Coaching is an alternative to traditional professional development. Instructional coaches work one-to-one with teachers to provide timely, relevant feedback and suggestions for improvement based on classroom observations. Coaching is differentiated to each teacher’s needs and focused on improving specific skills over the course of a term or school year. Coaching programs can take different forms, but they tend to follow a cycle of learning, observation and data collection, reflection, and goal-setting.
Effective coaching purposefully targets each individual teacher’s needs and it is flexible. Unlike traditional one-size-fits-all professional development, coaching can specifically build individual teachers’ capacity for using discrete instructional practices that have been identified as priorities. As teachers identify new areas of concern, coaches can provide feedback addressing those areas.
Research shows that, not only is instructional coaching more effective than alternative forms of professional development, it is also one of the most effective of all educational interventions. Reviews of rigorous research show that only high-dosage tutoring for students achieves larger effects. Notably, the logic underlying tutoring and coaching is similar: provide targeted feedback to support individuals’ needs.
There are a number of important considerations when introducing an instructional coaching model, not least of which is the relatively high cost of coaching, which includes both the financial cost and the significant investment of time and resourcing that is required. The high cost of coaching means that achieving buy-in from participating teachers is essential. It is also important to find the right personnel to act as coaches and to ensure they have the appropriate knowledge, skills and training.
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