03/2010)

Introduction This research team initially set out to explore the interactions between coaches and players in a high school basketball setting. Serendipitously, the coach (henceforth referred to as “M”) that was identified as a possible research participant also served as math teacher and academic dean at his school. This provided an opportunity to expand the scope of research interests to a cross-professional analysis in an educational setting. In addition to exploring the coach-player dynamic, the teacherstudent and dean-student interactions could also be examined, and more interestingly, could be compared and contrasted with one another. Whereas in many high schools, three separate individuals occupy the roles of coach, teacher, and dean, M serves as all three. This phenomenon raised questions as to how one person can reconcile the unique requirements of each position, and if the skills utilized in one role are transferable to the others. In pursuing this research, the investigators sought to answer the question: To what extent is someone who occupies multiple professional roles in a school setting consistent in their approach to those roles? After analyzing data from one observation and two interviews, the research team uncovered three approaches that were consistent among M's coach, teacher, and dean roles: (1) he makes adjustments to suit current circumstances, (2) he empowers students to make their own decisions, and (3) he places emphasis on building relationships. For educators currently serving in multiple roles or considering taking on additional roles in their respective educational settings, this paper provides one example of an educator deploying particular approaches across multiple, seemingly disparate roles.

Methods The methods implemented for this research included choosing a research topic and location,

scheduling an observation and interviews, collecting the data, and finally analyzing it. Along each step of the way, substantial thought and reasoning was put into decisions concerning the methods in which data was collected.

Topic and Location. Due to the commonalities of the researchers, choosing a topic was not a difficult task. All three researchers are prior student-athletes, all playing basketball for their respective high school teams, so there was interest in studying the relationship between players and coaches. The only criterion for selecting a research site was that its basketball program be competitive, meaning the culture and attitude surrounding the program be focused on winning or at least putting forth maximum effort. Contact with the head basketball coach at Catholic High School in northern California, who will be referred to as “M”, was established through a current professor at the time. Much to the delight of the researchers, M added a different aspect to the study; he also served as a math teacher and academic dean to the school. Despite the desire to study the relationship between players and coaches, upon trying to schedule an observation of a basketball practice, it was made clear that this would not be possible given the time constraints for research. The dilemma was imposed to either find a new research location or change the research topic as it applied to M. After much consideration, the decision was made to study how occupying multiple professional roles in a school setting can affect educators.

Data Collection. To collect data, the researchers chose to conduct one non-participatory observation, followed by two separate interviews one week apart. Research began by scheduling an observation via email of M‟s “Descriptive Geometry” class, a lower-level geometry class for students with learning accommodations. For the observation, all three researchers positioned themselves throughout the rear of the room, where they silently observed and took notes for one hour of class time. During the period, M conducted a class-wide assignment review and in-class activity. The first interview was scheduled to take place twelve days after the observation, and the

second interview for the week following that. The interviews were audio recorded on several different devices to avoid technical complications. They were conducted at the school in an empty office, with few interruptions. One researcher led the question asking while the other two continuously took notes. Both interviews were one hour in length and were conducted in two 30-minutes segments. For each segment, a different researcher led questioning. Due to the fact that there were four segments and only three researchers, one researcher led a segment in both interviews.

Data Analysis. Researchers individually amended their field notes, transcribed three different ten-minute segments of interviews, and wrote brief summaries of each complete interview. Transcripts, summaries, and amended field notes were then independently coded for themes. Each researcher then developed possible propositions that were supported with evidence. Themes and propositions were then cross-referenced between researchers in order to determine which propositions were most viable and grounded in the data. The researchers employed a variety of techniques in order to promote internal validity of research. First, investigator triangulation helped to ensure the accuracy and thoroughness of data collected during the observation period. In positioning themselves throughout the room, researchers were able to capture more activity in their notes and minimized the occurrence of mishearing events in the class. Second, methods triangulation likely increased internal validity. Interviews combined with non-participant observation afforded the triangulation of data from multiple perspectives. Third, peer review of preliminary data analysis was conducted by other Master‟s students at Stanford University to verify the quality and value of our claims. Finally, the researchers approached the investigation with a high degree of reflexivity. The awareness of personal biases and the identification of potential subjectivity was constantly addressed and discussed in order to preempt any negative influences that these might have on research.

