7 Reasons to Implement Instructional Coaching as Professional Development
It's easy for your professional development (PD) to get stuck in a rut. There are so many expensive conferences, so many educational consultants with their promises of silver bullet solutions, and so much wasted time and energy on directionless professional "learning." The good news is that there is a better way. Purposeful, continuous, on-the-job instructional coaching can be the catalyst that shifts your PD paradigm. Let's take a look at seven reasons why.
1. Coaching is Continuous
Schoology's 2018 Global State of Digital Learning Survey indicated that the most common types of professional development are still periodic and single-session workshops, and only 24% of institutions currently participate in ongoing, job-embedded coaching. This makes sense—educators are a harried bunch and it takes more time and effort to put together an instructional coaching program.
Like so many things, however, the time and effort is worth it. If you can keep your instructional coaches focused almost exclusively on coaching, you can unlock what has been referred to as PD's "near-holy grail" because ongoing coaching has a much better chance of sustaining professional learning than traditional PD. Think of it this way: Are you more likely to improve your piano playing by sitting down one time (single session), once every two months (periodic), or on a regular basis over the course of a year? Tickle those ivories.
2. Coaching is Personal
Good instructional coaches focus on building relationships and challenging those with whom they work without being judgmental. They get it—coaching is personal, large group workshops are not. When it's done right, instructional coaches take the time to get to know staff members, work together to set reasonable, measurable goals for success, and then push forward together until those goals are realized. Like good personal trainers, good instructional coaches are inspirational, know their stuff, and won't let teachers settle. Relationships matter between teachers and instructional coaches just as much as between teachers and students.
3. Instructional Coaching Increases Student Learning
When instructional coaching is done right, it is based on curriculum standards and a data-based effort to ensure students make measurable progress toward learning goals. In other words, adult learning must be linked with student learning in order to be effective. What's more likely to change teacher behavior and in-the-moment decision making in the classroom: a one-shot "sit-and-get" style PD session, or an instructional coaching model where a continuous discussion takes place about what's best for students?
4. Instructional Coaches Can Run Timely, Effective Building PD
Leadership is often best when it is shared, because it empowers people in their areas of expertise. Making instructional coaching a focal point of your professional development may allow you to empower these teacher-leaders to drive a significant portion of all building or district professional development. Heather Wolpert-Gawron highlighted instructional coaches can conduct PD in a variety of settings, including faculty meetings or small-group opportunities, as well as assist teams with data analysis and/or help research and implement strategies to help kids. Teachers and administrators are often overwhelmed. A robust instructional coaching program can help fill the gap.
5. Instructional Coaching Works Seamlessly with Your Learning Management System (LMS)
The 21st century is complicated. Educational professionals are busy, doing more than ever with more accountability expected of them than ever before. You can help ease the burden by bringing more opportunities for coaching to them through your district's learning management system.
The meat of instructional coaching may occur face-to-face during classroom observations and debriefs, but the LMS can be used for important follow-up discussions, supplemental training modules, and more in a format that is accessible to teachers at any time—a huge benefit of the asynchronous online or blended learning format.
6. Coaching and Modeling: A Powerful Combination
Instructional coaching has been referred to as a gold mine from which incredible benefits for students may be reaped. When time is built into the master schedule for professional learning in the form of instructional coaching, incredible things can happen. An instructional coach can observe and provide meaningful feedback to a first-year teacher. That same instructional coach can guest teach a lesson for the teacher, modeling best practices for instruction and assessment for student learning. Coaches model, everyone learns.
7. Instructional Coaching Impacts Culture and Climate
The Annenberg Foundation found that effective instructional coaching increases data driven decision making by educators, promotes staff and student learning as well as mutual accountability, and supports "collective leadership across a school system." In other words, coaching promotes a vibrant school culture. There is an intangible power when professionals come together to celebrate instructional best practices instead of gathering in the staff lounge to complain. Too often, these interactions happen only by accident in our schools. Implementing an instructional coaching program makes them happen on purpose.
It's Worth It
Instructional coaching programs require careful implementation and daily care and feeding to be successful. It is much harder to build a PD system than to host a weekend workshop or send staff to a local or regional conference. Budgeting time and monetary resources to support such a program, however, will pay off over the long run in more fulfilling and sustainable professional development for teachers and increased learning for students.
What are your thoughts on implementing instructional coaching as PD? Let us know on Twitter @Schoology