Instructional coaching has rapidly grown during the past two decades. Empirical studies suggest that instructional coaching can be more effective than traditional professional development workshops in creating meaningful change in teacher practice and student achievement. That said, there are still many remaining questions about what instructional coaching is, how it should be executed to leverage teacher professional growth, and how districts can create real-world sustainable programs that transform their systems.
Instructional coaching is a promising job-embedded form of professional development that is grounded in day-to-day teaching practice and is designed to enhance teachers’ instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning. Instructional coaches partner with teachers to provide them with personalized support in meeting their teaching needs. After identifying a classroom challenge to tackle, coaches and teachers closely collaborate to brainstorm and select best strategies; implement selected strategies in the classroom through co-teaching, modeling, and/or observation; and reflect on progress until the challenge is met.
There are different types of instructional coaches (e.g., content-focused coaches, technology coaches), and their roles are defined differently from district to district. Coaches’ functions are as varied as the needs of the students and teachers they serve. Regardless of this variety, almost all instructional coaches focus on supporting effective teaching to improve student learning. They ground their work in day-to-day teaching and learning practices and tend to work at the intersections of content, pedagogy, and, in many cases, technology.
Coaching can be transformative for school and district communities. A growing body of research provides evidence on how and why coaching supports these outcomes. By fostering conditions for teacher learning and culture change, coaching can drive deep and meaningful change in teacher practice, leading to improvement in student learning and engagement.
Professional development that is designed based on how the brain works—like coaching—can be more effective at supporting teacher learning.
Coaching, which provides personalized support to teachers, can support teachers in transferring learning to practice and improve student outcomes.
Coaching can support three areas that are related to teacher retention: job-embedded PD opportunities, strength of administrative support for teachers, and a culture of professional collaboration.
Whether you are just getting started with coaching or are trying to improve or expand your existing coaching program, this playbook will help you lay the groundwork for success. It provides you with research-backed practical strategies to build and grow a sustainable and scalable coaching program and develop effective coach-teacher collaboration. The strategies shared in this playbook may be used in any order, but a successful implementation requires considering all of them.
The Digital Promise Instructional Coaching Playbook was developed based on three years of research on the Dynamic Learning Project pilot that equips leaders and coaches with the strategies necessary to build and implement successful instructional coaching programs for their specific purpose.
New and existing coaches can also access the structured curriculum and research-proven coaching model based on the Dynamic Learning Project pilot by becoming a Google for Education Certified Coach. The Certified Coach program empowers instructional coaches to work 1:1 with educators and particularly drive impactful technology use in their schools.