Proposition 1: He makes adjustments to suit current circumstances A prominent aspect of M‟s approach that was prevalent in the descriptions of all three of his roles was his willingness to make adjustments to suit current circumstances. Situations, whether on the court, in the class, or in the dean‟s office, should be handled one at a time and with an individualized method.

As a coach. This was evident in his approach to coaching, where every practice and every game needed to be addressed differently depending on the current circumstances. When asked how he would describe his behavior during a typical practice, he qualified, “For me I have to kind of gauge where they‟re at, what do they need, how are they at the start of practice?” (Interview 11/03/2010) Depending on the players‟ current condition, he will conduct his practice differently. M not only does this during practices, but during games as well. He described how he adapts his entire coaching persona depending on whether they are playing against an easy opponent or a formidable one:
There are certain teams that you just know our kids will get up for… the kids are gonna play hard. So for me, I really have to control myself. I really have to be under control. Hey look, remember this is just a game… almost everything that‟s not related to basketball… It‟s when we play other teams in the league that we‟re not real interested in, especially if we‟re better than them… those are the games that are most stressful for me, because it‟s my job to get them prepared to play. So those are the games that I‟m all over them. (Interview 11/03/2010)

This example illustrates that during games, many of his actions are shaped by the presiding atmosphere, which in many cases, depends on the caliber of their opponent. M will not walk onto the court and blindly follow through with an intended practice plan or game strategy without first gauging the present circumstances around his players and making necessary adjustments.

As a teacher. In his role as a teacher, as he does when coaching, he strives to make just-in-time adjustments to his lesson plans and classroom goals. He explained to us that, in order to do this

effectively in the classroom, he needs to conduct assessments as efficiently and as frequently as possible:
I make sure that I can assess what they know and don‟t know every day. Need to be able to do that every day and quickly. (Interview 11/10/2010)

In fact, during the observation of his sophomore Descriptive Geometry class, he had each student hand in an index card with geometry problems from the in-class assignment. He used these cards in order to assess their understanding of that lesson‟s material. Assessing his students in this manner enables him to make individualized alterations that seem to play an important role in his approach as an educator. M explained how he prepares for a typical math class:
It‟s a day to day kind of, kind of thing for me… everybody‟s different, every class is gonna be different… I can‟t roll out the same lesson plan that I had last year. I can look back on it to see what did I do, but usually I have to fine-tune it and make little changes here and there. (Interview 11/10/2010)

It is a constant cycle of assessment and adjustment for M, with each assessment informing adjustments and vice-versa. He explained that he has time to reflect on the happenings of each day during his one and a half hour-long drive home. Depending on what happened that day, he will rethink and fine-tune what he had planned for the following day to ensure that no lesson plan will be imposed on a class without first evaluating the surrounding circumstances.

As a dean. In his role as the Assistant Academic Dean, where he addresses students' disciplinary issues, he similarly adjusts his tactics to suit the present circumstances. He explained that although the outcomes for two different students might be the same, the means to that end depend entirely on the student with whom he is dealing:
You know, even when you deal in the Dean‟s office, I might deal with one student different than another. The consequences might be the same, but the way I approach them and have a discussion with them… Maybe it‟s someone I‟ve never seen before. How do you create that relationship with them? (Interview 11/10/2010)

He implements an individualized approach towards discipline, which depends strongly on his relationship with the particular student in question. He also adjusts his approach depending on a student‟s track record. He explained that students can come in to his office with very different transgression profiles, which call for differential action on his part:
Some conversations are longer than others. „This is the first time I‟ve ever seen you before and you‟re a senior, alright, who are you?‟ Or, you‟re the freshman who‟s here for the fourth time in a month – „What‟s the problem?‟ (Interview 11/10/2010)

No two students that come into M‟s dean‟s office are dealt with using the same formula. M does not look at any dean‟s handbook to prescribe consequences for disciplinary issues; instead he considers the surrounding circumstances, treats each student one at a time as an individual case, and makes adjustments accordingly.

