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The Evolution of Practice-Based Coaching & How Districts Can Benefit



If you’re a teacher, you know the anxiety that comes with anticipating the principal’s visit to your classroom. You want everything to go right, and you hope the principal can see your teaching gifts and skills underneath your nervousness.

On the other hand, as a principal or coach, you may miss an amazing teacher-student interaction because you’re consumed with recording observation notes. On top of that, you wish you had more time to spend with this teacher before driving across town to the next school to observe another classroom.

Whether you’re a teacher, coach, or principal, you’re wondering if there is a more effective practice-based coaching implementation plan.

Practice-based coaching can indeed be done more effectively and thoughtfully with a modern approach. We’ll discuss how practiced-based coaching using video works and why it’s beneficial.

Table of Contents

Understanding Practice-Based Coaching: Then & Now

Practiced-based coaching has been used in schools for decades, but it hasn’t always been known by that name. Years ago, this exercise was better known as teacher evaluation or observation.

Teacher evaluation is very different from practice-based coaching.

To understand what practice-based coaching is and why it’s beneficial, let’s start by comparing how we used to do it and how we do it now.

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Practice-Based Coaching THEN

Practiced-based coaching in the past was thought of as having someone — a principal, administrator, or another education professional — visit a teacher’s classroom to evaluate how they perform.

This practice often created anxiety for teachers, causing them to focus more on the visitor in the room and less on their class and their teaching practice. Rather than feeling comfortable and doing what they do best — teaching and relating to their students — teachers may underperform simply because they are being “watched.”

In addition to the stress on teachers, this old process of evaluating teacher performance was met with several logistical challenges:

  1. It can be costly to pay someone to visit classrooms to observe teachers.
  2. It’s not time-efficient, especially when a principal needs to leave their other administrative duties to observe the numerous teachers in the school.
  3. It’s not effective due to the one-sided approach, where the coach is doing the observing while the teacher remains passive. The old-style approach is more of a telling session, where the coach shares what they liked and what the teacher needs to correct.
  4. It’s often not thorough or detailed because of the challenge of trying to record helpful information in real-time while attempting to be a thoughtful observer. Coaches or principals may feel rushed or distracted, which makes for less than helpful feedback.
  5. The assessment feedback is often untimely. Depending on district regulations, some feedback isn’t shared for days or weeks. The farther away the feedback is from the teaching session, the less meaningful the feedback is.

Practice-Based Coaching NOW

Practiced-based coaching is a different approach that involves:

  • Different goals
  • Modern tools; and
  • Two-way communication

The goals of practice-based coaching today are less about evaluation and general strategies from coaches and are aimed more at helping teachers use detailed, meaningful feedback to help them improve their individual classroom practice. The goal is to push the teacher to be an active participant and to guide them in thinking about their own teaching practices.

The main tools for the old approach were pen and paper, while the current approach takes advantage of modern technology like video. Videos are an invaluable resource in practice-based coaching for both the teacher and coach because they give them both the opportunity to observe the performance from the same perspective. It also facilitates a more thoughtful, timely, and thorough evaluation on the part of the coach.

Practice-based coaching today is more discussion-driven than the antiquated method. Rather than simply receiving instruction from the coach, the teacher is involved in the conversation. The teacher and coach can watch video footage together, discuss what they see, and collaborate on how to improve. With this approach, the coach gets to know the teacher and their practice, which allows for interactions that are more beneficial.

How Does Practice-Based Coaching Work?

Practice-based coaching is an individualized approach to teacher professional learning for the purpose of supporting teachers in their practice.

Coaches observe teacher practice, take thorough notes about what was successful and areas for improvement, and then discuss those notes one-on-one with the teacher. 

When the coach and teacher meet together to review notes, they can have a two-way conversation focused on specific, actionable steps the teacher can take to improve their instructional practice.

What Is the Foundation of Practice-Based Coaching?

We all know a firm foundation is necessary if we expect what’s built on that foundation to be lasting and stable. Building on a firm foundation is key in practice-based coaching if we want to see fruit and growth.

The foundation for practiced-based coaching can be summed up in the idea that the thinker is the learner. Practice-based coaching is geared toward making the teacher an active participant in the professional learning and coaching process.

Coaching isn’t effective if the only voice being heard is that of the coach. When this happens, the coach is doing all of the analyzing and merely presenting results.

With the teacher as both the thinker and the learner, practice-based coaching can deliver more effective outcomes. Rather than the coach just telling the teacher their findings, the teacher thinks about their own performance and practice and in collaboration with their coach strategizes ways to improve. 

