Teacher quality is one of the most important factors that contributes to student success. There is a growing body of research that points to coaching as a powerful way to support teacher effectiveness. As such, coaching is becoming more prevalent in schools and districts in the U.S., and districts are increasingly using federal, state, and local funds to support coaches and coaching programs.
In 2017, we partnered with Google and EdTechTeam to launch the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP), a classroom-based coaching program with the goal of increasing educational equity and the impactful use of technology. We also led a corresponding research study to assess the impact of DLP coaching on teachers. During the first two years of the program, we found that teachers who participated in the DLP used technology more frequently and in more powerful ways with their students. Moreover, teachers who received DLP coaching reported greater skills and confidence in leveraging technology in their teaching, which resulted in increased student engagement and learning.
Given the impact of coaching found in DLP schools, we were interested in exploring the overall coaching landscape in the U.S., including access to coaching, the perceived effectiveness of coaching, and the existing financial and professional support for coaches. We partnered with Learning Forward to design and distribute a national survey to a robust network of coaches, educators, and administrators committed to professional learning. Our goal is to be able to provide recommendations for the adoption and sustainability of high-quality coaching that supports Powerful Learning.
The prevalence of coaching across the country is promising, with 83 percent of survey respondents, distributed across all 50 states, reporting that their school or district is currently engaged in coaching. The majority of educator respondents find coaching to be a valuable and impactful form of professional development and believe it has a positive impact on their teaching practice. However, many coaches juggle a very full workload in terms of the number of educators they support and other roles they serve, which may jeopardize the positive impact of coaching. DLP research found that effective coaching is sustained overtime, and our findings corroborated this conclusion, as the teacher respondents who spend more time with their coach rated their coaching as valuable.
While coaching serves as professional development for teachers, it’s also important that coaches have access to their own professional learning opportunities. The majority of coaches who responded to our survey reported that their professional learning is effective; however there is room for more professional development that supports coaches in using technology in their practice.
Our findings led us to make several recommendations for improvement, including: