The path to organizational change is through individual change .... change happens one person at a time - Charles Bishop Jr.Having considered why coaching leads to a more positive impact on student learning in the last post, this post is going to look at what coaches actually do. Everything I've learned about coaching emphasizes the importance of meeting people where they are - which will involve one-on-one meetings. Coaches start by listening and respecting the teachers with whom they are working and by communicating their willingness to help.
Jim Knight writes about finding the right starting point, an issues many new coaches are anxious about. He describes a good place to start as looking at the "Big Four":
- Behaviour: teachers need to create a safe, productive learning community for all students
- Content knowledge: teachers need to have a deep understanding of the content they are teaching and coaches must know how to access the standards and help teachers turn these into lesson plans.
- Direct instruction: coaches can share instructional practices with teachers so they are better prepared to ensure students master the content they encounter.
- Formative assessment: teachers need to know whether students are learning the content
After considering how coaches can support the "Big Four", Knight emphasizes the importance of building an emotional connection with teachers and encouraging them to implement new ideas. He writes: "coaches are most effective when they act as critical friends simultaneously providing support and empowering teachers to see areas where they can improve." He outlines the following as being particularly effective for coaches to accelerate teacher learning:
- Collaboration - through collaboration the coach makes it possible for teachers to engage in reflective dialogue about teaching, and to work together as partners to co-create.
- Modeling - coaches can go into classrooms to model how to employ the particular best practice that teachers are learning about.
- Observing and providing feedback - coaches watch teachers and discuss their observations, allowing the teachers to make their own sense of the data.
- Support - making it as easy as possible for teachers to implement a new practice.
There are various principles behind instructional coaching and these will be the subject of my next blog post.