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Ideas and Insights on Instructional Coaching

by Andrew Roush
instructional coaching

Instructional coaches support students and educators through professional development, relationship building, and much more. Like so many things in education (and life) this year, education has seen major shifts. As a result, instructional coaches have taken new lessons from the experiences of 2020.

In this post, we’ve compiled a variety of insights and ideas that have emerged this year to help build teacher capacity and improve student outcomes. 

Coaching Defined

Texas’ ESC Region 13 describes instructional coaching succinctly as “job-embedded professional development.” To that end, they write, an instructional coach does the following:

  • Facilitates pre-observation conversations, goal setting, and post-observation conferences
  • Conducts classroom observations to collect data on specified practice
  • Maintains a confidential relationship with teacher
  • Supports teachers by consistently co-planning, co-teaching, and modeling lessons.

Supporting Learning

Instructional coaches and those in similar roles are concerned with supporting learning in many ways, from understanding social-emotional needs to navigating rules, standards, schedules, and guidelines.

Responding to Change

Last month, TechNotes featured an interview with education researcher Jim Knight. He took a broad view of instructional coaching during the current COVID-19 pandemic, pointing to ways to overcome continued challenges — and the skills educators can take from this period. 

For example, what does eye contact look like for coaching when you’re doing it through Zoom versus face to face? Overall many of the same skills or best practices apply – let people finish their responses, genuinely want to hear what they have to say and listen, don’t interrupt, don’t fidget with stuff while they’re talking, and pay attention to the person. This can just be harder virtually, especially with a group. When you sit down with a person or a group face to face, you can feel if this is working or not, and that’s hard to do virtually, so working on skills like these are key.

Interview: Instructional Coaching During COVID-19

The challenges of changing schedules and changing methods of instruction mean a focus on the foundations of teaching. In the Lit Coach Connection blog, Krista Senatore outlines five lessons from the COVID outbreak that coaches can take to heart. Not only should educators focus on building and maintaining the vital personal connections that make learning happen, they should also be mindful of building a community of learners, using the right data to assess and plan, and maintain a focus on the basics of literacy, critical thinking, and reading.

Professional Learners

Not only do instructional coaches work to teach teachers, they themselves must be lifelong students. Jim Knight outlined a similar emphasis in his November interview:

“It’s really important that professional developers reflect deeply on their beliefs. Paulo Freire in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed talks about a few key concepts that need to be in place if you want to have dialogue with somebody. He said you have to have humility in the way you interact with the person. … He said when people understand that we want to hear what they have to say, we’re open to being changed by them, and we believe in them and want what’s best for them — and this is authentic — they’ll trust us. But the flip side is also true if any of those things are missing. So, I don’t know if it’s a new skill, but I think to be effective at this work, it’s really important to think carefully about our beliefs.”

Interview: Instructional Coaching During COVID-19

You can also read Knight’s thoughts on video for coaching in a previous TechNotes interview here

Launching Ideas

The Launch Pad is the blog from the makers of the Teach Boost tool. The blog includes a deep catalogue of posts on topics relevant to instructional coaches and similar professionals. 

In September, San Antonio instructional coach Genevie Rodríguez-Quiñones shared her insights on building teacher capacity — and easing the burden on coaches — in her piece in The Launch Pad. Among her insights are ways to share ideas and engage all of your professional network and colleagues into the process of improving and renewing learning. Also on The Launch Pad, Greg Jung shares a six-point blueprint for tech integration with the teacher in mind. 

As noted above, video is now a standard part of coaching and education in general. Coaches and educators looking to conduct useful video training and teaching, especially those running virtual events, seminars, and more, should be aware of these tips, also shared on The Launch Pad. And, if you’re interested in running top-notch virtual trainings, check out our post on the subject, and our virtual events-themed episode of our podcast, the Ed Tech Club. 

Giving Everyone Choice

Choice boards are a popular way to engage students by giving them a choice and a voice in their learning, making them active participants and creators. When it comes to providing educators with the right choice boards options, it’s all about finding the right tool for the job. 

To dig deeper into choice boards, check out this post that shares ways to provide flexible choice board options for teachers, or this post from Edthena on the power of choice boards.

Taking Control with Tech

Technology can provide powerful tools to engage, assess, and communicate with students, families, and colleagues. But using tech successfully also requires effective, proven strategies, and an understanding of teachers’ and students’ individual needs. 

In the Windy City Literacy blog, Liz Janusz outlines what we’ve learned regarding remote learning — a trend sure to stick around in ways large and small, regardless of how long the current COVID-19 pandemic lasts. 

Want to see a wide range of tools? Explore this list from InstrucionalCoaching.com, with links to a number of strategies, apps, and resources, and even self-care and wellness tips to help alleviate the stresses of remote learning and teaching. 

Looking for even more insights? Register for TCEA’s virtual Convention & Exposition, beginning February 1, 2021. Check out sessions just for professionals like you here, and don’t forget to register here!

 More from TechNotes

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

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