Setting Up a Coaching Program for Success
Consider a Pilot Stage
Great things start small. Regardless of size, the districts in our study on the Dynamic Learning Project pilot (DLP)1 that were able to implement DLP coaching most effectively all started small by piloting the program in select campuses before expanding. When districts begin by implementing a coaching program on a smaller scale, they have the chance to test the program in terms of its alignment with their culture, goals, and other initiatives. This lowers the stakes while providing the necessary experience to understand how they can iterate and improve the program moving forward. Moreover, when districts pilot coaching in a small number of schools and see a positive impact, stakeholders are more willing to allocate further resources for coaching and expanding to additional schools.
Tips for success:
- During the pilot period, districts should collect continuous improvement and impact data from coaches, principals, teachers, and even students. For example, running a survey among teachers at the beginning and end of the year and then comparing responses of teachers who received coaching with those who did not can highlight the impact of coaching. While data doesn’t guarantee success, it does help to predict future behavior and provide guidance and recommendations from those on the ground of implementation for iterative development. By improving the implementation during the pilot, leaders resolve challenges before expanding and set up the necessary conditions for sustaining the program. Learn more about how to use data for continuous improvement.
- Coaches and school administrators who pilot a coaching program are primed to take on leadership roles as a district expands coaching to new schools. With a deeper understanding of coaching (versus traditional professional development workshops), experience implementing the coaching model, and insight into the district’s goals, current coaches included in the leadership team are positioned to help align these three elements to support the successful expansion of coaching in additional schools.
A rural school district in the southeastern U.S. composed of 18 schools decided to start small by piloting the Dynamic Learning Project in just three schools during the first year. In those schools, DLP coaches aligned their work with teachers to support an existing district goal of earning the designation of STEM certified by the state. At the conclusion of the pilot year, all three DLP schools had successfully earned state STEM certification. Encouraged by that success, district leaders decided to expand the program to the nearly all schools in the district. To support the expansion, the district identified the most successful pilot coach and principal and elevated them to the district office to oversee and support the coaching program across the district—one as a mentor for new coaches and one as an administrator to lead and manage the program across all schools.