Skeptical about Instructional Coaching? Make Sure You’re Doing It Right

When this EdSurge article popped up in one of the education SmartBriefs I follow, you won’t be surprised to learn that I alerted! Here’s the summary:

Want Transformational Teachers? Here’s Why Change Starts With Coaches
The Dynamic Learning Project, supported by Google for Education, Digital Promise and EdTechTeam, was launched to showcase the value of effective coaching on teachers. In this commentary, Jennie Magiera, EdTechTeam’s Chief Program Officer, describes the project’s work and its findings.

I’m impressed with the credibility that Magiera – a former district leader charged with supporting instructional coaches – brings to this work. She learned on the front lines that “tell/listen” models of coaching aren’t very effective. “Our coaches needed to be activated as change management leaders to truly make transformational change across their schools,” she says, and that meant offering an effective professional learning support system for the coaches as well.

As Alabama school and district leaders prepare for the upcoming school year, they might think about investing wisely in well-prepared and well-supported instructional coaches.

As Magiera’s article attests, investing in instructional coaching has multiple benefits including:

  1. Supporting the development or strengthening of growth mindsets among the faculty.
  2. Connecting teacher goals to the larger school and district goals.
  3. Demonstrating strong and visible support for teachers as they strive to grow more and serve all their students.

3 Characteristics of Good Coaching Programs

As we’ve learned through ABPC’s Instructional Partners Network, there is an art to establishing and sustaining a productive instructional coaching program.

First, it is critical to select someone with the right temperament for the role. The right  individual operates from a partnership stance, builds psychological safety among colleagues, and demonstrates a true desire to learn as well as share.

Second, protecting the time of the instructional coach is imperative. School leaders must resist the urge to use her/him as an AP, a test administrator, or in other admin roles. Coaches need time to coach, and the investment won’t pay off unless they are given that time.

ABPC’s professional learning experiences emphasize a collaborative partnership approach.

Third, coaches want and need their own opportunities for growth. Just like other professionals, instructional coaches will benefit from a support network specifically designed around their work – in our case, a collegial learning community devoted to coaching. We’ve watched so many instructional partners/coaches thrive if and when their learning is also a priority.

What are your views? After reading the EdSurge article, what ideas/thoughts might you add to the importance and value of instructional coaches? Use the comments here or at our Facebook and Twitter posts.

Cathy Gassenheimer is Executive Vice President of the Alabama Best Practices Center.