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The Next Great Tool for Teachers? Instructional Coaches

Author: Lisa Westman | Blog |

“When teachers stop learning, so do students.”
—Jim Knight
Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction

Instructional coaching might possibly be the best non-technological advancement to the field of education since the advent of the classroom. Many other industries see the benefits of coaches on a personal level. We often seek the counsel of personal trainers, financial advisors, and life coaches. With the rapid evolution of the ways we access information and the variety of ways students can demonstrate learning, teacher utilization of professional coaching is long overdue.

How can educators possibly keep up with all of the research, technological advances, and mandates? This is where instructional coaching made a marked difference in my teaching practice and now, as an instructional coach, I continue to seek feedback and learn from members on my team.

Instructional coaching is a non-evaluative partnership between teachers, coaches, and administrators. These relationships are mutually beneficial to all participants. While most instructional coaches are experienced educators, they are not experts in all aspects of teaching. Instructional coaches learn alongside teachers to stay up to date on research-based best practices. Moreover, instructional coaches can help visualize practices in the classroom via modeling, co-teaching, or video recordings. Instructional coaches can help teachers reflect on and discover unrecognized intricacies of their practices through coaching cycles, which include a learning piece. During this learning piece, instructional coaches work with teachers to make effective pedagogy a tangible entity.

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Additionally, instructional coaches can serve as a liaison between teachers and administrators. Now, this is the part that sometimes makes people uncomfortable. The thought that pops into people’s minds often is: “Wait … I thought you said instructional coaches are nonevaluative?!” Well, rest assured, we are. Many school districts have strategic plans, and building, team, and individual teaching goals. Administrators and coaches alike have a responsibility to ensure the entire faculty understands the district’s vision and works together to achieve those goals. The difference between administrators and instructional coaches is that administrators are 1) evaluators and 2) have about 1 million other things on their plates. Coaches can focus their attention on individual teachers/teams and work as partners addressing components of The Big 4 as outlined by Jim Knight: classroom management, content, instruction, and assessment.

We do not exist in isolation in any facet of our lives. We reach out to others for a variety of reasons: child care, advice, recommendations, etc. As a professional educator, reaching out to your instructional coach can render the same results. As an administrator, leveraging the capacity of instructional coaches will help guarantee you meet your personal and building goals. Whether you are a teacher or an administrator, when you collaborate with an instructional coach, you have an impartial partner in a shared journey to best meet the needs of students. Together we can determine your goals and put them into practice.

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