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Embrace, Expect, Engage, Encourage: The E4 Approach

By Peg Grafwallner
 | Aug 02, 2017

E4 ApproachIn my work as instructional coach/reading specialist, I always make a special point to seek out the student teachers in our building and offer literacy strategies, researched articles and books of best practice.

Recently, a classroom teacher asked me to observe her student teacher. I asked if there was something specific on which the teacher wanted me to focus. Most student teachers (and sometimes seasoned classroom teachers) have a firm grasp of their content, but have a difficult time building classroom community. She looked at me with a wry smile and said, “She wants to be everyone’s friend. She’s afraid to create procedures because she thinks the kids won’t like her.”

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Our rational brain tells us we need routines and procedures to keep our students motivated and safe. However, our irrational brain doesn’t want to disappoint or cause conflict, so we might allow the silliness. It can be a difficult compromise—especially for a student teacher who might be only five or six years older than her senior students. Most student teachers haven’t yet crafted “the look” or haven’t yet acquired “the voice.” It takes time to cultivate a persona, and when one is still learning the science, the art can take a back seat.

I met with the student teacher prior to the observation. I demonstrated the resource I would use to gather data. The resource entitled, The E4 Approach, encourages the observer to propose ideas, suggestions and notes of support in a non-evaluative way.

The E4 Approach focuses on four major components: Embrace, Expect, Engage and Encourage. The guiding questions are meant as a way for the observer to notice, ask or wonder about a specific component.

The framework encourages flexibility. The individual who is being observed is welcome to use the questions listed, or encouraged to create questions depending upon the emphasis or purpose of the lesson.  Of course, the observer doesn’t need to respond to all of the Guiding Questions and can omit the ones that are irrelevant for the particular observation; or the observer can create other questions more relevant to the particular lesson.

The student teacher appreciated my introduction of The E4 Approach and was eager to read what I would write. She felt the questions were valuable and commented that she would “love” my suggestions for engagement since “I feel I’m running out of ideas.”  

In closing, I created The E4 Approach as a means to support and assist each other in becoming the very best teachers. Perhaps this document could be used as a way to observe our peers, offering suggestions when teaching a new lesson or giving ideas on increasing student engagement? However you decide to use it, think of it as an opportunity for emphasis, examination and ultimately, excitement for professional growth.

Download The E4 Approach template here

Peg GrafPeg Grafwallner is an instructional coach with Milwaukee Public Schools. Learn more about Peg on her website.


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  1. Nadia | Aug 13, 2017

    Hi Peg,

    Engaging students is a constant struggle.  Often times, student engagement in the classroom is in direct competition with students' technology oriented games and leisure activities outside of the classroom.  The E4 Approach you addressed in your post seems to be an ideal answer in colleagues helping each other find solutions and professionally grow as well as helping students.  I wonder what successes you have noticed in using the E4 Approach in urban educational settings?


  2. Kyle | Aug 07, 2017

    Hello Peg.

    I am a new educator, just entering the profession after 20 years of working for the state.

    I love the E4 Approach, with its emphasis on motivating the student and producing engagement in our students.

    In readings for the courses I am taking, I have found that subjects related to creating motivation and increasing engagement have resonated with me. I appreciate the E4 Approach because it allows us to communicate our compassion and concern for our students, engage with them in the educational process, and helps us to create an encouraging, and positive educational environment in our class room.

    Are there any suggestions you have to help a new teacher who wants to motivate students who are in at-risk populations? My goal is to create life-long learners, and instill a love for reading in my students.



  3. Robert Ward | Aug 07, 2017
    I love the concise and practical nature of the E4 approach, Peg! For any teacher, the guiding questions and feedback put teachers at ease and in the driver's seat. No wonder the student teacher was eager to receive your support! 

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