5 guiding questions build a strategic approach to leadership coaching

By Sarah Birkeland, Richard Lemons, Isobel Stevenson and Robert Villanova
April 2022
Leadership matters. In fact, research identifies leadership as second only to teaching in school-related factors influencing student achievement (Louis et al., 2010). As districts seek ways to improve the quality of school leadership, they often turn to coaching. And coaching can improve leaders’ effectiveness — under the right conditions (Grant et al., 2009). Without the right conditions, coaching may offer advice or emotional support, but do little to effect change in teaching and student learning. To guarantee a return on the sizable investment entailed in coaching, district leaders must articulate how it will serve the overall improvement strategy and design the intervention accordingly. We have researched, designed, and engaged in leadership coaching for many years, from many angles and across many district contexts. We have

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Grant, A.M., Curtayne, L., & Burton, G. (2009). Executive coaching enhances goal attainment, resilience and workplace well-being: A randomised controlled study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(5), 396-407.

LEAD Connecticut. (n.d.) Connecticut superintendent leadership competency framework. Author.

Louis, K.S., Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K., & Anderson, S. (2010). Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Partners for Educational Leadership. (2022a). LEAD Connecticut turnaround school leader competency framework. Author.

Partners for Educational Leadership. (2022b). LEAD Connecticut executive coaching for principals developmental continuum of coaching practices 4.4.16. Author.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Sarah-birkeland Photo-scaled

Sarah Birkeland ( directs the Quality Measures Center for Program Assessment and Technical Assistance at the Education Development Center.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Richard-lemons

Richard Lemons ( is executive director at Partners for Educational Leadership.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Isobel Stevenson

Isobel Stevenson is director of organizational learning ( at Partners for Educational Leadership.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Bob-villanova Photo-1

Robert Villanova ( is a district leadership consultant at Partners for Educational Leadership.

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