Research Paper By Phyllis Lutchman
(Life Coach, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO)
Traditionally, professional development of teachers entailed training programs, lectures and conferences. These were very often conducted by external experts. There was no follow up to ascertain the degree of teacher learning or implementation of strategies learnt in the classroom.
In more recent times, however, there has been a paradigm shift. Educators are now advocating the use of instructional coaching to assist in the professional development of teachers and teacher administrators. Dr. Linda Dusenbury, a re-knowned researcher and expert on strategies designed to promote student competencies wrote an article in Education World entitled,“Use Coaching to make teacher training “stick” (2012). She stated in this article that,
Initial training is important when introducing a new teaching method or approach. Even better is more comprehensive training, consisting of initial training plus follow up training and coaching.
Alexander Russo in his article on “School- Based Coaching” in the Harvard Education Letter, July/August 2004. Research Online supports the concept of School -Based Coaching. He sees it as important in the professional development of teachers and teacher administrators. It involves subject area experts or experts in teaching strategies working with teachers to improve their effectiveness. The ultimate goal being higher student achievement.
This paper looks at Instructional Coaching and the qualities of a good Instructional Coach. It explores the benefits and challenges of coaching teachers. Some appropriate coaching models for teachers will also be discussed.Psychometric Testing in Coaching will also be looked at.Some common areas where teachers sometimes need assistance will be suggested. Finally, creating a coaching program for teachers will be put forward.
Definition Of Coaching:
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as:
Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
In Instructional Coaching the coach partners with the teacher to help him improve his teaching skills. They also work with school leaders to help them to be more effective. The ultimate goal being to have more successful students. This type of coaching is also sometime referred to as Content- Based Coaching and School- Based Coaching.
The instructional coach first has to get an understanding where the teacher or teacher leader is at the present moment. He can then assist in identifying goals and choosing appropriate strategies to meet these goals. Progress is monitored and the coach supports the teacher or teacher leader throughout the improvement process.
Qualities Of An Effective Instructional Coach:
Amy MacCrindle, Ed.D and JacquireDuginskeEd.D in their article entitled “Seven Qualities of an Instructional Coach”(2018) give a good insight into the qualities of an effective instructional coach. They suggested the following in their article:
- Coaches need to build and nurture trust and respect with their teachers. Open communication is essential for this relationship to thrive.
- An effective coach understands that coaches and teachers need to work together for the benefit of the student. The student’s needs are paramount.
- Coaches need to collect and analyze data effectively to improve student learning. Their discussions from this perspective must not attack the teacher. Instead, they must provide a safe environment for the teacher so that student learning will be improved.
- Coaches need to ask powerful questions. The questions should encourage the teacher to reflect on his practice. The questions must not be judgmental.
- The instructional coach must be knowledgeable about good instructional strategies and techniques. They need to be able to offer advice on how these strategies can work in the classroom. Observation, reflection and planning with the teacher are advocated. Coteaching and modeling practices are also recommended.
- The coach needs to try something new in the classroom. He can model this new behavior in the classroom and in so doing, encourage the teacher to also take risks.
- The coach needs to be up to date with current trends in education.
Shane Safir in his article, “Teaching How to Teach:Coaching Tips from a former Principal”(2008) also advocates that the coach should connect teachers to the resources.
Elena Aguilar in her article entitled, “Coaching Teachers: What you need to know” (2011) also argues that
a coach needs to be an expert at listening: It is this skill that we must excel at more than any other.” She also suggests that good coaches must not be “over-directive.
She endorses the view that coaches need training and on- going professional development. She explained that just taking a strong teacher in the classroom and making them coach others may not work. An effective teacher of children will not always be able to coach adults in teaching. Other knowledge and skills are required to be a coach.
Benefits Of Coaching Teachers:
A landmark study was done in 2004 by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. The study involved urban schools. Communities serving disadvantaged students were especially targeted. The study supports instructional coaching in schools as a new practice that can assist school teachers develop professionally. This study explains several benefits that can be derived from coaching teachers.
- Coaching encourages teachers to reflect more on their teaching. It also encourages them to collaborate with each other.
- The culture of the schools is improved by effective coaching of teachers.
- Data collection and analysis is encouraged. It helps to bridge the different levels of the school system. Areas of need can be identified and strategies developed to address these needs. Coaches can be better chosen who have the expertise to address these needs.
- A coach can support a teacher on an ongoing basis. Teachers and their colleagues can be guided to work together as well as be accountable to each other. Coaches can improve the teaching and learning process. Instructional coaching is School Based so the learning takes place in a real-life situation.
