Not every teacher benefits from a coach, new report suggests
- An analysis of 60 studies spanning three decades reveals teacher coaching programs are less effective as they are scaled to include everyone, according to the Hechinger Report.
- Researchers examined the studies and found that, although coaching did seem to improve the quality of classroom instruction, the effects on student achievement were small and did not increase as the number of coaching sessions grew. They also found that implementation of teacher coaching programs faced several challenges, including the deterioration in the quality of coaching, lack of enthusiasm on the part of teachers and problems with scheduling.
- Researchers recommend limiting coaching to teachers who need it or desire it; targeting specific teaching practices, especially after professional development in the target area; having teachers coach one another in areas where they are strongest, and using in-class cameras in feedback sessions to reduce problems with scheduling observations.
In “Teaching How to Teach: Coaching Tips from a Former Principal,” author Shane Safir states, “High-quality coaching lies somewhere near the crossroads of good teaching and educational therapy.” Though coaching of this caliber may improve the effectiveness of almost any teacher, researchers are finding that high-quality coaching is difficult to scale across many teachers and may be better limited to certain groups, such as beginning teachers, or in certain situations, such as following targeted professional development sessions.
Coaching teachers is not an easy task. And the cost of quality coaching, like the cost of many professional development programs, often creates problems for administrators. Most school administrators see the need for quality professional development, but accessing experts is time-consuming and expensive. They might also be overlooking quality coaches and professional developers under their own noses: the highly effective teachers on their staff.
With the right resources, teachers can often support one another as mentors or as instructional coaches in certain aspects of teaching. Teachers sometimes respond better to constructive criticism when it comes from a peer, especially if they know that they may soon be able to offer constructive criticism on certain aspects of teaching themselves. Public Impact is starting to see strong student academic gains from their “Opportunity Culture” initiative, which uses multi-classroom leaders to lead a teaching team, providing guidance and frequent on-the-job coaching while they continue to teach with a bump in pay that reflects their additional duties. The beauty of such approaches is that the best teachers are not pulled out to support other teachers, but they remain in the classrooms, where they continue to be highly effective.
- The Hechinger Report Does every teacher need a coach?