Last month I wrote about the research supporting coaching and how critical the role of coaching is for the application of new or refining practice in the classroom. Research indicates (Joyce and Showers 2002) that instructional coaching is critical for application into classrooms. In fact, when demonstration and practice with feedback (coaching) is added to the theory (traditional workshop), application in classrooms goes from 5% to 95%. So what does coaching mean and how does this approach accomplish such a significant shift?
What does a coach do?
Jim Knight, a prominent researcher on instructional coaching summarizes… “a good coach is an excellent teacher and is kind-hearted, respectful, patient, compassionate and honest. A good coach has high expectations and provides the affirmative and honest feedback that help people to realize those expectations “(Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction, Jim Knight, 2007). The key phrases for me are having respect and high expectations for teachers. The affirmation and feedback to achieve high expectations seem to be how to support teachers. While the focus is on the teacher, the outcome is the desire to have the students get the most from their experience within the classroom.
Coaching may mean working with teachers to use a particular approach within a specific content area (for example, specific strategy or approach encountered in traditional workshop or reading) or they may work to improve general instructional practices or to promote a more reflective, collaborative and professional culture among the faculty. In order to support their work with teachers coaches need to have pedagogical knowledge, content expertise, and interpersonal capabilities. A coach needs to have knowledge regarding working with adults, change process and system organization. They need to develop respectful and trusting relationships. A coach may model, observe and provide data or feedback. They might suggest resources, including peers or alternative strategies. The goal is to empower another person through their reflections to become better at their craft. So the art of coaching includes feedback, objective data and guiding opportunities for reflection.
What might coaching look like?
Coaching can take many forms. It might be a peer, it might be someone with specific role within a district, it might be a staff developer or teacher trainer from BOCES. Coaching generally includes prior goals or focus established, data gathering and a protocol to structure a reflection—which leads to the process starting again as the bar raises for ever improving practice. Coaching can be approached from a virtual or in-person approach. The Teaching Channel has videos demonstrating a couple of ways coaching might be approached.
Additionally, Elena Aquilar has blogged on instructional coaching and the conditions and qualities for successful coaching.
Why does this model work?
Jim Knight and his colleagues at University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning have conducted research indicating teaching is complex and difficult and that teachers frequently require additional support to implement changes in practice. Their research indicates that coaching can be one of those ways. Still to be answered in my mind is the why. Perhaps, the why is common sense? Just as in learning or refining any skill (such as my recent attempt to recreate a family recipe) it takes multiple trials with dollops of feedback to shape the end result.
What are your experiences with instructional coaching?