- Coaching supports positive relationships between administration and teachers. They work together to transform the school system.
Elena Aguilar in her article entitled, “How Coaching Can Impact Teachers,Principals and Students”(2013) endorses the benefits of coaching teachers stated in the Annenberg Report. She advocates the collection of qualitative and quantitative data that can be reveal how the use of coaching in teaching improves student learning.
Challenges Of Coaching Teachers:
There are many challenges that have been encountered by those engaged in instructional coaching.
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University(2004) in their paper on Instructional Coaching reveal some of these challenges.
It states that coaching can assist in professional learning but it has to be linked to other professional development opportunities. It must function within district frameworks. If it stands alone, the risks are that there will be professional development only by some individuals in some schools and not district wide. Support at the District level is essential for success.
The coach’s role must be clear. In this way issues with the teachers’ union and contracts are avoided. There must be commitment at the classroom level, school level and district level for maximum success. The system of hiring and evaluating coaches must be clear.
The paper also comments on the adaption of coaching models. So far, instructional coaching has been common in elementary schools. For use in the secondary school system it needs to be adapted to the existing structure and culture of these schools.
Some teachers may also resist coaching. If the coaching is voluntary resistant teachers will not participate. If it is mandatory, they will feel resentment and never really embrace it.
The paper also speaks of the importance of school and central office support. Without this, implementation becomes difficult. It also explains that coaching is a new approach in the area of professional development of teachers. So, there is a demand to show evidence of its effectiveness. The gathering of this information is time consuming and costly and so provides a challenge. Districts have tended to construct their own models. These models must be tracked. Sharing what was learnt among colleagues is seen as essential to the success of coaching.
The report also states that, “The processes need to be grounded in content and instruction- focused learning geared towards individual and organizational improvement.”
Effectiveness can be achieved by using evidence research and keen observation of what was practiced. Dealing with equity issues like language diversity and special needs can also be challenging for coaches.
Alexander Russo in his article on “School- Based Coaching” (2004) indicated several challenges in the implementation of a coaching program. He pointed out that finding enough coaches to undertake instructional coaching in schools maybe difficult. Mr. Russo also speaks of the challenge of training and support for coaches. He explains that site-based professionals require their own type of development. Getting teachers to buy in and participate in the coaching process could be challenging. Securing time for the process could pose a problem in the light of a school’s packed timetable. The overall cost of a coaching program may be a potential challenge. The coach’s role in the school is a new and different one, so their presence will create some cultural changes.
Some Useful Coaching Models In Teacher Development:
There are many coaching models that have been proposed. However, no one model will work in all situations with all teachers. The coach must be sensitive to the needs of the individual educator and choose the appropriate model.
1. EPI (Education Partnerships Inc.) in a paper entitled, “Coaching Teachers: An important Principal Role”(2012) suggests a Three Step Coaching Model.
Step 1: Panning
Here the teachers and the coach discuss the coaching. They decide what they want to focus on for data collection and when the teacher will be observed by the coach.
Step 2: Observation/ Data Collection
The coach observes the teacher in the classroom setting. This will serve to guide discussions for improvement.
Step 3: Analysis and Reflection
Discussions take place between the coach and teacher about the information obtained in the classroom visit. The teacher is encouraged to analyze his teaching. They agree on follow up and what steps should be taken to improve the teacher’s effectiveness.
2. Another model that has been used successfully with teachers is called the FUEL Model.
F- Frame U- Understand E- Explore L- Lay
F- FRAME: The conversation is first framed. At this stage the purpose of the intervention is communicated.
U- UNDERSTAND The coach tries to get the teacher to have a deeper understanding of the issue. Data is used to help the teacher understand how well he is performing his task.
E- EXPLORE They explore the desired outcome and possible ways that the goal can be achieved.
L- LAY An action plan with specific steps is created. There must also be a plan for accountability.
3.The ICA Coaching Model can also be adapted to coaching teachers. It is based on a sound wave. The concept is that coaching is not linear but like a cycle. Change takes place in waves. The model is based on the premise that self directed change only occurs through self-awareness. There are (6) steps:
Current Situation-Discussion about what the teacher wants to be coached on takes place.
Beliefs and Values-Aligning the teacher’s actions and reality with his belief and values takes place here.
Goals and Vision-The goals and vision of the teacher are explored here.
