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Better Conversations

Better Conversations
Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected

First Edition
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October 2015 | 256 pages | Corwin

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“I thought I knew how to have a conversation; I’ve had millions of them.  Some were good, others not so much so. But I want to have GREAT conversations, and Jim Knight has taught me how. The proof is in: better conversations are possible and the results are worth the investment.”
Coauthor of Rigorous Reading and Unstoppable Learning

Because conversation is the lifeblood of any school
You don’t want this book—you need this book. Why this confident claim? Think about how many times you’ve walked away from school conversations, sensing they could be more productive, but at a loss for how to improve them.

Enter instructional coaching expert Jim Knight, who in Better Conversations honors our capacity for improving our schools by improving our communication. Asserting that our schools are only as good as the conversations within them, Jim shows us how to adopt the habits essential to transforming the quality of our dialogues. 

As coaches, as administrators, as teachers, it’s time to thrive. Learn how to:

  • Coach ourselves and each other to become better communicators
  • Listen with empathy 
  • Find common ground 
  • Build Trust

Our students’ academic, social, and emotional growth depends upon our doing this hard work. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, open our minds, and dare to change for the better of the students we serve. You can get started now with Better Conversations and the accompanying Reflection Guide to Better Conversations.

About the Author
Chapter 1: Radical Brokenness and Better Conversations
Chapter 2: The Better Conversations Beliefs
Chapter 3: Listening With Empathy
Chapter 4: Fostering Dialogue
Chapter 5: Asking Better Questions
Chapter 6: Connecting
Chapter 7: Finding Common Ground
Chapter 8: Redirecting Toxic Words and Emotions
Chapter 9: Building Trust
Study Participants


“I thought I knew how to have a conversation; I’ve had millions of them. Some were good, others not so much so. But I want to have GREAT conversations, and Jim Knight has taught me how. The proof is in: better conversations are possible and the results are worth the investment.”

Douglas Fisher
Co-author of Rigorous Reading and Unstoppable Learning

“Better Conversations stimulates the mind, spirit, and soul of those who coach, regardless of their role or position, by unpacking and reshaping the mental models that drive how they think, speak, and act. . . I found myself frequently thinking about how helpful this book will be to nearly every human who interacts with others whether in school or beyond.”

Joellen Killion
Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

“I read more education books than I care to admit.  Some are good, some are bad, and very few are great.  Jim Knight’s book Better Conversations is BRILLIANT!  Insightful, innovative, and practical are the three words that kept coming to me when I was reading and learning from his book.  Jim treats the subject of communication as an art and gives all of us, regardless of position or years of experience, practical ways to use our voice to improve the teaching and learning environment, as well as ourselves!” 

Russell J. Quaglia
President/Founder, Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations

“Better Conversations is just what the title says. Jim Knight moves learning conversations ahead for educators to deepen trust, meaning, and actions. He summarizes current thinking from multiple authors that will make learning for adults and students better. Activities at the end of each chapter can be used for self-reflection, team learning, and schoolwide focus on learning. The vignettes are real issues in schools, which makes this book very important for our profession.”

William Sommers
Retired Principal & Leadership Coach, Austin, Texas

“Doing the Better Conversation study, I think I have started to see a better version of myself, and who doesn’t want that? . . .

Ben Collins
Assistant Principal, Maine, Illinois

“The Better Conversations process pushed me to video record myself in the same way that I ask others to engage in video protocols with the purpose of deeper understanding. Reflecting on my experiences felt like a gift I gave myself. I actually savored the time and experience of answering questions and considering my strengths as well as areas in which I can grow.”

Michelle Murray
Instructional Literacy Coach in Anacortes School District, Anacortes, Washington

“I find that I am using the Better Conversations process in all walks of life, not just in professional coaching. I am seeing aspects of my personal life differently because I am focusing on what I can do to control my reactions to situations. It is forcing me to think more about practicing what I preach.”

Ron Lalonde
Middle School Principal, American School of Dubai

“I’ve learned a lot by reading through the materials, practicing the activities, and changing entrenched responses. I have slowed down, learned to listen, and become keenly aware of choices I have in communicating with those I come in contact. This has become a very empowering series of skills.”

Julie Coburn
Coach at Young Women's Academy, Portland, Oregon

“I have been able to carry these practices into conversations with my children, which is really making for some great dialogue. When I talk to them and not judge what they say and truly listen and treat them as equals in the conversation, I find that they share more with me.”

