The Work of Instructional Coaches

A district office recently asked me to spend a day with principals and instructional coaches to examine their current coaching practices and establish a new job description and focus for their coaching program.

I began by having each coach or coaching pair (elementary schools had two coaches) interviewed by an administrator other than the one at their school. The principals were asked to question and discover the “work of the coaches”. Three teams of principals and coaches then formed a group to examine the similarities and differences among their practice. They created a list of common coaching work activities and ranked them from most to least time consuming.

These groups then presented their findings to the whole. At this point individuals and groups identified “promising signs” and “questions and concerns”.

How might results from your instructional leaders compare?

Overall, coaches ….
spent time with teachers.
were involved with data
provided professional development
were involved in curriculum and instruction
built relationships and collaboration
increased the flow of information among staff?

Questions and Concerns:
What are coaches doing that should be done by someone else? (Administrator, Teachers, Clerical)

Might teachers rely on coaches and not learn to do the necessary task (test my students, interpret my data, find the resources teachers need) and build capacity.

How many tasks can coaches take on, do, and do well?

Coaches may not be receiving sufficient professional development for their own growth.

How do coaches balance district and building responsibility/loyalty?

Coaches lacked time to do observations and provide quality feedback to teachers.
How much flexibility should the coaches be given in deciding ”the prioritization” of their work?

We then reviewed some of Joellen Killion’s work on heavy and lite coaching (earlier blog) and the elements of quality professional development.

At this point groups formed and listed what they thought were the most important coaching behaviors for increasing student achievement, the behaviors that coaches might take part in less frequently, and activities that they thought should most often NOT be part of a coach’s day.

These lists showed great similarity among the groups and will now be combined to create the description of the coaches’ future work. When I receive their final copy I will post.

Here is Jim Knight’s list of “What Coaches Do”. Is your system changing the definition of the coaches’ work as a program matures?

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One Response to “ The Work of Instructional Coaches ”

  1. Scarlet Says:

    This session happened in my district. The power of the conversations and collaboration was criticial to the success of beginning the journey to redefine and improve the use of coaches within our district. We appreciate the opportunity to design a program through ruthless assessment of our current practices and appreciated Steve’s facilitation and training to teach us the power of coaching. We will continue to work to improve our practice but will begin by having agreed expectations of what coaches will do, may do, and probably will not do…more work to follow.

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