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What Is Instructional Coaching & How Can It Enhance Classroom Instruction?

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With an incredibly high number of teachers leaving the field, instructional coaching is becoming increasingly important in districts across the U.S. as they work to retain current teachers and train new staff. 

But, what you may be picturing might not be what instructional coaching looks like. The days of having an administrator or principal observe a class and tell the teacher what to do are over.

These days, an instructional coach works closely with the educator to empower them to build their knowledge, refine their practice, and become even better at teaching.

This guide will outline what an instructional coach does, how they support the educational process, and how to introduce coaching in your district.

Table of Contents

What Is an Instructional Coach?

An instructional coach is an expert “thought partner” that works in schools or districts to ensure teachers are reaching the highest level of their practice. 

With a focus on the educational standards used at the institution, the instructional coach will build a relationship based on mutual respect and trust while providing question-based feedback that empowers teachers to make better instructional decisions. 

In a nutshell, an instructional coach helps teachers make the mission and vision of their classroom a reality.

What Does an Instructional Coach Do?

Instructional coaches use data to help guide teachers toward evidence-based instruction that engages, empowers, and enriches students and helps them grow academically.

Coaches play a critical role in an educator’s professional development. Together, they discuss important learning points, goals, and a roadmap for working towards those goals.

Not only do instructional coaches have an important coaching relationship with an individual teacher, but they are also the liaisons who help spur understanding and implementation of a school’s vision and standards.

TORSH Talent is a tool used by instructional coaches that allows them to review pre-recorded videos provided by the teacher. The coach will analyze the video and then work with the teacher to determine areas for refinement and improvement  that align with the school’s standards and students’ needs.

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What Are the Benefits of Working With an Instructional Coach?

How do instructional coaches help teachers and what are the main benefits of using an instructional coach in the classroom?

Research shows that the benefits of instructional coaching are numerous and may include:

  • Improved teaching performance
  • Increased ability for teachers to analyze their own instruction and delivery methods
  • Better-articulated lessons and instruction
  • A firm grasp of instructional best practices
  • Increased professional growth
  • Improved classroom culture and a positive learning environment
  • Better relationships among colleagues
  • Enhanced student achievement

A multitude of studies have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of instructional coaching and the consensus is clear: an instructional coach can positively impact social change, empower teachers to make informed decisions, and enhance student engagement and learning.

3 Ways Instructional Coaches Support the Educational Process

#1: Acting as Thought Partners

What exactly is a thought partner? Instead of observing and “telling” teachers what to do, an effective instructional coach uses thoughtful, inquiry-based methods that challenge the teacher’s thinking. 

An instructional coach will scaffold the coaching and learning process by working alongside teachers in their classrooms, using reflective listening, and asking thought-provoking questions.

For educators to be successful, they must reflect on who they are as teachers and explore their own biases. A thought partner knows what to say and ask to guide teachers through this process.

#2: Empowering Teachers

Even though an instructional coach is considered the expert, the teacher should also be viewed in the same manner. By leveraging a teacher’s strengths, coaches can empower and elevate that teacher to accelerate student engagement and achievement. 

Sometimes teachers become frustrated or overwhelmed by the things they cannot control and instructional coaches can encourage them to focus on what they have the power to change.

#3: Enacting Change

An instructional coach may help to facilitate action and change as they work alongside teachers, administrators, and board members to investigate …

  • Policies and procedures
  • Resources and learning materials
  • Curricula 
  • Pedagogical practices; and
  • Processes 

… while looking at the bigger picture through an unbiased lens to address any institutional inequities within the classroom and the school.

4 Stages of the Instructional Coaching Cycle

#1: Planning

Planning is essential to ensure coaching is productive and supports growth. It’s important for an instructional coach and teacher to discuss both immediate and long-term goals. Understanding what outcome the teacher would like to see is paramount in formulating a plan for success.

Coaches typically break up goals into smaller, manageable steps to make them more achievable, and work with the teacher throughout the process. 