Nicole Patton
Instructional Coaching, Heartland AEA, Johnston, Iowa

“Video forced me to take a hard look at my coaching skills and practices, as well as my relationships with the staff I work with. I have realized the true power of video through watching myself interact with others, and it has made me more willing and excited to continue using video to improve my communication skills.”

Shana Olson
Instructional Coach at Hillside Elementary, West Des Moines, Iowa
Key features
(1) Grounded in Knight's hallmark "Partnership Principles," this book is designed to help K-12 professionals, including coaches and supervisors, improve their effectiveness through better listening, trust-building, and engaging in true dialogue.

(2) Unique instructional design that lends itself to "self-coaching" through video recording as well as peer and team coaching designs.

(3) Includes an array of self-assessment tools and templates to help readers monitor their progress.

(4) Written in Knight's characteristic inspirational style, this book honors educators as professionals and motivates them to achieve their "personal best."

Sample Materials & Chapters

Looking Back: Fostering Dialogue Worksheet

Looking At: Fostering Dialogue Worksheet, Part 1

Looking At: Fostering Dialogue Worksheet, Part 2

Communication Survey

The Power of Clear Explanations Blog Post, Radical Learners

The Power of Listening Blog Post, Radical Learners

Habit 3

Chapter 4: Fostering Dialogue

Lesson 1: Responding to Reading

Lesson 2: Writing Fiction for Readers

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Cultural Proficiency: The Conceptual Framework and Tools

Chapter 1: Are You a Change Agent?

Chapter 2: Assembling Your Crew

Chapter 1: Disrupting Pedagogy

Chapter 2: Mentoring Readers

Chapter 1: Becoming Expert Educators

Chapter 2: Partnerships with and for Learners

Chapter 1. The Selection of a Research Approach

Chapter 2. Review of the Literature

Chapter 1. Develop a Relationship With Your Child

Chapter 2. Hug, Rock, and Love Your Child

Chapter 1: Starting With Our Students and Ourselves

Chapter 2: Integrating the Regulations and Principles

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Foundations of Dual Language Programs

Chapter 1: On the Teaching of Souls Toward Long-Term Flourishing

Chapter 2: The Five Key Beliefs: How They Work

Chapter 1: Wisdom Helps You Grow

Chapter 2: Getting Started ~ Create A Community Of Learners


Chapter 1: Success Starts With Understanding Needs

Chapter 2: What’s Going on Here: Barriers and Strengths


Chapter 1: How Students Learn Languages

Chapter 2: Apprenticeship Experiences in Small Groups


Module 1. Engagement—From Disrupting to Driving Learning

Module 2. Learners Know Their Current Level of Understanding


Chapter 1: Demographics and Determinants

Chapter 2: Age and Stage


Chapter 1: An Affirming Shift

Chapter 2: Instructional Framework For Experienced Multilinguals


Principle 1: Create a Culture That Engages Every Family

Principle 2: Communicate Effectively and Develop Relationships

Chapter 1: Writing Fitness

Chapter 2: Writing Warmups

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Feedback From the Perspective of the Learner

Chapter 2: Constructive-Developmental Theory: A New Lens on Social Justice Capac

Chapter 1: Introducing a Developmental Model for Justice-Centering Educational L

Chapter 1: What Does It Mean to Be Good at Math?

Chapter 2: Beyond Numbers and Equations

Chapter 1: The Foundations of Scaffolding

Chapter 2: The Origins of Scaffolding


Principle 1: Gather Information

Principle 2: Control What You Can


Chapter 1: What Is Critical Comprehension?

Chapter 2: Exploring Identities


Chapter 1: The Case for Teaching Critical Reading and Fighting Fake News

Chapter 2: Fake News: What It Is, Why It Works, and What We Can Start Doing Abou


Chapter 1: Learning About Multilingual Learners


Chapter 2: Climate for Learning

Chapter 1: Know Yourself

Chapter 2: Stereotype Threat


Pillar 1. The Journey to Self-Mastery

Pillar 2. Adaptive Leadership



Chapter 1: Element 1: Understand the Components of Research-Informed Project-Bas

Chapter 2: Element 2: Understand the Basics of the CASEL 5 (for SEL) and Emotion

Chapter 1: Personal Considerations

Chapter 2: The Dissertation Terrain

Chapter 1: What Makes Grading So Difficult to Talk About (and Even Harder to Cha

Chapter 2: A Brief History of Grading


Chapter 1: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Chapter 2: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith


Chapter 1: Purpose: Why Am I Writing This?

Chapter 2: Audience: Who Am I Writing This For?

Chapter 1: Meet the Editors

Chapter 2: Alignment and Assessment

For instructors

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