Introducing the Instructional Coaching Playbook - Digital Promise

Introducing the Instructional Coaching Playbook

July 14, 2020 | By

Three years ago, as part of the Dynamic Learning Project pilot (DLP), we set out to better understand how teacher coaching could move us closer to bridging the digital use divide in the classroom. The DLP was an instructional coaching program in which teachers were coached to use technology in more powerful ways that enhance their teaching practices and their students’ engagement and learning. We learned many lessons during these three years, and we are thrilled to share what we’ve learned in our new Instructional Coaching Playbook.

Over the past decade, instructional coaching has increasingly attracted the interest of researchers and practitioners alike. Empirical studies suggest that instructional coaching can be more effective than traditional professional development workshops in creating meaningful change in teacher practice and student achievement. That said, there are still many remaining questions around how instructional coaching programs should be executed to leverage teacher professional growth, and how districts can create real-world sustainable programs that transform their systems.

Digital Promise’s Instructional Coaching Playbook discusses why teachers need coaches and suggests steps which school and district leaders can take to build and develop a sustainable and scalable teacher coaching program, or to improve and expand an already existing program. In addition, this playbook identifies principles of effective coach-teacher collaboration and offers recommendations for both coaches and school/district administrators to promote this collaboration.

This playbook is based on a mixed-methods research study we conducted from 2017–2020 in 160 predominantly Title 1 DLP schools in 30 districts across 10 states. Nearly 2,000 teachers, 149 coaches, 165 principals, five mentors (coaches’ coaches), and more than 1,600 students participated in this study.

What we learned

Teachers need instructional coaches

Coaching can be transformative for school and district communities. By fostering appropriate conditions for teacher learning and culture change, coaching can drive deep and meaningful change in teacher practice, leading to improvement in student learning and engagement.

Building and developing a successful instructional coaching program

The Instructional Coaching Playbook guides school and district leaders in how to build and develop sustainable and scalable coaching programs in their settings. Merely providing schools with the funding for a coaching position is not enough. To maximize the return on the investment of coaching, school/district leaders need to—among other things—adopt an appropriate coaching model that supports their specific school/district goals; select an effective coach and clearly define their role and scope of work; and ensure school administrators actively support coaching throughout the year. It is also necessary to plan for continuous professional development for both coaches and school administrators, and to constantly work to develop a culture of coaching among staff. The playbook provides detailed strategies for each of these conditions.

Encourage better coach-teacher collaboration

Additionally, effective coach-teacher collaboration is at the heart of any successful coaching program. It does not happen overnight, nor is it simply met by hiring the most experienced and skilled coach. It is a process that requires time, thoughtful planning, collaboration, practice, support, and perseverance from coaches, teachers, and school/district administrators. It at least needs to be rooted in the four key principles of effective teacher professional development: partnership, active learning, personalization, and sustained support. The playbook provides strategies for how both coaches and school/district administrators can bring these principles to life in their coaching programs.

Check out our Instructional Coaching Playbook for detailed tips and best practices for building a successful classroom coaching program.

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