Analysis. This general tactic of frequent assessments informing subsequent adjustments, known in pedagogical parlance as Formative Assessment, is generally accepted as efficacious in improving student learning (Bangert-Drowns, Kulik, & Kulik, 1991). M‟s firmly held view that “Everybody‟s different, every class is different, every team is different” (Interview 11/10/2010) has kept him from applying “one size fits all” solutions in any of his roles. As a coach, as a teacher, and as a dean, M uses formative assessments in order to make proper informed adjustments.

Proposition 2: He empowers students to make their own decisions In his role as a coach, as a teacher, and as a dean, M consistently tries to empower and encourage students to make their own decisions. He tries, whenever possible, to treat the students as adults capable of making the right decisions on their own.

As a coach. On the basketball team, the students are responsible for choosing what aspect(s) of their basketball game they want to improve, and selecting the appropriate path towards that goal. When asked about the basketball team‟s training regimen, M explained what he expects from his players:
If you want to do a jump program at school, you can do that. I go, „It‟s your choice, „cause I really don‟t care. I want you to do something that you like to do.‟ „Cause I think really, ultimately, as a teenager, that‟s how you‟re really gonna gain something - something you enjoy doing. (Interview 11/03/2010)

M encourages them to pursue the training that they‟re most interested in – not the training that he thinks is most important – because he presumes they will gain the most from a decision that they made themselves. He gives the students the opportunity to make their own personal development goals while he takes the back seat. M clearly outlined what he considered his role in the players‟ decision-making processes: “I‟m simply here to guide and facilitate, you know, and help them try to reach whatever they want to reach.” (Interview 11/03/2010) As a coach, he gives them an opportunity to experience the sensation of reaching a goal that they have identified rather than one set by traditional external forces (teachers, parents, etc.).

As a teacher. Just as he empowers his players, so too does he empower the students in his classroom to come to their own conclusions and decisions. He tries to avoid treating his students like children. Upon entering the field to do our observation but before entering the classroom, he explained that he “gives the kids an opportunity to act like adults and choose their own chairs” (Amended Field Notes, Aaron, 10/22/2010). During the class, he permitted the students to choose their own groups and allowed them to work at their own pace as long as they eventually got their work done. He also gives the students an opportunity to think critically about how they conduct themselves in the class, and come to their own conclusions about their performance. He shared an anecdote of an instance when some students were working diligently while others were not and what he said to them:

Then you just make a real blanket statement about, „Hey this is your guys‟ education, alright. You guys are not asking me any questions, I‟m assuming you know what you‟re talkin‟ about‟… Even last week I said to the class, „Hey, the people with A‟s in this class are the people that are always asking questions. All you gotta do is look at yourself right now. Are you a person that asks questions in here?... It‟s your education, it‟s on you. I‟m here for you, alright, but at some point you gotta run with it.‟ (Interview 11/10/2010)

In this scenario, he told them that it is their responsibility to ask questions if they don‟t understand something, not his. He explained that there is a relationship between asking questions and academic success, but gave no further instructions. He does not resort to hand-holding, but instead presents the students with the general state of affairs and leaves it to them to take action or not.

