Instructional coaches are on-site professional developers who teach educators how to use proven instructional methods. To be successful in this role, coaches must be skilled in a variety of roles, including public relations guru, communicator extraordinaire, master organizer and, of course, expert educator.
Marketing their services
Instructional coaches hold brief meetings with teams of teachers to explain their goals, philosophy, kinds of interventions available, and the support they can provide. They allow time for questions and provide a means for teachers to indicate they are interested in working with the coach.
Analyzing teachers’ needs
Instructional coaches meet with teachers individually at a convenient time for the teacher (such as during a planning period or after school) to identify the teacher’s most pressing needs and to discuss possible research-validated interventions that might help the teacher address those needs.
Instructional coaches sit in on classes taught by the collaborating teacher to observe the overall progress of the class as well as behaviors related to specific issues raised during the individual coach-teacher conferences.
Collaborating on interventions
Together, instructional coaches and teachers identify interventions that best address the teacher’s most pressing need. As an example, an instructional coach and teacher might determine that a graphic device could help the teacher clearly organize and communicate the standards and content that will be taught in a unit. When necessary, instructional coaches and teachers collaborate to develop a plan for using the chosen instructional method.
The instructional coach’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for a teacher to successfully use a new instructional method. To that end, instructional coaches try to alleviate the burden on teachers as much as possible by preparing all handouts, assessments, overheads, and other materials that the teacher needs.
As teachers observe, instructional coaches teach their classes and demonstrate how the new instructional method or intervention should be taught. In some cases, instructional coaches provide checklists or some other form of observation tool so teachers know to watch for specific teaching behaviors.
Instructional coaches observe teachers as they use the new intervention in class. Sometimes, the instructional coach uses a checklist or some other form of observation tool as a means of providing specific feedback to the teacher.
The nature of the instructional coaching process allows for continuous communication between instructional coaches and teachers. After the first observation, instructional coaches meet with teachers to discuss how teachers used the intervention. Coaches provide plenty of validation along with suggestions for improvement. The communication then continues, with instructional coaches modeling, observing classes, and providing more feedback, depending on the needs of the teacher.
Building networks for change
Instructional coaches work with groups of teachers to establish teams or professional learning communities that pave the way for interventions to be taught consistently across classrooms and subject matter. An instructional coach might help a language arts team develop a scope and sequence for teaching writing strategies, for example, or a grade-level team develop a plan for teaching the same behavioral expectations for students in all classes.