Teacher coaching…

I could write a formal post using fancy language, quoting research about coaching if I wanted to, but I choose not to! (There are plenty of those around, just google.)

After much research, including reading, viewing and valuable conversations with experienced coaches, Joc and I have begun to coach teachers.  It’s part of an ever evolving approach to professional learning at our school, which includes teacher choice, a focus on growth rather than judgement and a desire to constantly refine and improve our practice.

The content of coaching sessions is confidential, but we regularly reflect on the process and refine it as we go. Most of the teachers being coached are less concerned than we are about confidentiality. One shares her reflections in a meeting, another talks animatedly in the staffroom and a third is blogging about the experience!

I’ve already learned..

  • to talk less
  • to listen more
  • to craft purposeful questions
  • the value of collaborative reflection
  • to see things through the eyes of the teacher being coached
  • that teachers’ goals shift and grow as they see evidence of change in themselves and their learners
  • the value of protected time for teachers to reflect and talk about their practice
  • that positive relationships contribute to effective coaching
  • that effective coaching builds positive relationships
  • that teachers’ observations of their own practice are even more powerful than observations by others
  • that some teachers are happy to share the process of their growth, not just with other teachers, but with their students too
  • that, even in the early stages, coaching can make a dramatic difference to teaching and learning
  • that instigating change requires trying something different
  • that self-directed learning is the most powerful kind there is
  • the power of using data (about yourself as well as your learners) to inform teaching and learning…

Next steps…

Can we replace the old, evaluative model of teacher appraisal with a growth model, based on the coaching process?

Watch this space…

22 thoughts on “Teacher coaching…

  1. A great process to engage in.

    I think it is important that coaching is one avenue to explore professional growth, but not the only one. As part of an ‘appraisal’ or professional growth framework I think the important thing is to match approach with needs.

    The value in learning to observe not to judge is one that has broad benefits, and something lots of people struggle with.

    So glad your school culture is such a receptive one to this approach and you and Joc are great people to lead the approach!


    1. Thanks, Steve. Yes. We have just added coaching as one more option to a range of professional learning opportunities. One on one support of this kind was one thing that we were missing, other than mentoring for new teachers.


  2. Great to hear about your successes with coaching. All credit to you and Joc (and the mindset of your staff) for getting it going. I really like your cartoon. “Gather evidence” is an interesting one. What might this incorporate? Would you have it in the coachee box too? Some might expect to see feedback in there too but that could sit under gather evidence or observe.
    Your dot-point list captures the essence of effective coaching. The standouts for me are: seeing things through the eyes of the coachee; effective coaching builds positive relationships; and that teachers’ observations of their own practice are even more powerful that observations of others.
    Can’t wait to hear about the next steps!


    1. Thanks for your input and encouragement in helping us get it happening.
      ‘Gather evidence’ refers to what the coachee looks for when they observe… ie evidence of the teacher’s chosen goal (or not). When filming a lesson, it’s focusing on the aspects the teacher is seeking to improve, including filming the teacher and the learners. We ask them right at the start what evidence they want us look for.
      So far I haven’t offered feedback. The teacher observes his own practice in the videos and is able to provide his own feedback! My job is to ask the right questions that help him get there.
      Early days…
      Remember we haven’t been to the course yet (next week!) and it’s still unfolding for us!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. https://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/education-based-on-a-snapshot/

    My comment on this post:

