This summer I am having several opportunities to provide training to educators who are entering a new phase of their career as an instructional coach. I am also working with school based administrators who are responsible for coaching teachers as part of their leadership role and supporting the work of instructional coaches in their schools.
Defining roles is an important part of instructional coaches and administrators consciously practicing the critical skills of their leadership. I use the following continuum to establish the activities of evaluating, supervising, mentoring and coaching.
Easiest to start at the two ends of the continuum. At the far left, the narrow role of evaluation can be defined as measuring the teacher’s effectiveness against criteria brought to the classroom by the evaluator. At the far right, the broad definition of peer coaching is an activity where the coached teacher is totally in charge; selecting whom to invite into the classroom, when, and for what purpose.
Supervision is perhaps the most difficult role to play as it can entail some tasks that are elements of formal evaluation combined with other activities that are developmentally focused. Often it can be difficult for a teacher to feel confident in knowing which role the supervisor is currently playing.
Mentoring falls between supervision and peer coaching as it usually does not have a formal evaluation component like supervision does. It differs from peer coaching as it doesn’t have all the voluntary aspects found in peer coaching. Your mentor may be assigned. The mentor may share information with you that he observed but you didn’t request.
No matter the role, to be effective trust must be developed.
What causes you to trust an evaluator? I suggest the answer is consistency in the evaluation criteria and the assessment standard. Evaluation needs to be transparent. A teacher should know what the criteria of the evaluation are and be confident that the evaluator applies the criteria the same in all evaluations. The evaluation outcome shouldn’t change if evaluator changes.
How do you evaluate an evaluator? On the accuracy of the evaluation. The evaluator produces a summary report on the level of effectiveness of teacher practice.
What causes you to trust a coach? I suggest that it is a belief that the coach works for you vs the evaluator who works for the system. The evaluator’s observation is designed to produce an accurate assessment of performance…. Feedback. The coach’s observation is designed to provide feedforward… information that can change the future. How do you evaluate a coach? I’d believe it is on the growth of the people they coach…which in a school setting also connects to the success of the students the teacher serves.
Successful building administrators can be both evaluator and coach to many teachers by clearly identifying when they are playing which role. Instructional coaches who in most cases do not do evaluations can establish the coaching role a little easier.
Principals, who are instructional leaders, coach and support coaching. Instructional leaders and instructional coaches are (should be) evaluated upon the success of the people they coach. When you accept a coaching role you are suggesting that part of your professional evaluation be based upon the performance of your staff. I find many new coaches ponder that thought for the first time when I mention it in training.