Decades of research show that coaching can be an effective mechanism for improving teacher practice and student learning outcomes. In fact, coaching is an important follow-up to trainings that often are decontextualized from the reality of the classroom setting. For that reason, several states plan to use coaching as a part of the SSIP.
Ohio is one such state. As the Ohio SSIP team crafted their Phase II plan, it thought critically about how to ensure that coaching leads to improvement in teacher practice and student outcomes. To guide this planning, the team posed the following questions:
- What does effective coaching practice “look like”?
- How do we ensure that coaches continually use effective coaching practices with teachers?
- What infrastructure will be needed within our state to ensure coaching can achieve its intended goals of improving teacher practice and student outcomes?
- How will we know whether coaching is achieving its goals?
With these questions in mind, the Ohio team began to think strategically about their approach to coaching in their Phase II and III work.
Identifying Effective Coaching Practices
The Ohio team noted “Dr. Jennifer Pierce [Ohio’s National Center for Systemic Improvement technical assistance facilitator] has helped us realize that for our purposes coaching is both an implementation method (i.e., a tool for supporting implementation), and also an evidence-based intervention. Like any other intervention, we must clearly define coaching so that we know precisely what we expect it to look like.” In their effort to identify and operationalize effective coaching practices, the team learned that teacher practice and learner outcomes can improve when coaching practice consists of ongoing cycles of observation, modeling, providing performance feedback, and using alliance-building strategies.
Identifying Implementation Drivers to Support the Sustained Use of Effective Coaching Practices
In practice the team found that coaching can be quite varied across schools and coaches often are unable to dedicate the majority of their time to using effective coaching practices. As the team and Dr. Pierce worked to refine Ohio’s approach to coaching, it continually reflected on principles of effective implementation. For example, the team considered Implementation Drivers (e.g., competency, organization, and leadership) for coaching, asking themselves the following questions:
- How will we select, train, and coach coaches?
- Do we have a system for collecting and using data about coaching?
- Do our state and local teams have the necessary resources to ensure that coaching consists of effective practices?
- Do our policies support effective coaching practice?
- How will leadership support effective coaching practice?
By reflecting on these questions, the team began to create a systematic plan for effective coaching, thereby promoting the sustained use of coaching, which would allow them to achieve the intended goals of improving teaching and learning.
Ensuring That Coaches Implement the Identified Practices
Armed with information about effective coaching practice and principles of effective implementation, the team developed a job description for coaches, working with stakeholders to refine job duties. Effective coaching practices formed the core of the job description. The state also identified the hiring of an internal literacy coach, supported by the state in the initial years of implementation, as one of the non-negotiables for participating districts. They recognized this as key component not only because of the limited capacity of their regional literacy specialists to provide intensive coaching to multiple districts, but also to support long-term sustainability within the district itself. In several districts, the role of the internal coach will represent a big shift in how teachers are supported around early literacy. By prioritizing the work of coaches on these effective practices and including multiple levels of coaching, the team realized that it was sending the message to all stakeholders that effective coaching consisted of ongoing cycles of observation, modeling, providing performance feedback, and using alliance-building strategies with teachers.
The team also created a calendar of professional development opportunities for coaches that included evidence-based practices and the effective coaching practices. The team recognized that purposefully creating a calendar of professional development for coaches would help build the infrastructure within their state to support coaches for the long term.
To ensure that they will be able to monitor the implementation of coaching over time, the Ohio team plans to work with Dr. Pierce to develop a coaching fidelity measure. This measure will help the team and stakeholders understand whether coaching is occurring as intended. They anticipate that the data from the measure will help them to understand changes to teacher practice. Stay tuned for more information about the coaching fidelity tool!
View the coaching materials developed through Ohio’s work.
- Effective Coaching: Improving Teacher Practice and Outcomes for All Learners
- Implementation Guide for Effective Coaching
Do you have questions about coaching within your SSIP work? Contact Dr. Jennifer Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the work in Ohio, visit http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Special-Education/Early-Literacy.