Today's educational environment requires that school leaders focus on continually improving teaching and learning in their schools. Professional development is frequently cited as an important element of effective schools (Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005), but traditional forms of professional development (e.g., workshops without follow-up) typically do not result in substantial changes in classroom practice (Collins, 2000).
Coaching is one form of follow-up that teachers may find helpful as they learn new instructional skills to meet the needs of all students. (Please refer to the cover article in this Link Lines issue for additional information on instructional coaching.) While few rigorous studies have been conducted to prove that coaching contributes to improved student outcomes, existing studies indicate that coaching does contribute to improved instruction (Killion & Harrison, 2006).
What can a principal do to ensure that coaching is effective in his or her school? First, the principal should work collaboratively with the coach. The partnership between coach and administrator is crucial because the coach must clearly understand the principal's vision for school improvement, and the principal must fully understand the assistance that the coach can offer (Knight, 2007).
Killion and Harrison (2006) note that principals can actively support school coaches by:
Introducing the concept of coaching and its purpose to the faculty
Introducing the coach to faculty and describing the coach's work, including the confidential nature of interactions between the coach and individual faculty members
Explaining to the faculty how to access the coach's services
Setting and communicating expectations for staff interactions with the coach
Meeting with the coach on a regular basis to problem solve and discuss the coach's work
Making sure that the coach has access to central office personnel who can provide important curriculum or demographic information
Meeting regularly with a school team comprised of resource personnel, general educators, special educators, and the coach to align resources and services
Being supportive of the coach's participation in professional development opportunities
School leaders are encouraged to consider the merits of coaching as they seek to support teachers who are learning new instructional skills. The following websites provide additional information on coaching: http://www.instructionalcoach.org, http://jimknightoncoaching.squarespace.com, http://www.edcoaching.com and http://www.instructionalcoaching.com.
Collins, D. (2000). Achieving your vision of professional development: How to assess your needs and get what you want (3rd ed.). Greensboro, NC: SERVE.
Killion, J., & Harrison, C. (2006). Taking the lead: New roles for teachers and school-based coaches. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council.
Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press and National Staff Development Council.
Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.