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Why Teachers Need Instructional Coaches

U.S. schools spend between 74 and 181 million dollars per year on professional development programs, according to an article from Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy. Unfortunately, researchers have found that there hasn't been any significant improvement in teacher instruction from year to year, or in student outcomes, leading the researchers to conclude that the professional development conferences, workshops and presentations have failed to fit the teachers' needs.

As a result, many school districts have begun to hire instructional coaches for their teachers. These personalized professional development initiatives appear to be "more effective than the traditional PD workshop model because they are integrated in a teachers' day-to-day activities at the school and respond better to the active way teachers learn best."

The Kraft, Blazar and Hogan Analysis

A recent study conducted by Matthew Kraft, David Blazar and Dylan Hogan concludes, "Teacher coaching has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional models of professional development." Kraft, Blazar and Hogan did a meta-analysis of 60 instructional coaching evaluations and found large, positive effects of coaching on instructional practice.

Effective coaching programs have a few characteristics in common: practice on the job; substantive length and intensity of training; focus on specific sets of skills; and active learning.

What Is Teacher Coaching?

Kraft, Blazar and Hogan write, "We characterize the coaching process as one where instructional experts work with teachers to discuss classroom practice in a way that is (a) individualized – coaching sessions are one-on-one; (b) intensive – coaches and teachers interact at least every couple of weeks; (c) sustained – teachers receive coaching over an extended period of time; (d) context-specific – teachers are coached on their practices within the context of their own classroom; and (e) focused – coaches work with teachers to engage in deliberate practice of specific skills."

In a review in The Learning Forward Journal, Elizabeth Foster writes that the meta-analysis performed by Kraft, Blazar and Hogan found that "teacher coaching had an independent, positive effect on student achievement, as indicated by performance on standardized tests." One of the foundational assumptions is that the improvement in student achievement and the effects of coaching on instructional practice are linked. "Coaching improves instruction, which in turn improves student achievement."

Coaching Needs to Go Big

The researchers also found that in order to have a positive impact on student achievement, there has to be a significant change in teaching practice. Coaching that leads to small improvements in teaching practice may not produce achievement increases for students. One major challenge in this plan is finding sufficient coaches. In order to provide the kind of intensive, one-on-one coaching required to produce results, more instructional coaches must be trained and available.

Becoming an Instructional Coach

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) offers a fully online master's degree program for professionals who want to acquire the knowledge, skills and leadership needed to be an instructional coach. TAMIU's Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Educational Administration online program will provide you with skills applicable to a broad range of industries.

The core curriculum consists of 33 credit hours and includes courses such as Collegial Coaching and Mentoring, Advanced Theories for Learning, Social and Cultural Studies of Education and more.

Learn more about TAMIU's Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Educational Administration online program.


World Bank Blogs: Teacher Coaching: What We Know

Learning Forward: The Impact of Coaching on Teacher Practice and Student Achievement

Brookings Institution: Instructional Coaching Holds Promise as a Method to Improve Teachers' Impact

Sage Journals: The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence

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