Designing and Implementing Instructional Coaching
Instructional coaching can improve teachers’ efficacy in the classroom and student achievement. There are many approaches to designing and implementing an instructional coaching model. Providing explicitness for the model can result in successful implementation and continuity.
Articulate a Vision
It is helpful to remember that instructional coaching is one form of professional development that can serve teachers. A benefit to instructional coaching is the timeliness. It is a job-embedded, ongoing, personalized approach to professional learning. Additionally, how the vision is articulated is key in building a culture that values the coaching impact cycle. The vision that is agreed on should be one that is understood and accessible to everyone on the campus. In other words, it is not reserved only for instructional coaches and administrators. A vision statement articulates “what will be true” as a result of implementing instructional coaching. A vision statement also answers the question, “Why do we need a coaching program?” A few sentence frames can be used to create a rough draft vision statement and generate a starting point for collecting potential ideas surrounding the implementation of instructional coaching.
The vision for instructional coaching in __________ISD is to establish a culture of __________to impact __________.
The vision for instructional coaching in __________ISD will impact teaching by __________.
Here is an example of a completed sentence frame:
Instructional coaching in Anywhere ISD improves instructional outcomes and teacher retention through feedback and reflective practices.
Choose a Model
There are several approaches to coaching that will influence how the model is developed. Developing a clear instructional coaching model adds transparency to the process so that it is understood by all participants. A clear model also ensures fidelity and continuous improvement.
One approach to coaching is for the coach to establish a relationship between teacher and coach that is collegial and collaborative. In the collaborative coaching relationship, coaches listen, encourage, and ask questions. However, they do not share their expertise or determine pathways to improvement. The assumption is that teachers have the expertise needed to improve. The coach is a sounding board for ideas that the teacher has to make decisions and improve.
Another approach to coaching supports teachers as they work to learn from the expertise of others. The coach provides modeling, and teachers strive to follow the model. Teachers maintain fidelity to the model provided by the coach, and are then given feedback from the coach so that they can follow the coach’s lead.
Yet another approach focuses on clear and open communication between the coach and the teacher. In this approach, the coach asks questions and works with teachers to set goals. The back and forth dialogue encourages teachers to make instructional decisions. In this approach, the coach shares effective teaching strategies that uphold best practices. Coaches do not do the thinking for teachers, they allow teachers to make informed decisions with more information. The coaches also strive to support teachers as they modify instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. The focus is on discussing how to implement an instructional decision, and then engaging in reflection and feedback after implementation occurs.
Creating a Culture of Learning
Prior to the implementation of a coaching model, the culture of a campus should be conducive for adult learning. For example, teachers and coaches will benefit from job-embedded learning, collaborative planning, action research, using protocols for professional learning communities, and protocols for examining student work relative to predetermined rubrics. Creating a culture of learning begins with a mindset that available time is centered on improving instruction that will lead to student achievement. Faculty meetings can be a time to disburse information, but it can also be a time to focus on study group articles and scientifically-based research articles. When the culture ignites curiosity for learning, teachers and coaches will be receptive to learning more about how instructional coaching can provide a methodology for professional growth and learning. If teachers have not previously been engaged in a culture that supports learning, this groundwork could be beneficial before introducing an instructional coaching model.
Clear goals can also support the introduction of instructional coaching to a campus or district. Strong goals are specific, measurable, attainable, results-based, and timely. The implementation of strong, clear goals can be monitored because there is so much clarity surrounding what is to be accomplished. Here is an example of a goal that might be in place for the implementation of instructional coaching:
90% of teachers will rate coaching as a positive experience in an end-of-the-year survey after engaging in four coaching cycles throughout the year.
In addition to setting goals, monitoring progress of implementation is also important. This can be accomplished through short online surveys and anecdotal data.
Hiring Instructional Coaches
Before hiring instructional coaches, it might be beneficial to create a rubric of criteria that will align with the skill set that supports the vision and goals. Some components on the rubric might include an understanding of adult learning, the ability to engage in reflective conversations, a high level of social-emotional intelligence, the ability to build relationships, the ability to suspend judgments, and the ability to recognize and manage emotions.
Studying how instructional coaching can lead to improved instructional efficacy for teachers and instructional gains for students can build confidence and understanding. Professional learning can occur through a book study, online videos, article study, an action research cohort, face-to-face professional development, and opportunities to practice skills. Practicing skills can include engaging in a coaching conversation, active listening, or responding to the emotions of others.
The strategic implementation of an instructional coaching model must include time for planning and setting the stage for a culture of learning. When all stakeholders understand the process and the goals, implementation can occur strategically and a successful vision can be upheld.