Why Invest in Instructional Coaching?
Written by: Keep Indiana Learning
Instructional coaching is a lot like sports. For those who have played sports, you know that great coaches can completely change the way you play the game—for the better. The beauty of coaching is that it offers an outside perspective on your performance, so you can pinpoint your “blind spots” and develop a game plan. Even when great coaches give positive feedback, they will continue to push you toward accomplishing new challenges. Behind every successful sports team is a passionate coach, just as behind every successful teacher is an effective instructional coach.
Instructional coaches are an essential part of professional development for instructors because they can provide insight into where there is room for improvement or correction and the areas where instructors thrive. Not to mention, they are always around to cheer on their mentees! In a nutshell, instructional coaches partner with teachers, leaders, and students to enhance learning experiences and improve student learning outcomes—which is why every school should consider incorporating them into their structure.
The Roles of an Instructional Coach
Instructional coaches wear many hats in the realm of education and instruction. As seasoned professionals, they work directly with teachers to improve the quality of each lesson plan, contributing to the overall quality of each student’s education. These coaches mainly oversee teachers’ professional development plans to ensure that they are on the path of continuous growth. In addition, these coaches stay current with the latest changes in instructional practices, technology, and pedagogy to guide teachers through alternative or new instructional methods.
Typically, instructional coaches are trained in best practices for instruction and are prepared to teach across a wide range of content areas and grade levels. However, content and grade-level-specific training can enhance the work of the instructional coach. Coaches are encouraged to be flexible in their work, supporting all teachers and content areas with the shared goal of increasing teacher capacity and enhancing student learning experiences.
In terms of credentials, instructional coaches should have multiple years of experience within multiple grade-level or content placements, along with a record of positive student learning outcomes. Possessing an advanced degree may also provide the coach with a strong foundation. Every instructional coach should also attend training that is specific to their role prior to starting.
The number of instructional coaches at each school varies by the school itself as well as its goals for coaching work. Some school districts choose to generate roles for course content-specific coaches, while others employ coaches to support all content areas. The decision about the number of instructional coaches can also vary depending on the number of teachers and students within a given school.
Taking Action In The Classroom
Instructional coaches must be flexible in the ways that they support teachers, but the best coaching work happens on-site, in the classrooms. Coaches and teachers that work side-by-side within a classroom are able to teach together, assess student knowledge, and make in-the-moment decisions to respond to student learning and misconceptions. Although coaches can also train teachers through lesson planning, PLC support, etc., the best partnerships take place within the classroom in real-time alongside students.
Versatile Collaboration & Problem-Solving
Knowledge is power, and it should be shared! In our experience, the most successful coaching work happens through collaboration with other teacher partners. Instructional coaches encourage teachers to create partnerships with their counterparts to establish an open community in which both the coach and the teachers share different pedagogical areas to learn from each other.
As we mentioned, Instructional coaches must wear many hats to excel in their role. In addition to being strong connectors and communicators, they are excellent problem solvers. Through flexible thinking and a wide lens of schools and situations, instructional coaches can strategize the next steps to achieve successful learning. On a macro level, coaches help teachers tackle student learning challenges head-on. For example, Indiana is currently facing a wide-scale challenge within the pedagogy of the science of reading. According to The Indiana Literacy Cadre, one out of five students in Indiana can’t read proficiently by the age of third grade. To ensure that students are provided with the resources to learn the critical skills of reading, instructional coaches work directly with teachers to formulate effective methods of instruction—targeting word recognition, phonics skills, vocabulary, fluency, and word analysis skills—that will have a lasting impact on students.
On a micro level, coaches are also given the opportunity to help solve problems through collaboration and conversation with teaching partners. These coaches are trained to always approach challenges with a productive, problem-solving mindset rather than engaging in “venting” or other less-meaningful conversations with teachers. With support from coaches who are well-equipped to solve problems, teachers can take note of what a successful approach looks like and follow suit.
Instructional Coaches Serve as Ultimate Partners in Professional Learning
As Indiana’s learning community, Keep Indiana Learning provides resources and best practices where educators, families, and students can connect and learn from peers across the state. We have a team of exceptional instructional coaches who collaborate with districts across the state to further support teachers, leaders, and students.
If you’re looking for instructional coaching support, please reach out to our Instructional Coaching Specialist, Jessica Miller at email@example.com.
Additionally, Keep Indiana Learning is hosting collaborative coaching events throughout the school year, as well as the Coaching Cadre—designed for new and veteran coaches looking to grow in their foundational coaching practices.