How coaching takes root

3 key factors lead to successful implementation

By Jennifer D. Pierce, Melissa Weber-Mayrer and Melissa Irby
Categories: Coaching, Continuous improvement, Fundamentals, Implementation
December 2019
Vol. 40, No. 6
Nearly 60,000 educators serve as instructional coaches in schools today (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017), and other models of coaching, like leadership coaching and systems coaching, are taking hold as well (Freeman, Sugai, Simonsen, & Everett, 2017; Goff, Guthrie, Goldring, & Bickman, 2014). The decades-long push to use coaching as a means to support teachers and leaders to improve student learning and close achievement gaps is driven in large part by research that shows coaching can lead to improved teaching and student learning (Kraft, Blazar, & Hogan, 2018), leadership skills (Goff et al., 2017), and school infrastructure, such as effective allocation of resources (Freeman et al., 2017). But simply hiring and funding coaches isn’t sufficient to reach these positive outcomes. The implementation of coaching,

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Jennifer D. Pierce, Melissa Irby, and Melissa Weber-Mayrer

Jennifer D. Pierce ( and Melissa Irby ( are senior technical assistance consultants at American Institutes for Research. Melissa Weber-Mayrer ( is director of the Office of Approaches to Teaching and Professional Learning at the Ohio Department of Education and a member of Learning Forward’s What Matters Now Network.

What Matters Now Network

Through participation in Learning Forward’s What Matters Now Network, Ohio coaches and district leaders recently began to support several teacher-based teams and building leadership teams in three areas: identifying evidence-based strategies for at-risk students; using a targeted decision tool to plan for instruction; and using Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles to determine how students respond to instruction.

Here’s how ODE leaders, in partnership with network facilitators, ensured strategic implementation of this new stream of coaching work:

  • Competency: Coaches and district leaders need to have the capacity to support teacher-based teams and building leadership teams in identifying evidence-based strategies, using the decision tool, and conducting Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles. The What Matters Now Network offers professional learning in these three areas to coaches, district leaders, teacher-based teams, and building leadership teams.
  • Organization: ODE leaders meet regularly with coaches, district leaders, teacher-based teams, and building leadership teams participating in the What Matters Now Network to build critical connections across all parts of the Ohio education system.
  • Leadership: The What Matters Now Network requires shared leadership between coaches and district leaders. Therefore, both coaches and district leaders drive conversations at the teacher-team and building-team levels.


Fixsen, D.L., Naoom, S.F., Blase, K.A., Friedman, R.M., & Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation research: a synthesis of the literature. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida.

Freeman, J., Sugai, G., Simonsen, B., & Everett, S. (2017). MTSS coaching: Bridging knowing to doing. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 29-37.

Goff, P., Guthrie, J.E., Goldring, E., & Bickman, L. (2014). Changing principals’ leadership through feedback and coaching. Journal of Educational Administration, 52(5), 682-704.

Kraft, M.A., Blazar, D., & Hogan, D. (2018). The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 547-588.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Characteristics of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States: Results from the 2015-2016 national teacher and principal survey. NCES Number: 2017071. Available at

Nilsen, P. (2015). Making sense of implementation theories, models and frameworks. Implementation science, 10(1), 53.

Pierce, J.D. (2015). Teacher-coach alliance as a critical component of coaching: Effects of feedback and analysis on teacher practice. Doctoral dissertation, University of Washington.

Pierce, J. (2018). Support models: Matrix and discussion guide for K-12th grade systems. San Francisco, CA: WestEd.

Pierce, J. (2019). Creating the foundation: Coaching with alliance-building strategies. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Pierce, J. & Ferguson, A. (n.d.). Implementation guide for effective coaching of teachers. National Center for Systemic Improvement. Available at Steiner, L., Hassel, E., & Hassel, B. (2008). School turnaround leaders: Competencies for success. Chapel Hill, NC: Public Impact.

Steiner, L., Hassel, E., & Hassel, B. (2008). School turnaround leaders: Competencies for success. Chapel Hill, NC: Public Impact.

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Categories: Coaching, Continuous improvement, Fundamentals, Implementation

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