#2: Assessing

This is the classroom observation portion of the cycle. Using TORSH Talent, coaches will watch classroom videos and provide time-stamped feedback  throughout the recording to help the teacher identify areas for improvement, recognize what’s going well, and explore ways to improve student response.

An instructional coach usually watches the video several times, through various lenses, such as:

  • Classroom management
  • Lesson delivery
  • Standards of practice
  • Student engagement

The coach will share their comments, suggestions, and questions and work alongside the teacher to create a clear path to successful instruction and improved student achievement.

#3: Teaching

When teaching a teacher, the coach will typically suggest ways the teacher can improve by encouraging them to look more critically at various stages of the lesson. 

Through collaboration, teachers and coaches develop a tangible strategy to improve the areas that need it the most.

Teachers practice by implementing the strategy both with and without students present. Feedback can be given based on the improved instructional method before the teacher uses the new strategy in a lesson.

#4: Reflecting

Reflection is an important step in the coaching cycle. The instructional coach and teacher might discuss how the teacher met a particular goal, any challenges faced along the way, and what they might do differently as they work toward their next goal.

Once discussed, the coach and teacher will decide which goal to work on next as the teacher continues to practice the goal they’ve already achieved.

When the teacher has reached each of their goals, they may exit the coaching cycle but still communicate with the instructional coach occasionally to ensure they’re still on the right path.

3 Examples of What Working with an Instructional Coach Could Look Like

#1: Video-Based Coaching

One of the most effective strategies used by instructional coaches is video-based coaching. The teacher will film their class during a regular lesson and then send the video to the coach with any notes, comments, or questions.

The instructional coach will then analyze the video and provide evidence-based feedback and ask thought-provoking questions that will inspire and empower the teacher to recognize what they did well and areas for improvement. 

For example, if a teacher is struggling with classroom management and engagement, the instructional coach may show the teacher footage from their class alongside footage of a classroom where the students are appropriately engaged. The coach can ask the teacher what they see in the two examples and encourage them to identify what would have worked in their own classroom.

TORSH Talent facilitates this type of collaboration between coaches and teachers through secure video sharing, time-stamped feedback, in-platform live video conferencing, and an online resource library of exemplars. 

TORSH Talent enables more frequent and meaningful coaching to occur so that the growth potential of your team is maximized. 

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#2: Counting Strategies

Counting strategies can be used in conjunction with video-based coaching by having the teacher count:

  • How many times they see a specific practice used
  • How often students are engaged
  • How much is spent on teacher talk time
  • How often students respond to questions
  • How many negative vs. positive behaviors they see
  • How quickly students transition from one activity to the next

Simply by counting what they see in the video, the teacher can see what needs to be worked on.

#3: Experience-Based Coaching and Sharing of Expertise

Though collaborative instructional coaching is important, the instructional coach’s primary role is to provide expert, evidence-based guidance on instructional practice in a non-judgemental and confidential manner. 

Coaches will often pull from their own experiences and share valuable bits of expert advice with the educator they are working with. This kind of knowledge could include:

  • Classroom management strategies
  • Ways to identify professional development opportunities
  • Self-assessment and goal setting

Educators can benefit exponentially from this kind of coaching. Video-based instructional coaching enables coaches and educators to partake in valuable instructional coaching from anywhere and at any time.  

TORSH Talent: Streamlining and Strengthening Instructional Coaching & Professional Development

The TORSH Talent platform was designed for educators and instructional coaches. It automatically captures and catalogs every user interaction. 

The platform makes it easier for instructional coaches to provide specific, actionable notes on videos of lesson delivery and for teachers to review those notes. Teachers can respond and ask any questions they have throughout the process. 

Storing everything in one place simplifies the entire coaching process by eliminating the hassle, time, and stress of juggling handwritten notes, Google Docs, or videos saved in various files.

Live coaching sessions can be conducted by the instructional coach using the in-platform synchronous video function, meaning there’s no need for Zoom or Google Meet.

TOSH Talent provides all of the tools instructional coaches need in a FERPA compliant, affordable system so they can focus their time and energy on what’s important — coaching teachers — rather than managing the coaching process. Request a demo today!

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