Practiced-based coaching happens best when:

  • The coach performs a thorough and thoughtful observation;
  • The teacher and coach discuss the observed lesson; and
  • The teacher and coach collaborate to make adjustments to the teacher’s instructional practice

Pillar #1: Observation

Once the foundation of the teacher being the learner is firmly laid, pillars can then be built on that foundation.

The first pillar of practice-based learning is observation. When the classroom observation is recorded, the coach has the opportunity to focus more on the activity in the classroom than on recording their notes while the lesson is being delivered. 

When the coach can …

  • Take their time;
  • Rewind the recording to review parts of the practice; and
  • Construct good questions

both the teacher and coach will be better poised to have a conversation that will deliver positive results.

For example, rather than just providing the teacher with a list of things they should improve, a conversation with coaching questions like these can be so much more beneficial.

  • “Let’s look at the recording at a few key spots, like right here at 1:25, where this student becomes disengaged. Why do you think that was happening?”
  • “And what about at this spot in the recording at 4:00 where the students seem to get excited about the content? What made the difference? How could you do that in other areas of the lesson?”
  • “Or here at 5:30, what do you see happening?”
  • “What do you think went well?”
  • “Are there any things you would change?”
  • “What would you keep the same?”

With this type of coaching, the teacher — rather than the coach —  is doing the thinking, making the implementation of changes more meaningful and motivating.

Pillar #2: Performance Assessment

The second pillar placed on this strong foundation is performance assessment based on research-based standards. 

There are several models of set standards that can be used and may include performance standards like the following:

  • Professional knowledge of curriculum and content 
  • Instructional planning
  • Instructional strategies
  • Assessment strategies
  • Positive learning environment
  • Professionalism
  • Communication
  • And more

Without research-based standards for practiced-based coaching, the coach and teacher discussion may merely consist of their own opinions of what they think is effective or useful in the classroom.

Basing assessments on standards rather than on teacher and coach opinions ensures a common language and common place from which to measure success and performance. 

 Pillar #3: Create a Plan of Action — Put It Into Practice

Once the observation has taken place and the assessment has been made based on standards, the last pillar is collaborating on the findings and creating an action plan together.

This is where the coach/teacher relationship shines. 

The coach comes to this conversation prepared with good questions, and the teacher contributes to the discussion by sharing their thoughts and insights. 

Thoughtful coaching is not telling but showing — not telling the teacher what they need to do or know but showing them by letting them think and learn and form their own strategies to put into practice.

How Is Practice-Based Coaching Beneficial?

Practiced-based coaching is beneficial for everyone — educators, school districts, and students.

  • Educators and teachers are supported in their practice and are helped by honing their teaching skills using research-based strategies and effective teaching practices. 
  • School districts benefit by placing teachers in their schools who are consistently evaluating their own performance and making appropriate changes to bring the best classroom experience and high-quality instruction to their students.
  • Students benefit by being in an environment with a highly-qualified teacher who is focused on learning, skills, and student needs.
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TORSH Talent Provides the Platform Educators Need to Improve Learning Outcomes

If you’re ready to  implement technology-enhanced practice-based coaching, TORSH Talent has the tools to support productive professional learning and coaching in your district. 

TORSH Talent provides a comprehensive platform to facilitate

  • Observation;
  • Feedback; 
  • Coaching; 
  • Individualized professional learning; and
  • Professional learning communities

… that encourages continuous improvement and equips teachers with guidance, support, resources, and strategies that make a difference in their practice and in student learning..

We know how busy educators are, and we also know how tight a school district’s budget can be. That’s why we created the platform to be affordable, flexible, and time-saving.

TORSH Talent Makes Practice-Based Coaching Easier and More Efficient

TORSH Talent saves teachers and coaches time by giving them one platform that puts…

  • Observation;
  • Coaching; and
  • Professional learning

… in one convenient, secure, and easily accessible place.

TORSH Talent streamlines coaching and professional learning by putting everything educators need right at their fingertips. 

From the convenience of a computer, tablet, or mobile device, coaches, principals, and district leaders can easily…

  • Plan;
  • Implement;
  • Track; and 
  • Analyze 

… professional learning that motivates and supports teachers by investing in their professional growth.

Using a data-driven approach, TORSH Talent provides a way to observe classroom practice and share the feedback with teachers, administrators, and coaches. Tools include::

  • Cataloged interactions
  • Compiled data
  • Built-in reports to track data at the:
    • User level;
    • School level; and
    • District level

Ready to take your district’s professional learning and coaching program to the next level? Request a demo today.

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