The majority of professional development provided to educators across the U.S. continues to take the traditional “sit and get” format with little personalized attention for individual teachers. There have been numerous studies that have shown that this type of PD is less than impactful in helping teachers improve their practice. In the same way that a more personalized learning approach is necessary to meet the diverse needs of students, a PD approach that aligns to individual teacher needs, challenges, and skills is emerging as a powerful strategy to improve instructional practice. Enter teacher coaching.
Defining Teacher Coaching
In a recent article in EducationNext by researchers Matthew A. Kraft and David Blazar, “Taking Teacher Coaching to Scale”, teacher coaching or instructional coaching is defined as an expert mentor working one-on-one with a teacher to provide ongoing feedback and suggestions for improving teaching techniques based on frequent classroom observations. And while there are many different models of teacher coaching, there are several common characteristics found in teacher coaching programs:
- Coaches engage in sustained professional dialog focused on improving specific, targeted skills of the individual teacher.
- Coaching is sustained over a semester or year.
- Coaches engage in frequent observations and provide time-sensitive and specific feedback to teachers.
In their recent analysis of over 60 studies, Kraft and Blazar found that coaching works. Teacher coaching has been shown to have large positive effects on instructional practice and student achievement. “ With coaching, the quality of teachers’ instruction improves by as much as—or more than—the difference in effectiveness between a novice and a teacher with five to 10 years of experience, a more positive estimated effect than traditional PD and most other school-based interventions.”
How Can Schools Scale Coaching as a Professional Development Model?
There are some challenges surrounding scaling an effective teacher coaching model. Some of those include staffing enough expert teachers across all content areas, providing enough opportunities for frequent observation and feedback cycles, standardizing coaching systems to ensure fidelity, and creating a culture of trust and respect that encourages teachers to engage in the coaching process.
- Saves time, eliminating scheduling complexities. Video observation also allows coaches to view video observations and provide feedback even when they can’t physically be present in the classroom.
- Allows coaching comments to be provided at specific time-stamped locations in the recorded video, fostering more meaningful, targeted feedback.
- Facilitates peer-to-peer coaching by reducing the need for teachers to leave their own classrooms to observe their colleagues in action.
Online observation forms can also streamline the paperwork of observations and help facilitate feedback, reflection, and collaboration between coaches and teachers.
While instructional coaching is by no means an isolated quick fix to improving teacher practice, when implemented as part of a larger professional development program guided by systemic goals, it can provide a customizable, personalized development opportunity to improve the capacity and effectiveness of individual teachers.
Source of Data
Kraft MA, Blazar D, Hogan D. The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence. Review of Educational Research [Internet]. 2018;88 (4) :547-588.