Bridging the distance

One-on-one video coaching supports rural teachers

By Learning Forward
December 2019
Vol. 40, No. 6
Coaching is an increasingly popular and promising method of professional learning, but unfortunately, many teachers do not have access to high-quality coaching due to geographic and financial constraints. Technology offers an opportunity to increase access to coaching, especially for educators in isolated rural areas. Research shows video is useful in teacher education and professional learning to focus on moments of practice (Gaudin & Chalies, 2015; Knight & van Nieuwerburgh, 2012). It can show teachers a clear picture of their instructional practices and provide documented, objective evidence of teacher moves and student responses that are often different than what teachers subjectively perceive. Recognizing the potential of technology for coaching in the rural areas where we work, we developed an online coaching model in a joint venture

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Cynthia D. Carson, Cynthia Callard, Ryan Gillespie, Jeffrey Choppin, and Julie M. Amador

Cynthia D. Carson ( is academic program coordinator and Cynthia Callard ( is professor and executive director of the Center for Professional Development & Education Reform in Rochester, New York.

Ryan Gillespie ( is an instructional coach at Coeur d’Alene School District in Idaho.

Jeffrey Choppin ( is professor of mathematics education in the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester in New York.

Julie M. Amador ( is associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Idaho.

How Learning Forward's Standards guided our work

The Standards for Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2011) guided the development of the online video coaching model, especially the following standards:

Learning Communities
Because our model took place in an online space, coaches had to be cognizant of, and explicitly work toward developing, safe, collaborative relationships. We developed norms of collaboration and relational trust by encouraging coaches and teachers to meet informally online before their first coaching cycle.

This initial meeting helped the teacher and coach get to know each other by inquiring about each other’s background, the background of the students in the class, the curriculum, and their goals for their coaching work. In subsequent coaching meetings, coaches continued to be explicit about their focus on the teacher’s goals for improving instructional practices and worked together to construct those goals.

In addition, coaches frequently reminded teachers that they were there as nonevaluative support for the teacher to reflect on and improve his or her practice.

Because many rural districts are strapped for personnel funding, we made sure that the components of the online video coaching sessions could take place during teachers’ planning time or outside of their school day so that we did not draw on district resources for substitutes.

We used Zoom and Google, as no-cost platforms, for communicating and sharing documents. And because time is a precious resource, especially in rural communities where many teachers often hold responsibilities in addition to teaching, we prioritized schedule flexibility with asynchronous meetings and video viewings.

Learning Designs
We grounded our coaching model in research about online and video coaching and face-to-face coaching (e.g. West & Staub, 2003). We capitalized on the asynchronous nature of the online model to incorporate feedback and reflection, which coaching research shows are essential.

The ultimate goal of the model is to support continuous improvement to allow “educators to move along a continuum from novice to expert through application of their professional learning” (Learning Forward, 2011, p. 44). The coaching provided is job-embedded, long-term, and allows for follow-up and new cycles to build on past ones.

There is a constant focus on both student and teacher learning outcomes. Throughout the three phases of the model (planning, implementation, and reflection), discussions and practices emphasize student learning of mathematical ideas represented in national and state standards. To get to these outcomes, the teacher and coach co-construct detailed goals for the teacher’s knowledge and practices.


Gaudin, C. & Chaliès, S. (2015). Video viewing in teacher education and professional development: A literature review. Educational Research Review, 16, 41-67.

Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause quarterly, 31(4), 51-55.

Knight, J. & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2012). Instructional coaching: A focus on practice. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 5(2), 100-112.

Learning Forward. (2011). Standards for Professional Learning: Quick reference guide. Journal of Staff Development, 32(4), 41-44.

West, L. & Staub, F.C. (2003). Content-focused coaching: Transforming mathematics lessons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

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