Instructional Coaching

What is Instructional Coaching?

Instructional coaches (ICs) partner with teachers to help them improve teaching and learning so students become more successful. To do this, ICs collaborate with teachers to get a clear picture of current reality, identify goals, pick teaching strategies to meet the goals, monitor progress, and problem-solve until the goals are met.

The coach/teacher relationship is founded on the following seven partnership principles:

  1. Equality: In partnerships, one partner does not tell the other what to do; both partners share ideas and make decisions together as equals. Coaches whose interactions embody equality have faith that the teachers they work with bring a lot to any interaction, and they listen with empathy.
  2. Choice: Taking away choice and telling others that they must act a certain way usually guarantees that they will not want to do what we propose. As the saying goes, "When you insist, they will resist." Coaches who act on the principle of choice positions teachers as the final decision makers, as partners who choose their coaching goals and decide which practices to adopt and how to interpret data.
  3. Voice: Conversation with a coach should be as open and candid as conversation with a trusted friend. When coaches follow the principle of voice, they expect to learn from their collaborating teachers, and the teachers they coach feel safe expressing what they think and feel. When coaches live out the principle of voice, teachers know that their opinion matters.
  4. Dialogue: When people are partners, their conversation is often a dialogue, a conversation where everyone's ideas are shared through back-and-forth interactions. Coaches who foster dialogue balance advocacy with inquiry. They actively seek out others' ideas, and they share their own ideas in a way that makes it easy for others to share what they think. Dialogue helps instructional coaches set themselves up as thinking partners.
  5. Reflection: Learning often involves the messy muddling through that we often refer to as reflection. As a result, when professionals are told what to do--and when and how to do it, with no room for their own individual thought--there's a good chance they will stop learning. Much of the pleasure of professional growth involves reflecting on what you're learning. When coaches collaborate with teachers by co-creating ideas in reflective conversations, teachers (and coaches) often find those conversations to be engaging, energizing, and valuable.
  6. Praxis: People who engage in praxis apply knowledge and skills to their work, community, or personal lives. For example, a teacher who wants to increase student engagement by telling powerful stories, and then reads about stories and carefully considers how to use them during instruction, is engaged in praxis as I define it. When coaches act with the goal of praxis in mind, they make sure that coaching is productive, meaningful, and helpful to teachers and students.
  7. Reciprocity: Reciprocity is the inevitable outcome of an authentic partnership. When coaches engage in dialogue, reflect, and strive for praxis with their collaborating teachers, they will be engaged in real-life situations and live out the old saying, "When one teaches, two learn." Partnership is about shared learning as much as it is about shared power.

Jim Knight, The Impact Cycle (2018)

Teacher Leader Model Standards

Domain 1 | Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning

  • Utilizes group processes to help colleagues work collaboratively to solve problems, make decisions, manage conflict, and promote meaningful change.
  • Models effective skills in listening, presenting ideas, leading discussions, clarifying, mediating, and identifying the needs of self and others in order to advance shared goals and professional learning.
  • Employs facilitation skills to create trust among colleagues, develop collective wisdom, build ownership and action that supports student learning.
  • Strives to create an inclusive culture where diverse perspectives are welcomed in addressing challenges.
  • Uses knowledge and understanding of different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and languages to promote effective interactions among colleagues.

Domain 2 | Accessing and Using Research to Improve Practice and Student Learning

  • Assists colleagues in accessing and using research in order to select appropriate strategies to improve student learning.
  • Facilitates the analysis of student learning data, collaborative interpretation of results, and application of findings to improve teaching and learning.
  • Supports colleagues in collaborating with the higher education institutions and other organizations engaged in researching critical educational issues.
  • Teaches and supports colleagues to collect, analyze, and communicate data from their classrooms to improve teaching and learning.

Domain 3 | Promoting Professional Learning for Continuous Improvement

  • Collaborates with colleagues and school administrators to plan professional learning that is team-based, job-embedded, sustained over time, aligned with content standards, and linked to school/district improvement goals.
  • Uses information about adult learning to respond to the diverse learning needs of colleagues by identifying, promoting, and facilitating varied and differentiated professional learning.
  • Facilitates professional learning among colleagues.
  • Identifies and uses appropriate technologies to promote collaborative and differentiated professional learning.
  • Works with colleagues to collect, analyze, and disseminate data related to the quality of professional learning and its effect on teaching and student learning.
  • Advocates for sufficient preparation, time, and support for colleagues to work in teams to engage in job-embedded professional learning.
  • Provides constructive feedback to colleagues to strengthen teaching practice and improve student learning.
  • Uses information about emerging education, economic, and social trends in planning and facilitating professional learning.

Domain 4 | Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Student Learning

  • Facilitates the collection, analysis, and use of classroom- and school-based data to identify opportunities to improve curriculum, instruction, assessment, school organization, and school culture.
  • Engages in reflective dialog with colleagues based on observation of instruction, student work, and assessment data and helps make connections to research-based effective practices.
  • Supports colleagues’ individual and collective reflection and professional growth by serving in roles such as mentor, coach, and content facilitator.
  • Serves as a team leader to harness the skills, expertise, and knowledge of colleagues to address curricular expectations and student learning needs.
  • Uses knowledge of existing and emerging technologies to guide colleagues in helping students skillfully and appropriately navigate the universe of knowledge available on the Internet, use social media to promote collaborative learning, and connect with people and resources around the globe.
  • Promotes instructional strategies that address issues of diversity and equity in the classroom and ensures that individual student learning needs remain the central focus of instruction.

Domain 5 | Promoting the Use of Assessment and Data for School and District Improvement

  • Increases the capacity of colleagues to identify and use multiple assessment tools aligned to state and local standards.
  • Collaborates with colleagues in the design, implementation, scoring, and interpretation of student data to improve educational practice and student learning.
  • Creates a climate of trust and critical reflection in order to engage colleagues in challenging conversations about student learning data that lead to solutions to identified issues.
  • Works with colleagues to use assessment and data findings to promote changes in instructional practices or organizational structures to improve student learning.

Domain 6 | Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Communities

  • Uses knowledge and understanding of the different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and languages in the school community to promote effective interactions among colleagues,families, and the larger community.
  • Models and teaches effective communication and collaboration skills with families and other stakeholders focused on attaining equitable achievement for students of all backgrounds and circumstances.
  • Facilitates colleagues’ self-examination of their own understandings of community culture and diversity and how they can develop culturally responsive strategies to enrich the educational experiences of students and achieve high levels of learning for all students.
  • Develops a shared understanding among colleagues of the diverse educational needs of families and the community.
  • Collaborates with families, communities, and colleagues to develop comprehensive strategies to address the diverse educational needs of families and the community.

Domain 7 | Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession

  • Shares information with colleagues within and/or beyond the district regarding how local, state, and national trends and policies can impact classroom practices and expectations for student learning.
  • Works with colleagues to identify and use research to advocate for teaching and learning processes that meet the needs of all students.
  • Collaborates with colleagues to select appropriate opportunities to advocate for the rights and/or needs of students, to secure additional resources within the building or district that support student learning, and to communicate effectively with targeted audiences such as parents and community members.
  • Advocates for access to professional resources, including financial support and human and other material resources, that allow colleagues to spend significant time learning about effective practices and developing a professional learning community focused on school improvement goals.
  • Represents and advocates for the profession in contexts outside of the classroom.