Edtech ReviewThe Instructional Playbook: The Missing Link for Translating Research into Practice

Hey, what’s going on everybody? Today’s edutech review looks at a book that is worth the time of every instructional coach or technology integrator out there. 

And, I would really make the push that building and district leaders read this book. 

Why? It presents a vision for how coaches or technology integrators can be used to support instruction in classrooms. School leaders could adopt these visions and maximize the effectiveness of their instructional support staff. 

So, if you are any of these people, sit back and take a few minutes to see why today’s book can be helpful to your efforts. 

The book I’m going to talk about today isThe Instructional Playbook: The Missing Link for Translating Research into Practice by Jim Knight, Ann Hoffman, Michelle Harris, and Sharon Thomas. 

Before I get into my review, I thought I would start with why I wound up reading this book. 

One of the questions that has been on my mind over the summer and into the first part of the school year is how, in a post-pandemic instruction, do I continue as a technology integrator, help teachers to improve blended learning and instructional technology use? And, the answer that I’m chewing on is this: Maybe I just keep doing what I’ve been doing. Because, my philosophy has always been to put instruction and learning first, and then think about how tech can support learning outcomes. And, maybe the best thing that I can do is help people focus on good instructional practice. But, how do I focus on good instructional practices? And, honestly, being concise and clear is something that I can always work on. 

So, with that idea in mind, I was fortunate to get connected with this title. 

Now, if you know me, I’m a huge fan of Jim Knight. While some people have concerts they want to go to as bucket list items, attending an Instructional Coaching Group conference is a bucket list item for me. 

First, I think it’s important to note what The Instructional Playbook  is not. It is not a set of pre-packaged plays that can be taken and used by teachers and schools. I’m aware that people love the turnaround, prepacked resources–something that can be used the following day in a classroom or faculty meeting. In a world where anyone can go onto Teachers Pay Teachers, find materials for a few bucks, download and push them out in their LMS, it’s  unfortunate that too often the criteria educators have for good instructional materials is how nice they look in a Pinterest board, or how little effort would be needed to make the material work in a classroom [excuse my snark]. If these are your criteria, this is not the book for you. 

What is The Instructional Playbook? A playbook, as Knight and his co-writers describe, is a concise document that contains the core strategies instructional leaders will use to convey best practices to teachers. And, it lays out the process of how districts should create these books. 

After reading this book, you’re going to find that the hard work is really just beginning. Each chapter lays out a distinct step in creating a playbook. The underlying philosophy, the summary steps, reflective questions, and some further resources. 

Now, there are several examples of what other districts created for playbooks and the one-page plays that y is advocating for. The whole final section of the book is dedicated to examples of other playbooks. I walked away with ideas for how this would need to look. However, thinking about this, not having lots of plays to pick up and work with makes total sense. The playbook has to be crafted within the context of a district, its teachers, the learning outcomes teachers are seeking, and the needs of the students. Taking someone else’s playbook and using it, makes just as much sense as Josh Allen using Tom Brady’s plays. Or, buying something from “Teachers Pay Teachers” and simply giving it to students without any consideration for how it meets their needs.

The book gives a process of how to create a playbook, the questions that instructional leaders need to ask, and lots of rationale and outcome of what a good playbook would look like at the end. With this book in hand, professional developers and district administrators could guide excellent conversations with their people to create such a handbook. What a great book to use as a year-long book study. 

My favorite part of this book is The Instructional one-pagers. Remember–I’m thinking alot about how I can hone my edtech coaching around thinking about instruction. The one-pager, a concise description of a research-based strategy, its implementation by teachers and success criteria for students, is the crystallization of this thinking about instruction. 

What’s my takeaway from this book–it’s given me some inspiration to create 1 page technology tips. You’ve probably seen some of them on my blog already, and while they aren’t exactly what’s described in the book, they’re a work in progress. I hope you’ll take some time to read The Instructional Playbook and be inspired by it as I was. 

Thanks. See you soon.