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Instructional Coaching: Classroom Management Through Data-Driven Strategies for Teachers



Effective classroom management helps to create a safe, supportive, and productive environment for learning. It also reduces stress and burnout for teachers. Yet, very few educators receive formal training on this aspect of teaching in their teacher prep programs. Job-embedded instructional coaching can help. 

Instructional coaches can not only share research-based practices for classroom management with teachers, they can help teachers look at what’s happening in their classrooms from  a different perspective. Together, a coach and teacher develop solutions and work to implement them.

We’ll help you make the most of instructional coaching by discussing what it is and how it can be the key to helping teachers manage their classrooms so students can engage in learning and teachers can focus on what they do best, teach.

Table of Contents

What Is Instructional Coaching for Classroom Management?

Instructional coaching for classroom management is a practice where coaches and teachers work together to create and implement classroom management strategies based on observational data.

An instructional coach will observe a classroom, often using video, to assess the classroom environment and pinpoint areas that may be contributing to negative classroom behavior or inefficient use of time and resources. 

The coach will then share their findings with the teacher, often watching portions of the video together. Along with notes about what they observed in a lesson or activity, a coach may come with questions in hand that will lead the teacher to make observations of their own.

Armed with specific and actionable observational data, the coach and teacher can then collaborate on areas for improvement and strategies to try.

Effective instructional coaching for classroom management will also include a follow-up session where the coach can observe the classroom after new practices and strategies have been implemented to see their impact on classroom behavior and productivity. 

Why Instructional Coaching Is Especially Valuable For New Teachers

If you ask any educator what the goal in the classroom should be, they will overwhelmingly reply that student learning is the priority

However, many teachers, especially those new to the profession, may also admit that classroom management issues sometimes hijack that chief priority.

Novice teachers can be extremely concerned about classroom management. After all, they know that effective classroom management is key to student learning, and they want to get it right from the start. 

But sometimes, new teachers can be so worried about classroom management that they have trouble delivering the content and engaging students in learning as well as they’d like.

Instructional coaching is a great tool to help deal with this imbalance. Coaches provide teachers with the feedback, resources, and support to promptly meet behavior issues head-on, freeing up time and energy for constructive classroom instruction and student learning.

What Are Instructional Coaches Looking for When Analyzing Classroom Management?

Classrooms are full of activity, and many teachers practice a variety of routines throughout the day. Of course, no one instructional coach can observe every single thing in a classroom, but most coaches will focus their attention on:

  • Student engagement
  • Behavior
  • Time Management

Student Engagement

At one time or another, no matter how animated the teaching style may be, every teacher has had a student or students show a lack of interest or low engagement.

It happens to everyone, but the key to motivating student engagement is identifying the reason students tune out and disengage in the first place.

Low student engagement can be caused by personal or emotional difficulties out of the teacher’s control. 

Student engagement can also be an indicator of poor classroom management, such as:

  • Unclear expectations
  • Disruptive behaviors
  • Low vs. high structure environment
  • Untimely feedback

Identifying the underlying reason a student is disengaged is the first step to drawing them back into the classroom activity.

Expected Behavior vs. Challenging Behavior

Teachers are human, and like the rest of us, teachers may have a much easier time pointing out negative behavior than positive behavior. 

Classroom management can be negatively affected when challenging behavior gets more attention than expected behavior.

Teachers need balance, and finding that balance can be a key to successful classroom management.

During a classroom visit, an instructional coach can pay careful attention to the teacher’s correction and praise and offer insight on how to strike the perfect balance between positive and corrective language.

Acknowledging positive or expected behavior is extremely important, and educators agree that an ideal ratio of positive to corrective interactions should be somewhere between 3:1 to 5:1. 

No matter which ratio a teacher strives for, the goal is to identify more positive behaviors than negative ones.

Time Management

Even with the best lesson plans, time management can be a challenge. Unexpected things happen in the classroom, or often it takes longer for a teacher to perform a task than they had planned.

