Coaching and Professional Capital

I just returned from presenting at and attending the European Council of International Schools Leadership Conference in Vienna. My session was on Instructional Coaching.

I had the opportunity to attend Andy Hargreaves keynote where he discussed several elements of teaching that for me point to the value of coaching from peers, instructional coaches, and administrators.

Hargreaves asked the audience how many years they thought a teacher needed to reach high quality. (My guess was 7 years based on earlier studies  that I had seen showing student test performance increasing during a new teacher’s first 7 years). He suggested that teachers need from 8-20 years. Interestingly, 8 years of experience is about 10,000 hours, matching the required practice mentioned by Gladwell in Outliers.

I also attended a session by Charlotte Danielson where she presented a research piece that showed the difference in student achievement between teachers rated proficient and teachers rated distinguished that was very dramatic.

When I saw those differences my years of “preaching” that coaching should focus on good to great was certainly reinforced. To what extent have we created an environment where administrators and teachers have been satisfied…thinking we are getting the job done with proficient teaching? Hargreaves cautioned that we are often so excited about the high commitment that young teachers bring to the classroom that we often overlook their level of competence.

Hargreaves, who has recently published with Michael Fullan Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, listed these professional capital assumptions about good teaching:

  • It is sophisticated and difficult.
  • It requires high levels of education and long training.
  • It is perfected through continuous improvement.
  • It involves wise judgment informed by evidence and experience.
  • It is a collective accomplishment and responsibility.
  • It mediates and moderates online instruction.

I am thinking that coaches might want to make use of the list of assumptions to guide some critical conversations.

With board members—if they agree with the assumptions, it certainly would guide a decision to invest in providing coaching support for staff.

With administrators—How does belief in these assumptions influence the design of an instructional coach’s job role? In what ways would an administrator need to support coaching culture and activities?

With teachers–  How would agreement with these assumptions influence a teacher’s relationship with an instructional coach and with members of a professional learning community?

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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