Education Opinion

How to Plan for Coaching Conversations

By Elena Aguilar — May 22, 2014 3 min read

Some of you may already know that I’m a loud, staunch, passionate advocate for planning--in this case, for coaches to plan their coaching sessions with teachers. I feel just as strongly that teachers must plan their lessons (plan on paper, not just in their heads). However, the majority of coaches rarely plan--and before I knew how or realized how essential it was, I didn’t plan either. When I train coaches, I always bring this up. I remind them that just as we know how much better a lesson is when we’ve planned it, coaching is the same--if you plan for a coaching conversation it’s almost guaranteed to be smoother, go deeper, be more strategic, and result in transformational learning than had you just showed up and jumped in. And each time I say this, every coach head nods in agreement.

What gets in the way?

The number one barrier for many coaches is time. Yes, planning takes time. Some conversations take a long time to plan for and some take less. And coaches are often deployed to take care of so much mundane business that has little to do with the professional development of teachers, but I’ll save this rant for another time. I know about the scarcity of time and the battle over it. And I still think we need to take it on. I’ll save that for another time too.

My suggestion for coaches who feel like they’re pressed on time is to see what happens if they plan for one conversation per week. And spend only 20-30 minutes planning that conversation. If that feels like too much, start with one per month. Or just see what it’s like once to thoughtfully plan for a coaching conversation.

I describe planning for coaching conversations in my book and I offer this tool Coaching Session Planning .doc to use.

An Example of Planning

Recently, I was working with coaches in Stockton, CA, and I mentioned that I often write my notes or tape a typed up sheet onto a page on the left side of my notebook. During my conversation with my client, I take notes on the right hand side of the notebook. This allows me to reference my plan during the conversation including the questions I’d designed and the goals for the conversation. One coach asked to see what my notebook looks like.

Last week I planned carefully for a coaching conversation with a teacher I’ll call Dave. I anticipated that this would be a difficult conversation because the teacher had just received an evaluation from his administrators that was very critical. I know this may be hard to see, so here my notes that are on the left side of the page are right below the image.

My plan and questions:
• Declare my intention for this meeting.
• Acknowledge the emotions--about evaluation
• Ask: What do you want to get from this conversation? (He needs to own the conversation)
• Acknowledge that he hasn’t received the PD he wants--what would he like to work on? Is there an area mentioned in his eval that he’d be invested in working on?
• Ask him to remember when he was a new teacher and the vision he had for himself as a teacher--which goal might lead him closer to that vision?
• Ask him if he’s willing to reconnect with what drew him into teaching, with who he aspired to be 20 years ago. On a 1-10 scale, how willing are you to reconnect with that vision?
• What do you feel you do well? What do you feel good about?
• What would you like to see on your end of year evaluation? Does thinking about that motivate you? If not, what would motivate you?
• Acknowledge the low scores in classroom management. Ask him if he’d like to explore the areas of classroom management. If he’d like to unpack what’s going on there?
• What’s one thing we can commit to working on--I’ll support him in. I’ll model, do it with him, observe him and give feedback. I’ll make sure you’re successful. I can guide you through this learning.
• Lenses to use: Adult learning and change management, and inquiry.

These questions and thoughts emerged from the plan that I wrote. You can read the entire plan Planning Dave 5-16.doc here.

The conversation went very well.

Happy planning! And I know, it’s the end of the year and you might not be doing any planning right now but you can flag this blog and return to it in a few months.

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read