Instructional coaching is very popular these days, and it should be, because when it’s done correctly it can have an enormous impact on learning. Teachers who work with instructional coaches on a regular rotation, rather than just got to one-day conference, can retain up to 90% of what they learned (Knight).
Because instructional coaches work with a teacher on a co-constructed goal...or a goal that a teacher got to choose on their own. Imagine that? Trusting teachers to come up with their own goal around instructional strategies or student learning (Knight), and having a colleague who will help them find the best resources and perhaps even model what the instructional strategy should look like.
That’s not to say conferences aren’t worth going to, because events like edcamps can be very powerful. However, when a coach and a teacher work on a co-constructed goal together, they’re going to be more invested in making it all work.
Unfortunately, instructional coaching isn’t working in every district that adopts it. Not because instructional coaching doesn’t work, but because of the way it is being implemented. Coaches are sometimes put in the position where they are compliance managers, and other times they are used as an assistant principal because the building principal doesn’t understand coaching or they’re in crisis mode without an assistant principal and the coach fills that role.
Other times coaching isn’t working because test scores are released and they are low...so the superintendent decides coaches should work individually with students instead of allowing coaches to create opportunities to empower all teachers so they can have more of an impact on students.
And sadly, coaching doesn’t last in a district because the school district gets their budgets cut or they run out of grant money, and can’t sustain the coaching program regardless of the impact it is having on instruction and learning.
Focusing on Growth
Many times when I’m training instructional coaches for Jim Knight, there are coaches that are getting the best out of teachers. Even those teachers that may suffer from a low level of self-efficacy (Bandura), and don’t believe that they can have a positive impact on students. Coaches help those teachers find their strengths and build collective teacher efficacy around the building, which John Hattie has shown to have an effect size of 1.57.
But coaches also have a blind spot in their own coaching role. They often believe their only job is to help teachers have a larger impact on students, which is definitely part of the role, but it’s not the only part. Coaches need to understand the impact they are having on teachers, and then provideing evidence of that impact to their building level or central office administrator.
It’s a topic I have addressed before, because it comes up a lot in coaching programs, but I haven’t always been able to find something that helps support coaches in such a way. Jim Knight has many forms, which you can find here under “Chapter Resources”, and they have been very useful for coaches and teachers to understand their impact. They can be used for both quantitative and qualitative purposes.
Kick It Up a Notch!
As school districts look for additional resources to help understand their impact, I came across one that could provide a benefit. Recently, I came across a company called KickUp. Created by former educators, KickUp helps coaches, school leaders, and district administrators understand, demonstrate, and increase the efficacy of their professional learning efforts to teachers.
KickUp uses a blend of technology and services to:
- automate the collection and analysis of feedback
- provide, in human language, meaningful next steps for coaches
- monitor and visualize the progress of support efforts over time
- easily track the connection of resource allocation with instructional impact
- connect the central office, curriculum department, PD office and the classroom with a common language and communication stream to ensure alignment
For full disclosure, I am not a paid spokesperson for Kick-Up. I have had several tutorials around the tool because I know that school leaders, coaches and teachers are searching for numerous ways to understand the impact their teachers are having on student learning, and the impact their coaches are having on teachers.
Additionally, Kick-Up is not free. It is a paid service because they not only offer an easy to navigate on-line system, but they also provide one-on-one assistance for leaders, coaches and teachers.
As former teachers, KickUp founders do not want to their tool to be used for evaluation. They’ve designed it to give voice to teachers and to tighten the feedback loop between administrators, coaches and the classroom. Of course, as with any improvement tool, in order to use KickUp effectively, the school climate has to be one that focuses on transparency and continuous growth.
In the End
Instructional coaching is hugely beneficial to teachers when it is done in the spirit of what Jim Knight has researched over the last few decades. In order for it to offer the maximum benefits, coaching has to be two adults working in partnership, and both the coach and the teacher need to be learning from one another.
As instructional coaches and teachers search for ways to show the impact the coaching program is having on student learning, they need tools that will help them show their current reality and then provide the results at the end of the coaching cycle. Kick-Up certainly helps provide the evidence of impact that coaches and teachers are looking for.
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Creative Commons photo courtesy of Geralt.
The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground 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.