As a dean. Similarly, as one of the school‟s disciplinarians, M does not tell the students exactly what to do and what not to do; he leaves it to them to come to the right conclusions. M explains a typical interaction he has with a student who has committed an infraction and winds up in his office:
You have conversations with them… „You‟re at a school with high expectations. Not just academically, not just athletically. I mean, how you behave on and off campus – because you‟re a student here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the next four years… You are a St. Francis Student all the way through.‟ (Interview 11/10/2010)

Rather than lecturing students on what precisely is expected of them or what is mandated by the student handbook, M tries to instill in the students a sense of deeper responsibility. He explained that what he wants is for the kids to develop a maturity through a sense of belonging within the school. In explaining what it is like for new students entering the school, he said, “It‟s supposed to be a college prep school – the kid is supposed to be figuring it out… Like I said, „Take ownership of this place. This is your school.‟” (Interview 11/10/2010) So he not only wants the students to make the right decisions, but to do so for the right reason: out of a sense of responsibility. In his role as a dean, he encourages the students to grow into caring, decision-making young adults rather than people who are able to follow directions.

Analysis. Deci (1971) defined intrinsically motivated behaviors as those for which there is no apparent reward except the activity itself. In all of these arenas then, it seems that M is attempting to instill in the student population an intrinsic motivation to make the right decisions. He does not want his students to behave for the sole reason that they would get in trouble if they did not. If this was the case then what would happen when school was no longer doling out the consequences? His basketball players should choose the right training, his math students should choose to ask questions, and the general student body should choose to behave not because they are being forced to, but because they accept responsibility for their actions. In empowering the students to make these decisions themselves, M is likely increasing their intrinsic motivation to make smart decisions.

Proposition 3: He emphasizes building relationships M makes building relationships a key component to his approach in teaching, coaching, and acting as an academic dean. He believes that through these relationships, he is able to better connect with his students and players:
The big thing for me, in any of those hats, working any of those jobs is, I understand that I have to build a relationship with the kid. If the kid is getting in trouble a lot, what are you gonna do about it? (Interview 11/03/2010).

In attempting to understand their feelings and personal circumstances, M garners more respect from his students, and in turn, his students are more accepting of the decisions and actions in each of his roles.

As a coach. As the varsity head basketball coach at a championship-caliber program, M devotes considerable time to practice, film-study, game preparation, and actual in-game coaching. From his interview responses, it is clear that he also takes opportunities to build relationships with his players

outside of the school environment that may not be possible with his students. In one particular response, he described having players as guests at his house:
We are allowed to workout during the summer, so this summer I had all of my team out to my house. I live in Monterrey county so I live about an hour from here. Um, but we had a shootout down at

[inaudible] high school down in Salinas, so everybody on their way down, they stopped at my house. My wife and I cooked breakfast for everybody. Ya know, I had a couple of their parents come in too, and just, ya know, it's kind of a way to get started and just kind of get on the same page, and a little bit of bonding, and that's the kind of stuff you have to do. (Interview 11/03/2010).

M shares the personal time with family with his players in the service of building relationships with them. In addition, he encourages them to build relationships with each other:
Last Friday, we uh, the guys that don't play football who are already on the team, we sat in the coaches office and we ate pizza before the football game, and then we went out to the football game together, and we watched the football game together... Part of that was to support out teammates, uh, that play football... I'm like, 'Hey look, your teammates need you. Just 'cause they're in a different sport, doesn't mean they don't need you‟ (Interview 11/03/2010).

By encouraging teammates to support one another, M facilitates relationships beyond the basketball court. He wants to lay a solid foundation in the pre-season that will foster the formation of a strong, cohesive unit during the season. In doing so, M hopes to impart to his players the belief that

relationships should be held in the highest regard.

As a teacher. In each of M's geometry classes, he is responsible for daily lesson plans, homework assignments, and administering/grading tests. From observations of his classroom, it is evident that he attempts to approach his students as his equal. The environment in the descriptive geometry classroom can best be described as “controlled chaos” (Amended Field Notes, Leonard, 10/22/2010), but M makes a strong effort to allow his students to communicate even when it is not related curriculum. During observation, he went on a tangent where he told stories about his wife and

