Plan for Ongoing Professional Learning for Both Coaches and Administrators - Digital Promise

Plan for Ongoing Professional Learning for Both Coaches and Administrators

I think to be a good coach you have to always be learning:...You have to learn about that teacher; you have to learn about their students; you have to learn what other people have done that could be successful; you have to learn (about) new apps or programs and what steps are needed in order to make (them) work with this specific grade level.
DLP Coach

The Dynamic Learning Project pilot (DLP) research study1 shows that ongoing professional development for both coaches and administrators is critical for sustained success of coaching programs. Often, when expert teachers transition from the classroom into a coaching position, they become isolated in their new role and may deal with a variety of new challenges. New coaches not only need to gain training and experience in working with adult learners, but they also have to overcome the learning curve of adopting a new coaching model and connecting with a new community, while also adjusting to a schedule that looks very different from that of a classroom teacher. Likewise, many administrators do not have experience leading or collaborating on a coaching program (either as an administrator or as a coach) or even being coached as a teacher. Appropriate professional development (PD) around coaching for administrators helps them become engaged in the coaching program by understanding their critical role in its success in their school or district.

Tips for success:

  • When decision-makers select a research-backed coaching model, they should identify what resources exist for onboarding new coaches and administrators. Are there books, curricular materials, and/or in-person training opportunities that can guide the leadership team in implementing the model successfully?
Having a mentor is like having a lifeline. She is there to guide me, to listen, to make suggestions. She supports me and celebrates the successes along the way. Everyone needs a coach, but every coach needs a mentor.
DLP Coach
  • Coaches and administrators also benefit from access to ongoing personalized mentorship. In other words, everyone can use a coach. Mentors can serve as indispensable thought partners for both coaches and administrators and build capacity for strategic problem-solving. In the DLP pilot, each school was paired with an outside expert who regularly met one-on-one with coaches and administrators and provided on-call support as needed. During the three years of the DLP research study, coaches and administrators consistently reported mentorship as the most valuable support they received from the DLP coaching program. Learn more about how mentors can support coaches and administrators.
  • Active participation in professional learning networks (PLNs) both within and outside their district can also promote connections that build coach and administrator capacity. PLNs can help coaches develop familiarity with new tools and resources, and allows them to collaborate with peers on common challenges. They can help administrators become inspired and learn from a wealth of sources, and develop their leadership skills in coaching interventions.
Spotlight: Value of Mentors for Coaches and Administrators

One component of the DLP coaching program was ongoing support provided to coaches and administrators by mentors. The vast majority of coaches and principals agreed or strongly agreed that this one-on-one expert assistance is essential for implementing an effective instructional coaching program.

While outside consultants can provide a fresh perspective and help coaches navigate difficult conversations with administrators, the benefit of mentorship from within the district is the added element of insider knowledge. Experienced coaches within a district can be leveraged to support their peers. For example, in one DLP district in Southern California that started small by piloting with all middle schools before expanding to elementary schools, the more experienced middle school coaches within the district served as informal mentors to the newer coaches.

1The Dynamic Learning Project pilot (DLP) refers to the coaching program and research study that took place from 2017-20.
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