Questioning and Reframing-Powerful questioning is used to create greater self awareness.Sometimes the perspective of the teacher needs to be reframed.
Action-The coach supports the teacher in taking action.
Self Awareness-The teacher becomes more aware of his actions,behaviors,thoughts and feelings.This is seen to be essential in the change process.
4.The SMART model is an extremely popular and effective model for setting goals. It would be very useful to teachers:
S- Specific M- Measurable A- Attainable R- Realistic T- Time-bound
Here the coach encourages the teacher to set specific goals that are measurable. Together they work on setting up a method to measure the outcome. The goal must be realistic and attainable. It must be completed within a certain time frame.
5. One of the most popular coaching models is the GROW model(especially in the late 1980’s and 1990’s).It was developed in the UK and is regarded as the original coaching model. It can also be used in instructional coaching. It allows coaches and teachers to set long term and short-term goals.
G- Goals-Educational goals can be set whenever a curriculum is being planned.
R- Reality-Student data can be used to determine realistic goals.
O- Options-Options available for reaching the stated goals are discussed.
W- Way forward-This involves asking powerful questions. Also, dedication and accountability from coaches and teachers.
Psychometric Testing In Coaching
Psychometric testing is widely used in coaching. It is a standardized way to measure a person’s mental capacity and how he behaves. Coaches who advocate using them outline two benefits. Firstly ,it raises the client’s self awareness. Secondly, it assists the coach in understanding his client better. Neil Twogood in his article entitled “The value of psychometrics in coaching”(2009) stated,
I would advocate using psychometrics early on in the coaching process, once a good rapport has been created, as the results can inform and guide the coaching process.
Some coaches, however are not in favour of them. They feel it does not work well with their approach. They feel that it does not add value to their coaching.
Some examples of popular psychometric tests are: Myers-Briggs(MBTI),MEIQ(The Multi-Dimensional Emotional Intelligence Quotient),DISC, StrengthsFinder.
Some Common Areas That Teachers Sometimes Need Assistance
Self Management(Personal Management,Time Management,Life Management)
Classroom Management, Differentiation Strategies, Lesson Planning, Legal aspects of education, Learning Styles, Assessment, Instructional Technology, Presentation Skills, Goal Setting.
Creating A Coaching Program
Key stakeholders need to be involved. A steering committee must be set up comprising representatives from the key stakeholders e.g.
- President of the Elementary Schools Principals’ Association.
- President of the Secondary Schools Principals’ Association.
- President of the National Parent Teacher Association.
- Director of School Supervison.
- President of the Teachers’ Union.
- Teacher Representative.
- Student Representative.
- An experienced Instructional Coach.
A facilitator for the meetings must be appointed. Discussions take place regarding effective coaching programs, roles and responsibilities of coaches, hiring and deployment of coaches, job descriptions of coaches, Training, supervising and evaluation of coaches. Appropriate coaching models will also be discussed. The outcome of the discussions is documented. Time line – 2 months.
The document created in step 1 is presented to stakeholders via their representatives. Feedback from the stakeholders is compiled. Time Line – 3 months.
The Steering Committee reconvenes and discuss the way forward guided by the feedback received in step 2.The document created in step (1) is amended (where necessary) to take into consideration the feedback given in step 2. Time Line- 1 month.
The position of coach is advertised in the local newspaper and in circulars sent to schools.
Time line- 2 weeks.
Applicants for the position of coach are screened by a panel. Suggestions for members of the panel include: Principal representative, District Supervisor, Coach, Teacher representative.
Key stakeholders are prepared for the intervention through their respective representatives.(using Meetings etc.) Time Line- 1 month.
Training of selected coaches. Time Line- 1 month.
Assignment of coaches to schools. Time line – 2 weeks.
Principals meet with coaches and discuss the way forward. Coaches are introduced to the members of staff, student body and parents. Their role and responsibilities are explained. Time Line- 2 weeks.
Coaches work with the teachers for the improvement of the students. Data is collected at termly intervals to ascertain the success of the program. Time Line- Ongoing.
The idea of introducing coaches in schools to assist in the professional development of teachers only came into being recently. After internalizing the areas explored in this paper the author feels that it would be very useful in teacher development. However, managing the change effectively is essential to the success of the intervention. The change must be clearly defined and the leaders in the system must embrace the change and model desired behaviours. Effective communication strategies must be employed. Ownership of the change must be created throughout the education system. Training needs and a support system must be set up to ensure the smooth running of the program.
Coaching is a useful tool in sustaining the professional development of teachers.