children being sick and using Vick‟s Vapor Rub to alleviate the difficulty breathing. By opening up about his family, he is trying to create a safe environment where students would feel comfortable opening up as well. In attempts to show his students he is not as ignorant to their culture as most teachers are suspected to be, he shares his knowledge about music in genres the students listen to:
You know when I'm listening to music in my office and Crossroads come on, you know, and they‟re like, you know, how do you know Bone Thugs? Well, you know, they're from Cleveland... what are you talking about? I'm from Ohio. How do you not know, you know? You know, but, you know but oh yea you listen to that? And I'm like yeah, I mean, you know I grew up on R&B and classic soul with my mom. Umm... 80s...90s...80s rap I was all over Run DMC, and you know, and listened to all that stuff and its like... really, you know? (Interview 11/03/2010).

This example shows how M strives to connect with his students outside of the classroom. He attempts to display knowledge of popular culture to validate his coolness with the students, in hopes of strengthening his relationships.

As a dean. As an assistant academic dean, M is mainly responsible for processing student referrals, counseling and disciplining misbehaving students, and coordinating the supervision of student activities. With far-reaching access to the student body, he is able to build relationships in a variety of settings. He explained how he dealt with two rebellious students at the homecoming:
At the dance, I had an issue with off-campus kids. Our kids are supposed to dance face-to-face – well a couple of kids weren't dancing face-to-face so I went out and addressed I'm walking away and I could feel a kid dancing behind me, right? So I'm like alright – I'm up on the stage, I let it go, people were having their fun. A couple of minutes later I went out and pulled him out, talked to him, right? Well then his buddy decided he wanted to be included in it, right? I say I'm having a conversation with him and I'll speak to you in a second, okay? And it was kind of interesting – so we have a conversation about it, they're two kids who don't go to our school. So then yesterday, I call in their dates. I said do you understand the reflection – I mean how do you guys feel about all of this? (Interview 11/10/2010)

In this instance, he was able to turn student misbehavior into an opportunity for relationship building. When meeting a student in his office for the first time, he sees that as, “…an opportunity to create that relationship” (Interview 11/10/2010). Through the interviews, it was evident that he builds and leverages relationships as a dean to better understand his students‟ situations and discover the real issues. In another example, M explains how he dealt with a freshman student who frequented his office:
I knew he did want to be here 'cause I talked to his counselor. Then you start digging right? Then you go talk to his sister, right, who's a junior here. Then you just start digging and started seeing what's going on with this kid (Interview 11/10/2010).

M shows his true desire to positively impact this student‟s life. Instead of just disciplining the student and allowing him to deal with the consequences, M wants to understand the real issues, and address them accordingly.

Analysis. M tries to positively impact the lives of all of his students and players through relationship building. To effectively do so, he understands that, “They won't give you a chance unless you build that relationship, unless they trust you” (Interview 11/03/2010). His ability to do so in a nonthreatening, genuine manner helps avoid the “we-they” interaction that can initiate a breakdown in communication and encourage bad behavior (Plax & Kearney, 1990). As a coach he attempts to leverage these relationships to build a family-like culture. As a teacher, these relationships are used to create an open environment. As a dean, they are used to discover the issues his students are dealing with.


There is a high level of consistency in M‟s approaches towards all three of his professional educational roles. Despite the disparate and unique requirements of these jobs, he was able to implement the same high-level strategies as a basketball coach, as a math teacher, and as an academic dean. More specifically, in all three of these roles, (1) he made continuous adjustments to suit current circumstances, (2) he empowered students to make their own decisions, and (3) he emphasized the building of relationships with students. In Figure 2, examples are included illustrating each of these practices being employed in each role.
Figure 2: Adapting same approach across multiple roles Coach Adjust in-game emotions based on the players’ attitudes towards their opponent Allows players to choose their own off-season workout regimen Teacher Reflects daily on students’ performance to refine classroom goals and lesson plans Allows students to choose their own seating and groups; puts responsibility on students to determine learning Shares anecdotes about his family life; displays his knowledge of popular culture Academic Dean Considers the transgression profile of students when addressing discipline issues Emphasizes ownership of the high school experience; encourages maturity through sense of belonging Looks at every disciplinary situation as an opportunity to deepen understanding of students

