Bracket-ology and Coaching

Coaching Articles - Essays for coaches

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Use Final Four brackets to support teachers in thinking about their instructional priorities. This exercise offers teachers an opportunity to reflect on their philosophies and practices and examine the places these competing areas may or may not align. To read more about Coaching Matters, click here.

Bracket-ology and Coaching

by Jan Burkins

In the wake of the Final Four of college basketball, I ran across The Final Four of Everything on the $2.00 table in a bookstore. I bought it up for my son who worships in the church of basketball. When I perused the book, however, I realized it was a resource which offered rich opportunities.

We are daily faced with myriad choices in various aspects of our lives: Which tasks around the house are most important? Which book should I read first? How will I spend today? What do I want my students to learn? For a profound reflective experience, use one of the aforementioned questions, or any question that is relevant for you, and negotiate your way through The Brackets.

The Final Four of Everything takes an array of topics ranging from roller coasters to board games to iconic photographs. For each topic, the editors, Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir, enlist an expert in that field to complete the series of brackets and identify the "best" in that category. I was pleased to discover they had included "Best Children's Book," as "bracketed" by John Sceiszka.


With 150 sets of brackets by 150 experts, this book has something in it for everyone, which was sufficient validation for my purchase. But this was only the beginning, because this is an idea book. As I explored bracketology, I began to consider the ways that brackets might help teachers and coaches examine their practices. So I asked Cameron to try using brackets to figure out what he wants to teach his students. I told him to think broadly and to brainstorm in the columns down either side. Cameron considered everything from multiplication facts to a sense of community, from reading comprehension to social responsibility, from measurement to empathy. Click here to see the Cameron's brackets.

Since purchasing The Final Four of Everything, I have used the brackets with groups of teachers and literacy coaches. Without fail, participants have found the exercise stimulating and logical conversations about aligning our actions with our stated priorities tend to follow. You can employ bracketology to build learning communities (Who am I?), to prioritize instruction within content areas (What do we want students to learn about memoir?), help teachers plan for their professional growth (What professional learning do I want this year?), or as a needs assessment in a new coaching position as you gather information from teachers (What do I need from my coach?).