Why Instructional Coaching?

Many educators may not know that OCM BOCES offers instructional coaching support through two pathways: networking and capacity building to district based instructional coaches through an instructional coaches collaborative and directly supplying coaching experiences through Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (CI&A) department. Why do we offer the dual approach? It is because research shows us that too often in education there is a knowing and doing gap. Educators may read research, learn techniques, discuss instructional design and delivery yet implementation is not always consistent. In fact, as with any new learning or adaptation, it is easy to revert to the known when time is short, challenges emerge, exhaustion sets in or colleagues go a different path. Further research indicates that coaching support can help to off-set the knowing-doing gap. Actually, we have known this for over 15 years as research from Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers in 2002 indicates professional development design has five primary delivery approaches:
• Theory: background on the what and why
• Demonstration: model on how it can be done in practice
• Practice: teachers have opportunity to try
• Feedback: providing feedback on teacher use
• Coaching: combined with feedback, assist teachers to determine what to do next to improve practice

In fact, when they reviewed over 200 professional development programs, they found that teachers could provide data indicating that they learned concepts, and intended to implement the new practice in their classrooms. However, in most cases within a few weeks, the teachers had either not followed through or had returned to previous teaching practices. But, when we look deeper at the research we find that as Paul Harvey used to say, “there is more to the story…” In fact, when examining the delivery designs we find that there is a significant difference between delivery design of the professional development and teacher application within the classroom. In order to have results, we find that we need the accumulation of all the delivery designs and that coaching with feedback tips the practice into application.

PD Delivery Design Teacher Report Knowledge of Content Teacher Report Ability to Implement Skill Teacher  Application in the Classroom
Theory through presentation 10% 5% 0%
Theory plusdemonstration 30% 20% 0%
Theory, demonstration pluspractice opportunities 60% 60% 5%
Theory, demonstration, practice plus feedback and coaching 95% 95% 95%

Joyce and Showers, 2002

In summary, there is a significantly higher rate of application of these skills when teachers are provided opportunities that embed theory, demonstration, practice plus feedback and coaching.

Furthermore, Jim Knight and his colleagues at University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning 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. So what does this mean for educators? It seems to indicate that while we need to continue to develop opportunities for teachers to come together for background and theory with embedded demonstrations and practice, we need to look at instructional coaching as part of the job of teaching and not as “an extra.”

So if coaching is essential for educators to continue to refine their craft, what is coaching?

Jim Knight, a prominent researcher on instructional coaching summarizes… “ 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). While the focus is on the teacher, the outcome is student learning.

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.

So What?

From this research we know that effective instructional coaches play an integral role in a comprehensive professional development system by providing the supports needed for new and improved instructional practices to emerge.

Change can be difficult for individuals, systems and organizations. The coaching model of professional development can help to sustain both immediate and long-term change. Accordingly to Elena Aguilar in her book The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation coaching “can lead to the transformation of our education system and the experiences and outcomes of the children it is meant to serve” (Aguilar, 16).

However, development of effective coaches is complex and constant-it is not a skill one arrives at and stays there but rather, is a journey of constant growth. This year, in Instructional Support Services, staff providing coaching support are embracing multiple opportunities to sharpen our skills through work with Elaina Aguilar‘s group and directly with Jim Knight. Please ask us about our journey!

Radicello_Lynn_WEBLynn Radicello
Director, Support and Technical Assistance

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