Just as students are better supported when learning is personalized, teacher professional development programs are also more productive when personalized. Compared to traditional professional development workshops, coaching by nature can be more relevant to the specific context of each teacher’s background, classroom, goals, and the particular needs of the student population. Our research study on coaching in the Dynamic Learning Project pilot (DLP)1 shows that the more coaching activities are personalized and consistent with each teacher’s readiness and needs, the more likely that teachers feel satisfied with coaching and adopt new teaching practices at a higher degree of quality. But how can coaches differentiate their support for each teacher? Our research highlights four strategies:
Before coaches start working one-on-one with teachers, they should use all appropriate sources of information to familiarize themselves with the context of their setting(s). This facilitates both relationship building with teachers and the ability of the coach to tailor conversation, feedback, and support to make it relevant for the particular needs and realities of each teacher and their student population.
Identifying clear and actionable goals that are directly generated from the specific needs of a teacher and their students helps coaches design and plan the most tractable route to improving teacher practice and make more relevant suggestions to the teacher. Teachers also feel more satisfied and motivated to collaborate with their coach when they see their needs acknowledged and their goals identified.
Most of the time, helping each teacher navigate the most relevant new instructional practices is grounded in cultivating an acquaintance with the characteristics and needs of their students. By gaining a deeper understanding of students, coaches can better tailor their support to teachers. This shared understanding and relationship with students also strengthens the coach-teacher relationship by grounding the partnership in a shared goal of improving the achievement and well-being of specific students.
Gathering evidence on a teacher’s progress is another key strategy for coaches to continuously provide relevant support to each teacher in a way that illuminates their pathway to success.