Making continuous adjustments

Empowering students to make their own decisions

Emphasizing building relationships

Invites players as guests at his home; encourages teammates to support each other in other sports

Although M did report a high level of consistency during interviews, this notion could be either overstated or entirely fallacious. As there was no opportunity to observe him in either his role as a coach or as an academic dean, all interview data is analyzed under the assumption that he actually does conduct himself the way that he says he does in those settings. There was an opportunity to observe one of his math classes, but this is by no means sufficiently prolonged an observation period to surely corroborate his claims related to his teaching or to ensure internal validity. It is also possible that he exaggerated this consistency between roles in line with the human tendency towards a consistency bias, one of Schacter‟s “seven sins of memory” (Schacter, Chiao, & Mitchell, 2003). Consistency Bias refers

to the fact that, in hindsight, individuals tend to reshape their impressions of the past in a way that is more consistent with current beliefs. Accordingly, it is possible that M recolored his own practices upon reflecting on them in order to appear more consistent with his belief. This limits the capacity to definitively conclude that this consistency did, in fact, exist. Assuming, though, that he was neither misrepresenting nor exaggerating the extent to which his approaches are consistent between his roles, several tentative implications arise: 1. In training prospective professionals for any of these positions, links should be identified and drawn to other roles. The data indicates, for example, that the technique of using formative assessment can be effectively implemented as both a math teacher and as a basketball coach. Outlining these similarities to novices in a profession promotes transfer and synergistic thinking about that particular technique and how it can be used in an educational setting. 2. For those considering pursuing a second position in an educational setting, there may be a high level of overlap and high number of transferable skills between the two positions. This may be encouraging to those who are concerned that the requirements of a certain second position would be incompatible with their current skill set or belief system. As M explained, he attacks all of his positions in the same way; all three of his positions are fundamentally about building relationships. Therefore, taking on a new position in the educational setting may not necessarily require a significant shift in high-level strategy. 3. It is possible in many different roles in an educational setting to have a profound impact on students. There may be some who doubt their capacity in whatever role they occupy to make a meaningful impact on students, but impact appears to be accomplishable from numerous angles. M encourages the students to take personal responsibility for their skill development as a coach, for their education as a teacher, and for their behavior as a dean. M nurtures his students‟ intrinsic motivation in all three of his roles, despite having unique

requirements for each; he is promoting the development of responsible, self-motivated adults. For those who rhetorically ask, “How can I make a difference?” M is an illustrative example of how the same basic principles can be applied in many different roles. Regrettably, there are many limitations when attempting to generalize these conclusions and implications to others in the field of education, let alone to entirely different disciplines. Tentative conclusions drawn from this particular constellation of roles (coach, teacher, and dean) may not apply to other constellations. Even in the case that another educator does occupy these same three roles, M‟s unique circumstances powerfully shape his approaches. Thus, the above implications should be interpreted in an adequately contextualized fashion. More research is needed on educators who occupy multiple roles and the degree to which approaches that function in one role can be beneficially applied in another. Such research may also uncover certain practices that do not transfer well between professional roles in the education system. The pursuit of this line of research will increase the transparency into the overlap and non-overlap of the demands between various roles in educational settings, and hopefully promote cross-professional sharing and transfer of valuable educational practices.

References Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. C. (1881). Effects of classroom testing. Journal of Educational Research, 85(2), 89-99. Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally medicated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Socialy Psychology, 22, 113-120. Plax, T. G., & earney, P. (1990). Classroom management: Structuring the classroom for work. In J. Daly, G. Friedrich, & A. Vangelesti (Eds.), Teaching communication: Theory, research, and methods (pp. 223-236). Hillsdale, NK: Erlbaum. Schacter, D., Chiao, J., & Mitchell, J. (2003). The Seven Sins of Memory: Implications for Self. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1001(1), 226-239.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful