Instructional coaching is increasingly recognized in education as the most effective form of on-the-job, relevant support available to teachers. The primary purpose of an instructional coach is to build instructional capacity in teachers. In order to do that, great instructional coaches use a student-focused lens to provide a continuous improvement system for teachers via goal-setting, formal and informal observation, feedback, reflection, and collaborative action planning. By supporting teachers to reflect on and improve their teaching, effective coaches can change teacher practice, improve student achievement, build teachers' content knowledge and content-specific skills, and help facilitate whole-school improvement initiatives.
Research shows that high-quality instructional coaching has an impressive impact on teacher growth. Studies dating back four decades show that new skills transfer into teacher practice only 5-15% of the time after one-off workshops as compared to 85-95% of the time when ongoing instructional coaching is provided (Cornett & Knight 2008). As a result, school leaders are increasingly turning to instructional coaches to support teacher practice and, ultimately, improve student results.
One of the most important elements of instructional coaching is to put in place a productive, collaborative, and non-threatening observation and feedback cycle that supports teacher development and growth. At BetterLesson, we believe the most effective observation and feedback cycle uses the Try-Measure-Learn (TML) methodology. The TML coaching method works within any formal or informal observation system, supporting educators to try a new strategy in their classroom environment, measure its effectiveness, and then learn from the results. The learn part of the process helps to determine the next steps for the participant, thus launching each successive TML cycle. After instructional coaches observe a classroom, they can provide additional ideas about which instructional strategies might work, observe how well those strategies are working with students, and collaboratively reflect with the teacher on what they learned in order to identify next steps for improving student learning.
Why it's important
Like teachers, even the best instructional coaches need up-front training and ongoing opportunities to improve their practice. Often, coaches have few opportunities for professional development or structured opportunities to share challenges and reflect on what's working in their practice with peers in similar roles. At BetterLesson, our coaches and resources support school- and district-based coaches to:
Implement systems of frequent, low-stakes observations
Support teachers to set meaningful goals that promote student learning and growth
Give teachers targeted, actionable feedback on their practice
Support teachers to try high-leverage instructional strategies in service of their goals
Build teacher capacity to analyze student work and data in order to track their students' progress
Provide opportunities for teachers to regularly reflect on their own growth.
What success looks like
The goal of Instructional Coaching is to support teachers to improve their teaching practice in order to drive student learning. The observation and feedback cycle is designed to improve the quality of instruction by giving teachers meaningful feedback about their practice and supporting them to implement that feedback in order to grow and develop as educators. This cycle facilitates sustainable, continuous improvement for educators by aligning incremental, measurable shifts in educator practice to a desired student outcome.
BetterLesson Blog Posts:
Bertrand, Romain. Looking Back to Better Look Ahead PRO: A 3-Step Collaborative Protocol to Support Meaningful Reflections. December 20, 2018.
Lu, Tina. How one school leader used BetterLesson Coaching to Catalyze Practice Change. October 4, 2018.
Rucker, Katya. How to Maximize (and Limit) Coach Effectiveness. September 11, 2018.
Rucker, Katya. Four Indicators of Strong Instructional Coaching. August 9, 2018.
Mason, Julie. 4 Tips for Making your Coaching Experience Impactful. July 23, 2018.
Kravetz, Meirav. The Coach and Teacher Dance. July 10, 2018.
Rucker, Katya. Three Factors that Make or Break Instructional Coaching. July 3, 2018.
Belknap, Cheryl. What Makes Coaching Effective? 7 Tips for School Administrators. June 7, 2018.
Mason, Julie. Worth Every Penny: Three Reasons Why Instructional Coaching Is More Effective Than Any Other PD. May 3, 2018.
Kennefick, Kelly.Backwards Planning: A Powerful Strategy for Instructional Coaching. May 1, 2018.
Bertrand, Romain. Three Ways Coaching Helps Change Habits. February 7, 2018.
Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., Gardner, M. "Effective Teacher Professional Development." Learning Policy Institute. 2017.
EL Education. "Coaching for Change: Student-Centered Coaching."
EL Education. "Two Approaches to Coaching." 2015.
Killion, Joellen. "Meta-analysis reveals coachingâs positive impact on instruction and achievement." The Learning Professional. 2017.
Knight, Jim. "Coaching." National Staff Development Council. 2009.
Knight, J. & Cornett, J. "Research on Coaching." 2008.
Kraft, M.A., Blazar, D., Hogan, D. "The effect of teaching coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence." Brown University Working Paper. 2016.
Sweeney, Diane. "Student-Centered Coaching Toolkit." Diane Sweeney Consulting.
Sweeney, Diane. "What is Student-Centered Coaching?" Diane Sweeney Consulting. 2010.