Home Good Teaching Coaching for Results, Part 1: Exploring Coaching Models

Coaching for Results, Part 1: Exploring Coaching Models

by Miguel Guhlin
student-centered coaching

““When schools lack an articulated coaching model, confusion reigns and a precious resource is wasted,” say authors Diane Sweeney and Ann Mausbach. Finding the right coaching model for your school or district can be a daunting task. In a recent workshop, I facilitated the exploration of various models and their dynamics. In this blog entry, we’ll explore those dynamics to gain insight into coaching models.

Why Coaching?

Wondering why schools are adopting coaching to assist teachers? “Effective coaching makes it easier for teachers to learn and implement new ideas. Indeed, without follow-up such as coaching, most professional learning will have little effect,” says Jim Knight.

Research shows that coaching is 95%-99% effective in changing professional development outcomes. This makes it a change that adds significant value in classrooms. As such, it has the best hope of impacting teaching and learning for the better.

Instructional coaches provide teachers (source) with the:

  • Best job-embedded professional development (even better than Twitter and social media)
  • Highest possible positive impact on student achievement in literacy and mathematics
  • Action research that yields positive gains in classroom teaching and learning

The last point results from conducting formative assessments to gauge student progress.  Research suggests that coaches are a worthwhile innovation, a change that adds value:

Most educators agree that a qualified, experienced coach offers value-added support to teachers…. [Coaching] can improve teachers’ skillful delivery of reading instruction. The…role of the coach can bring job satisfaction as a collegial contributor of professional learning…. (Source: NRTAC Study, 2010)

In the final analysis, coaching can have a positive impact. Let’s take a look at some popular coaching models. We’ll start with Diane Sweeney‘s Student-Centered Coaching. She provides an amazing lens through which to understand coaching models.

Coaching Model #1: Student-Centered Coaching

“The coach partners with teachers to design learning that is based on a specific objective for student learning,” says Diane Sweeney. In her book Student-Centered Coaching, Diane shares a comparison of various coaching models. In her chart below, Sweeney puts student-centered coaching at the far left, showing that is has a greater impact on learning. In the middle, she has teacher-centered coaching. To the far right is relationship-driven coaching. The table outlines the various attributes of each, focusing on role, focus, use of data, materials, perception of the coach, and the role of relationships.

student-centered coaching

A key point that Diane Sweeney makes is that being student-centered provides a powerful lever that allows every conversation to focus attention on student learning. This is different from other coaching models.

What Do Other Models Focus On?

“Without student work, coaching quickly slips toward being more about teaching practice and less about student learning. Student work keeps coaching conversations grounded and specific, and propels student learning,” says Diane Sweeney in Student-Centered Coaching (pp. 12-13). Other models may focus on teaching practice or relationship building, which may be beneficial, but do not bring the high impact on student learning. They tend to focus on the coach moving teachers. This movement could be to roll out a program or adopt a set of instructional practices. Programs that focus on this type of movement are teacher-centered, rather than student. This presents a bit of a challenge, given how hard it is to expect teachers to change. The drawback, of course, for teacher-centered coaching is that teachers must change. It’s all about the teacher’s efforts and getting them to adopt strategies that work.

What Works Best for Ed Tech Evangelists?

What coaching model do your efforts at educational technology advocacy fall into? Many ed tech coaches focus on providing just-in-time support to teachers, urging them to change what they do. Instructional practices consist of PBL, tool-centric workshop sessions. The latter focus on making the teacher’s job easier. Other times, it’s about building strong relationships and trust. Or both.

Connecting technology with strategies that work is essential, albeit insufficient. In Sweeney’s model, coaches and teachers must put technology in the service of student learning. They must answer the question, “How did this impact student learning? Where’s the evidence?”

Student-Centered Evidence

If you’re wondering where to find student evidence of learning, look at the tasks and work students produce. That work can include any or all the following:

  • Continuous, formative assessment
  • Anecdotal and descriptive

Since using student evidence to co-plan instruction, Sweeney proposes a Results Coaching Tool. As you can see from the tool, it has several major components:

  • Standards-Based Goal. This includes the gathering of baseline data that focuses on the question, “Where are the students now?”
  • Instructional Practice. “What instructional practices will help students reach the goal?”
  • Instructional Coaching. “What coaching practices were implemented during this coaching cycle?”
  • Teacher Learning. “As a result of the coaching, what instructional practices are being used on a consistent basis?”
  • Student learning. “How did student achievement increase as a result of the coaching?” Post assessment data is used to gauge where students are after instruction.

As you review Sweeney’s tool, you may be able to make similar connections, as I did, to where educational technology interventions may fit in. More on that in a future blog post.

As you might imagine, there are many parallels to other coaching models. What sets Sweeney’s approach apart from models such as collegial coaching is its reliance on student evidence. Check back for future blog entries that introduce you to other coaching models.

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