Districts are increasingly investing in coaching programs to improve teacher practice and student outcomes. However, merely providing schools with the funding for a coaching position is not enough. To maximize the return on the investment of coaching, our research on the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) shows that districts need to ensure that they are taking an active role in eliminating barriers to effective coaching and fostering a culture that encourages teachers to innovate their practice. Here are three concrete ways that districts can remove roadblocks and support coaching throughout the school year:
Our DLP research shows that the amount of time spent between teachers and coaches is one of the most important factors in a successful coaching program. However, time for coaching is often threatened by other responsibilities. It’s important that the district protects the time coaches and teachers spend together so they can consistently meet to plan, implement new strategies in the classroom, and reflect on the process.
Additionally, coaches and principals need adequate time for consistent collaboration. Despite the benefits of coach-principal alignment for fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration and supporting teacher buy-in, finding time for coach-principal meetings can be challenging. As one district administrator explained, “Our principals wear so many hats, which often results in coaches being left to their own devices. As a district, we need to provide time for DLP principals to collaborate on their program successes, challenges, and data so that they can regroup and refocus their attention on coaching goals.”
Tips for success:
If teachers and coaches do not understand the process for requesting access to new applications and tools from the district, coaching progress can be stymied. At the same time, districts lose millions of dollars a year in unused education technology products, often because teachers are either unaware of the resources that are available to them or feel that the tools selected by the district do not meet their needs. Our research shows that coaches can serve as a liaison between teachers and district decision-makers in conversations about resources and technology tools.
One coach described weekly check-ins between coaches and district technology leaders as being “a great platform for me. A lot of times, if teachers say, ‘Hey, I don’t have this extension or this add-on or I want this,’ I can take it to my district team and say, ‘Hey, this is what these teachers want. This is what’s happening, not happening. How can we move forward?’ If it’s feasible, the district makes it happen. If it’s not, they communicate that to me, and I relay that to the teachers.”
Tips for success:
Our research shows that when district administration encourages a culture of continuous improvement, teachers feel more comfortable participating in coaching and taking ownership of the change process. For example, one DLP district hosts monthly breakfasts on each campus where all teachers who have been coached sometime during the school year come together and share ideas and strategies with one another. This not only promotes and celebrates coaching, but also amplifies impact by fostering a culture of collaboration.
Districts can also foster a culture of coaching by celebrating bright spots and sharing teacher testimonials. This might take the form of highlighting success stories in newsletters, encouraging teachers and coaches to share their progress on social media, or having teachers share testimonials at school board meetings.
Tips for success:
A classroom coaching program is more likely to succeed when districts support it throughout the school year. By protecting time for coaching, communicating with coaches about the resources teachers need, and fostering a culture of coaching, districts can ensure their schools have the support they need for a successful classroom coaching program.