Instructional coaches can help identify reasons why time consistently “gets away” from a teacher and offer suggestions for more effective time management in the classroom. 

For example, during a classroom observation, a coach may evaluate the following:

  • The amount of time spent correcting versus teaching
  • The amount of time spent during transitions
  • The clarity of classroom procedures
  • The use of technological resources

7 Ways an Instructional Coach for Classroom Management Can Help Teachers

Instructional coaching is most impactful when it involves teachers in their own self-reflection and learning

When a coach merely observes a class and shares a list of dos and don’ts, teachers are less likely to take ownership of the solutions and may be less likely to try what is recommended. 

More effective coaching happens when instructional coaches share the observational process with the teacher. As they observe the classroom environment and activity together, the coach and teacher can discuss issues they see and then join forces to develop a strategy to improve the classroom environment.

#1: Revisit the Framework of Teaching

The framework of teaching created by Charlotte Danielson involves four basic domains:

  • Domain 1 — Planning and preparation
  • Domain 2 — Learning environments
  • Domain 3 — Learning experiences
  • Domain 4 — Principled teaching

Classroom management and behavior would be included in Domain 2, and this is usually where instructional coaches start to ensure teachers have the foundation to then focus on the higher domains.

Once teachers can effectively manage their classrooms, they can focus more on student learning experiences and improve their teaching practice. 

Curious to learn more about the Danielson Framework and how it can be used as a guide to improving classroom management and professional development? Read more here. 

#2: Observe the Classroom

When an instructional coach observes a classroom, they can provide beneficial information to the teacher, which the teacher may miss or be unaware of while they are teaching. 

For example, coaches can:

  • Observe student behavior across the classroom
  • Focus on the classroom setup and environment and discuss how it may contribute to classroom behavior issues
  • Assess teacher practice and how it contributes to the classroom atmosphere

When an instructional coach visits a classroom in person, they can offer valuable feedback on what they observe. But often, an in-person visit limits what the coach is actually able to observe and take note of, simply because of time restraints and the difficulty of trying to simultaneously observe and take notes.

A more productive and efficient coaching approach makes use of video. 

#3: Collect Data

The instructional coach can collect data in two ways:

  1. By observing the class in person and making notes on the observation in real-time
  2. Review a video recording made during an in-person visit or recorded by a teacher and then shared 

A teacher can record a lesson or activity and share it with their coach. The coach can then watch the video on their own time with the ability to start and stop the video to revisit particular moments or incidents for closer examination. 

Video enables a coach to provide time-stamped feedback to the teacher that points out effective strategies and areas where the teacher could have done something differently. Coaches can ask probing questions in their comments as well make observations about connections between what a teacher does and what the students do.

Recording their classroom practice also allows teachers to see themselves in action. Watching a video together with a coach can help teachers be more objective about student behavior incidents and brainstorm solutions for better outcomes.

Without the insightful data collected by the coach, the teacher has nothing to base their improvement strategies on other than their own limited perspective. 

#4: Analyze Data in Collaboration With Teachers

When the coach sits down with the teacher to view the video footage, the coach can point out specific instances observed or classroom environment issues that can be improved. 

After specific issues have been pointed out, the best coaches come prepared with questions to help put the teacher in the driver’s seat when it comes to making changes in practice.

For example, after looking at part of the footage, it’s obvious to both the coach and teacher that a particular group of students have trouble with a particular task. Rather than telling the teacher what to change, the better approach is to ask questions, like:

  • Why do you think this was an issue?
  • What could you change for a better outcome?
  • How can you prevent this from occurring?

These types of questions allow teachers to test various hypotheses and determine which works best. 

In many cases, the teacher just needs someone to share their ideas with. Coaches can help by:

  • Asking good questions; 
  • Sharing multiple strategies with the teacher; and 
  • Letting the teacher decide which strategies might work best for their classroom.

Directive coaching methods are one-sided and put the teacher in a passive position to merely receive instruction and input from the coach, who comes across as the expert.

Conversely, collaborative coaching involves bringing out what the teacher already knows and allowing them to put it into practice. 

