In recent years, instructional coaching has emerged as one of the most effective forms of professional learning. Referred to as "critical friends" in a blog post by Peter DeWitt, coaches can provide teachers with a unique balance of support and pressure through a collegial relationship focused on growth.
We recognize the potential of content-specific coaching and have seen its value in our own work— like in Newton County, Georgia, for example. Through just six months of live and video-based coaching, the district's algebra proficiency rates increased five times greater than the state's average growth.
Unfortunately, however, not all coaching efforts are so successful. Despite the high expectations for growth that many schools have for instructional coaching, implementation is often not strategic nor intentional enough.
As I explained in my article, Calibrating Coaches: 4 Reasons to Foster Great Instructional Coaching featured in Education Week, in order for instructional coaching to be truly effective in promoting lasting growth, there must first be a clear and shared vision of what great coaching looks like.
Here are the four big reasons why calibrating principals and coaches is essential to instructional coaching systems:
#1. Consistent messaging
In many schools, it's not just coaches providing feedback, and therefore teachers receive mixed messages and inconsistent support as a result. Feedback that is calibrated around specific standards for coaching are more productive.
#2. Trajectory of continuous growth
When coaching processes become routine, teachers know that they can count on coaches for excellent support and the potential of each session to positively impact performance increases.
#3. Connected and aligned systems
A common characteristic among the highest performing schools is that all initiatives and processes work together. When systems are aligned and implemented with fidelity, instructional coaching can support and build momentum towards the school's larger goals for teaching and learning.
#4. Focused priorities
The ability to prioritize and focus on specific initiatives is a hallmark of effective school leaders. By ensuring that coaching works with existing efforts and towards a narrow set of shared goals, school leaders can strengthen existing initiatives instead of creating new ones.
Instructional coaching has emerged as one of the most effective forms of professional learning available in schools—but only if it is done right. In order for the benefits of instructional coaching to be truly realized, school leaders must define what coaching really looks like.
If you're looking for more support for you and your coaches, download Coaching for Change: Practical Guide for Instructional Coaching, a 99-page comprehensive guide combines the best in coaching theory with practical, usable tools for implementing any coaching initiative.