During this time of teacher shortages, it is tempting to leave instructional coaching vacancies unfilled in favor of placing—or keeping—those promising experienced candidates in classrooms. Especially now, when pulling teachers out of their classrooms for professional learning is no longer a viable option, instructional coaching is even more critical to meeting the learning needs of both teachers and students. The better option is to fill your coaching positions and accelerate improvement that benefits both novice and experienced teachers.
Research indicates that all teachers can benefit from coaching, both novice and experienced (Killion & Harrison, p.3). Coaching improves instructional practices in ways that other professional development cannot and research links those improvements to student outcomes (Hover, 2020).''Coaching improves instructional practices in ways that other professional development cannot & research links those improvements to student outcomes (Hover, 2020).'' Click To Tweet
Novice teachers gain confidence & competency
New teachers benefit from support in contextualizing preservice classroom learning into the complex environment of a classroom where they must manage multiple priorities at once (student relationships, cultural awareness, classroom management, and student safety, to name just a few)—while still responsively conveying content to learners. Bambrick-Santoyo (p. 3) notes, “If we don’t invest in the development of today’s teachers, we’re putting a greater-than-ever proportion of our students at an unacceptable disadvantage. And first-year teacher development is paramount because it not only ensures that these educators will be more focused, confident, and capable, but also guarantees consistent student achievement from year to year.” Providing high-quality instructional coaching to new teachers ensures their effectiveness will increase rapidly and steadily—far faster than without coaching.
In particular, a coach offers a novice teacher insight gleaned from the coach’s own experience with both classroom management and content expertise. Kraft and Blazar (2018, p. 71) note research shows “Teachers with strong behavior-management skills and the ability to deliver cognitively demanding, error-free content produce substantively and substantially larger student-achievement gains than other teachers without these skills.” That means students, even those sitting in a teacher’s very first classroom, will benefit from coach’s contribution to the novice’s accelerated improvement. In short, novice teachers will become better, faster, with coaching.
Master teachers pull from experience
Experienced teachers, too, benefit from coaching. When an instructional coach works with an experienced teacher, they use reflective questioning to help that teacher call forward their own hard-won experience and use it to better anticipate and inform instructional planning and delivery for this year’s students (Greene, 2018). They can support teachers in bringing data and experience together to understand where unfinished learning lurks and how it might impact a student’s trajectory toward mastery of new content. They can also help experienced teachers anticipate common misconceptions students might develop during the learning of new content and consider how best to recognize them quickly and help students to address mistaken understandings before the material shows up on a test. Coaches support experienced teachers by helping them bring all their experience and expertise into conversation with the data available in order to plan proactively for the success of all learners.
Many experienced teachers firmly believe that an instructional day away from their students is time lost. These master teachers expect that coaches are available to partner with them in their own classrooms during instruction, where the real learning—for both adults and students—takes place. We’ve long had research documenting that job-embedded professional learning is highly effective at increasing implementation of new learning and creating instructional change (Croft et al.2010). Instructional coaching has an essential role to play in meeting the learning needs of both teachers and students. Leaving a coaching position unfilled now is a missed opportunity to support high-quality collaborative professional learning and foster an organizational culture of continuous learning. Intentionally hiring and using instructional coaches will mitigate the effects of teacher shortages and lack of professional learning time.''Leaving a coaching position unfilled now is a missed opportunity to support high-quality collaborative professional learning & foster an organizational culture of continuous learning.'' @SharronHelmke Click To Tweet
Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (n.d.) How to Effectively Coach New Teachers and why First Year Support is Critical to Everyone’s Success. Jossey-Bass Learn. https://www.wiley.com/learn/jossey-bass/pdf/how-to-effectively-coach%20new-teachers.pdf
Croft, A., Coggshall, J.G., Dollan, M., Powers, E., Killion, J. (April 2020). Job-Embedded Professional Development: What It Is, Who Is Responsible, and How to Get It Done Well. https://learningforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/job-embedded-professional-development.pdf
Greene, K. (1 March, 2018). A Coach for Every Teacher. ASCD https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/a-coach-for-every-teacher
Hoover, C. (29 May, 2020). The Impact of Instructional Coaches. TASB https://www.tasb.org/services/hr-services/hrx/recruiting-and-hiring/the-impact-of-instructional-coaches.aspx#:~:text=The%20researchers%20found%20instructional%20coaching,instruction%2C%20and%20extended%20learning%20time
Killion, J. and Harrison, C. Taking the Lead: New Roles for Teachers and School-based Coaches. Ohio: Learning Forward, 2017.
Kraft, M.A., and Blazar, D. (2018). Taking Teacher Coaching to Scale: Can personalized training become standard practice? Education Next, 18(4), 68-74.
Sharron Helmke is a Gestalt and ICF certified professional coach. She’s a senior consultant for Learning Forward, facilitator of the Mentor and Coaching Academies, and co-facilitator of Learning Forward’s virtual coaching class Powerful Communication Skills for Coaches.