What makes a good instructional coach?

My colleague Christina and I were fortunate to be able to take part in a 2-day Coaching Institute with an informative and entertaining Jim Knight, brought to the London area by SDCO.  It was great timing for me to explore my roll as a technology coach! I’ve not had any professional learning in this area since starting my job as a tech coach so this was a welcome opportunity for learning and reflection.  Thanks to the Literacy Gains project for making this happen!  You might want to join the The Big Four Ning for more materials and information about Jim Knight and his coaching projects.

Knight defines coaching as:

A coach is an on-site professional developer who partners with educators to identify and assist with implementation of proven teaching methods.

I loved his respectful approach to honoring our teachers as learners, not trying to do things ‘to’ them, but to learn along ‘with’ them. Understanding that change doesn’t always stick the first time, coaches can help teachers understand why they may need to change an instructional practice and then be there for the really important support as they take action to make changes.

Knight shared Prochaska’s theories from Changing for Good whereby we move through stages of change, from pre-contemplative (not even thinking about a change)  to taking action.   This reminded me a lot of the CBAM (Concerns Based Adoption Model).

What makes change stick? Our group decided change was influenced by these things:

  • do we want it?
  • can we see progress?
  • can we persevere to follow through?
  • is there support during the action phase?
  • do we see value in the change?
  • have we unlearned previous behaviours?

Coaching is like good teaching, it’s about Informed Adaptive Response to what is going on in the classroom.  We are informed by our experience and expertise in developing effective classroom instruction and learning environments, and this combines with our adaptive response that differentiates our approaches.   We differentiate these approaches based on the teacher’s desire to learn, their learning style, teaching experience, and personality.
Not surprisingly, the research shows that it usually takes several attempts before change will stick.  People actually go back and forth in creating a lasting change.  Anyone who has ever tried to improve their eating habits or maintain an exercise program probably already knows this to be the case!

Many practical suggestions were shared to help coaches improve their coaching sessions including ways to provide options for teachers to help them define an area they’d like to work on, video taping coaching interactions to help improve a coach’s own skills and high leverage communication strategies and case studies.  All in all, it was a very valuable day for me on my coaching journey!