    Tom, your post inspired me to share: This year for the first time, we are trialling having a ‘ coach teacher’. Our coach ( a previous full time classroom teacher who now coaches full time this year) Teachers sign up voluntarily if they have a goal they wish to achieve with the support of our coach – approx over a 6 week period. The purpose of her job is to mentor, advise, connect, and learn together with the member of staff. We all should have goals! Mine was for my class to connect globally ( in the most effective possible way ) with other Year 5 classes – Skype, blog, class twitter After a brief collaboration with my coach, we put some plans in action. She often pops in, sometimes we team teach or she videos my lessons and we ‘disect’ after. This is by no means a formal assessment of my teaching. It is positive criticism, solely to improve my teaching and to achieve my goal. ( Her job description was clarified by our principal ) While watching the video she was quiet and encouraged me to observe. Saw myself teaching and talking too much – repeating myself, explaining and re- explaining!!! Saw couple of students withdrawing from a session that sizzled at the start and then started to fizzle – kids wanted to get going while I was ‘ re- explaining’ ((if such a word exists) I was horrified! Am now extremely conscious of cutting out my talking and getting kids talking and doing. Being a PYP school, we focus heavily on student collaboration, independent inquiry etc.. I continue to do this but with minimal talk – My coach continues to video – amazing difference! ‘The proof of the pudding’ is the kids’ interaction and engagement from the start! I have shared this learning process with my students. Asked them to let me know when I start re- explaining and repeating. We have a sign. They stop me in my tracks…. I stop and let them move on….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very exciting process- we are working a bit differently in my district- the appraisal and coaching is developing at the same time- lots of lessons learned and the key is using member feedback and keeping a focus on professional growth- for all involved! I will watch this space!


  5. Hi Trista. Our focus on professional growth over time has led to a range of different professional learning opportunities and especially the element of teacher choice. I think the culture of learning that we has developed as a result is what makes teachers open to the idea of coaching, as just another piece in the puzzle.
    Would love to hear about your approach especially in regard to appraisal.


  6. Hi Edna. I am currently reviewing our PD model at our school, which includes a rethink about how we’re doing appraisals, and I am also very interested in learning more about coaching – so your blog came at a great time as it has links to all the areas I am looking at presently. I’m wondering, are there any books / readings you would recommend, or a coaching expert that you have worked with? I’d love to develop my skills in this area more but there is so much information, I’m finding it hard to know where to start!


    1. Hi Emma
      Anything by Jim Knight. I read Instructional Coaching, Joc read Unmistakable Impact. Check out #educoach on Twitter. We’re doing the Growth Coaching course next week http://www.growthcoaching.com.au/ And we have spoken to excellent people with more experience like Cameron Paterson and Maggie Hos McGrane. Re professional learning in general, I have a million posts and would also be happy to share our PD model if you like.


      1. Hi Edna, I will look up those texts, those names and have already accessed some more of your posts – thank you. If you were willing to share your PD model, it would be very much appreciated!
        Thanks again for all your posts, tweets and support for your online community!


  7. Thoughtful post Edna! What an exciting complement to your professional learning culture.

    So, I have been wondering about the language- what does the word “coach” mean. A coach historically was a vehicle in which people were carried- I am by no means an etymology guru (but I would like to be :)) Does this mean that a coach in a teacher coaching relationship “carries” the coachee? I don’t think so based on my understanding of the process and your great toondoo… I wonder if there is a better word for this type of approach? Any idea what the justification for this language is?

    Just my random thoughts tonight… 🙂


  8. Definitely no carrying! Think more about sports coaching.
    I looked it up and don’t like any of the definitions, so should we give it a different name? It’s not a mentor either… Hmm… how about Learning Partner? Or Bouncer (someone to bounce off!)


    1. Yes agree Ed definitely no carrying. Like your equating a teacher coach to a sports coach. Top professional tennis players have coaches who closely observe them in action, analyse footage, support change and help them achieve their goals.


  9. Hi Edna and everyone else!
    This is my first year as PYP coordinator (and math coach) and this post has really helped me to reflect on how I would like to improve in my role to better support the teachers with whom I work. Specifically, I have been working on talking less, listening more and crafting purposeful questions. Do you have any advice or resources about how to craft purposeful questions to help teachers reflect on their own practice? Especially at this point in the year where many teachers are scheduling meetings with me and asking for my feedback about their teaching. I’d love to be able to help them reflect on their own teaching practice, but am unsure about where to begin with regards to crafting those types of powerful, self-reflective questions. Thanks!


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