Instructional coaching for classroom management is empowering for teachers, and this is what TORSH Talent is all about. TORSH Talent provides an all-in-one platform that streamlines and simplifies:

  • Coaching
  • Observation; and
  • Professional learning. 
Request Demo

#5: Empower Teachers to Empower Students

Coaches play a key role in helping teachers understand why it’s important to involve students in many classroom processes. 

With the right input and effective collaborative strategies, teachers can transfer their learning to their students, empowering them to take ownership of their learning environment. 

For example, rules are often an important part of classroom management, and vocalizing rules and expectations upfront is key. Teachers can help students take ownership by involving them in the creation of classroom rules, like outlining the …

  • Dos
  • Don’ts
  • Always behaviors (i.e., always be kind)

When students are involved in the decision-making process, correcting them can be more effective when we can remind them of their participation by saying, “What is that rule that we decided on together?”

#6: Position Teacher as the Greatest Resource

When teachers can analyze the observational data and collaborate with a coach, they are equipped to step into their role with confidence, realizing they are the classroom’s greatest resource. 

When teachers lead by example and pass on roles to the students, they are empowering their students to be leaders themselves, freeing up precious time to allow the teacher to focus on the main role of instruction.

A coach can help a teacher identify unproductive classroom time and help them create a plan to make the most of the time available. Here are two examples:

  1. During a classroom observation, a coach notices that it takes eight minutes out of a 30-minute period for students to transition between activities. After discussing the issue together, the coach helps the teacher get back valuable time by showing them what can be delegated to students: mundane tasks, like passing out materials, checking names on papers, and erasing the board.

    In many ways, the management of …
  • Materials
  • Supplies
  • Routines; and 
  • Procedures

… can be turned over to students, allowing them to own their classroom.

  1. During an observation, the coach notices how the physical space is negatively affecting classroom management. When it comes time to collaborate with the teacher, the coach can ask questions like:

    • Why are the students’ desks pushed into pods of four when the students were meant to work independently?
    • How does this arrangement work against the intention?
    • Is everyone in a location where they can see and hear the teacher?
    • Have you grouped children in the best way to achieve the intended outcomes?

Again, an opportunity can be observed for the students to take ownership in the classroom. The coach may encourage the teacher to create an expectation where the students know to separate their desks for independent work and bring them back together into pods for group work.

#7: Formulate a Plan for Success

Instructional coaches are successful when they walk alongside teachers and assist them in setting goals and creating a strategy to achieve their intended outcomes.

Formulating a successful plan involves:

  • Sharing observational insight
  • Asking good questions
  • Listening to teacher responses
  • Offering helpful strategies 

When an instructional coach gives advice like, “This approach really worked well for me,” it doesn’t help the teacher evaluate their unique classroom environment or their specific strengths. But when a coach can guide the teacher toward developing their own solutions, they are likely to be more effective and result in lasting change.  

The teacher feels confident in knowing …

  • What to do to prevent and
  • What to do to address

… a particular situation or event in the classroom.

What Is the Overarching Goal of Instructional Coaching for Classroom Management?

It’s simple.

The goal of instructional coaching for classroom management is to create a classroom culture where teachers can spend more time on instruction and positive student engagement than behavior management.

Request Demo

TORSH Talent: Empowering Teachers Through Coaching for Classroom Management

TORSH Talent helps educators achieve their classroom management goals with resources and tools designed specifically for teacher/coach collaboration.

With TORSH Talent, you’ll have access to features like:

  • Video-based feedback and observation with time-synced commenting
  • A resource library that can include exemplars, frameworks and rubrics, and on-demand training courses to support teacher learning 
  • Insights that are captured and cataloged into usable reports
  • Goal setting tools and action step tools to support data-driven professional learning 

With solutions for …

… TORSH Talent supports job-embedded professional learning that improves teacher practice and student outcomes. 

Request a demo to see how TORSH Talent can help your organization provide more classroom management coaching to more teachers without increasing the number of coaches on your team.

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