Dr Gary Jones, blogger, author and consultant shares his thoughts on the recent research on instructional coaching and the implications it can have on schools’ professional learning development. Gary’s new book Evidence-Based School Leadership and Management: A practical guide has recently been published by SAGE.
On Thursday 15th November 2018 the Teacher Development Trust will host a one-day coaching conference, which will explore how coaching could/can be used to drive school performance. Unfortunately, as I am not able to attend the conference I thought I’d use some time to do some reading around the subject of coaching and instructional coaching. This seemed particularly sensible as Dr Sam Sims has recently described instructional coaching as the best evidenced form of CPD.
Subsequently, I stumbled across Jacobs, Boardman, et al. (2018) who undertook a research investigation to understand teacher resistance to instructional coaching. As such the rest of this post will:
- Offer a definition of instructional coaching
- Provide the abstract of Jacobs et al’s research.
- Undertake a review of the research using the 6 A’s framework (see https://www.garyrjones.com/blog/2018/10/10/how-can-we-trust-research or http://www.cem.org/blog/how-can-we-trust-research/ ).
- Consider the implications schools wishing to support colleagues’ professional learning and development.
Definition – Instructional Coaching
Put simply – instructional coaching involves a trained expert working – be it an external coach, leader teacher or peer – with teachers individually, to help them learn and adopt new teaching practices, and to provide feedback on performance. This is done with the intent to both support accurate and continued implementation of new teaching approaches and reduce the sense of isolation teachers can feel when implementing new ideas and practices.
Research provides strong support for the promise of coaching, or job embedded professional development, particularly on improving teachers’ classroom instruction. As part of a comprehensive professional development model, 71 middle school (grades 6–8) science, social studies, and language arts teachers were assigned to an instructional coach to support their required use of a multicomponent reading comprehension approach, Collaborative Strategic Reading. In this study, we sought to better understand the factors that influence responsiveness to coaching, focusing in particular on teachers who appeared the least receptive to collaborating with a coach to support the implementation of a new practice. Results highlight the patterns and complexities of the coaching process for 20% of the teachers in our sample who were categorized as resistant to coaching, suggesting that the one-on-one model of coaching offered in this study may not be the best fit for all teachers.
Accessibility – physical and intellectual
- The research paper sits behind a paywall.
- The research was accessed by directly contacting the lead author (thank you, Jennifer Jacobs).
- The paper is written in a manner which makes it accessible to teachers.
- Basic descriptive statistics are used, so a high level of statistical knowledge is not required to make the most of the paper.
- The research was published in a peer-reviewed journal – Professional Development in Education.
- The research is consistent with other research, suggesting that not all teachers respond positively to coaching.
- Surprisingly one to one interviews were not conducted with teachers/coaches and reliance is placed on coaches perceptions – classified by the researchers – of teachers of resistance to coaching.
- The research took place in the middle schools of a single school district in the US.
- The focus was not just on instructional coaching but also involved a specific intervention to support students’ reading.
- The research is not directly applicable to schools in England, other than it raises questions about the potential over-reliance of a ‘one-size’ fits all approach to both instructional coaching and teacher professional development.
- The research is useful to anyone in English schools involved in the design and implementation of teacher professional development and learning.
- Instructional coaching is currently a ‘hot topic’ in teacher professional development given concerns about the lack of impact of much professional development on pupil learning.
- Instructional coaching appears to be acceptable to many teachers.
- The claim that not all staff – and particularly more experienced teachers – and resistant to coaching is consistent with my own experience as a senior leader.
- The research is relevant to the challenge of how to support the professional development of teaching staff.
- Instructional coaching is generally more costly than other forms of professional development, so identifying ways of making the most of such a financial investment is important, especially at a time to financial restraints.
- The research is actionable in as far as it identifies the need to provide a range of options for teachers undertaking non-negotiable forms of professional development.
- Although suggestions are made as to what other types of professional learning/development may be appropriate, little guidance is provided as to what may be more suitable.
- The research raises interesting questions about how school leaders would identify potential ‘resistors’ to professional development and how agreed forms of alternative professional development would be negotiated between school leaders and teachers.
Instructional Coaching – The implications for professional learning development within schools
First, it reinforces the notion that it is necessary to be judicious about claims made about the effectiveness of instructional coaching. It might be the most evidenced form of professional development but it may still ‘leave-behind’ a minority of teachers.
Second, it maybe that different forms of instructional coaching are more suited to some staff than others. As such, it may be necessary to provide teachers with choice within an individual forms of professional development.
Third, when implementing an intervention it may be necessary to provide both a range of types of professional development to and a choice types of professional development.
Four, when evaluating an intervention it is important to take to take into account not just whether an intervention has merit, but whether it is worth it.
Jacobs, J., Boardman, A., Potvin, A. and Wang, C. (2018). Understanding Teacher Resistance to Instructional Coaching. Professional Development in Education. 44. 5. 690-703.
Coaching in Schools: Dialogue to Drive Performance conference
The Teacher Development Trust are delighted to be hosting a one-day coaching conference that will host an array of international experts to help you understand the different types of coaching – instructional, leadership, executive and tools that you can use to support your school’s professional development.
Whether you are a teacher or leader based in a school, or perhaps working in the education system more widely, we would be delighted for you to join us on Thursday 15th November 2018 in Manchester.
For more information about the conference or to book on, please click here.