- As school leaders plan professional learning for their teachers, a new report provides guidance on effective coaching models for teachers working with young children.
- “Primetime for Coaching: Improving Instructional Coaching in Early Childhood Education,” from Bellwether Education Partners, recommends that administrators choose coaching strategies that fit into an overall professional development approach, consider cost-effective options, such as virtual coaches, and include assistant teachers and other support personnel in coaching plans.
The report also recommends that administrators be wary of coaching models that promise dramatic results, and notes that broader changes are usually necessary to see changes in teacher practice.
While professional development (PD) options have expanded for K-12 educators in recent years to include more individualized approaches, those working with young children are still largely experiencing “lecture-style” trainings, the report says. Coaching, however, is a promising approach for early educators for several reasons, the authors write: “It lasts for a longer period of time, it is grounded in educators’ day-to-day work, it focuses on skills and knowledge educators can put into practice, and it gives educators opportunities to pursue personalized improvement goals.”
Margaret Bridges, a University of California Berkeley professor who has studied coaching models for early educators in Santa Clara County, CA, says that to maximize the impact of coaching, “We need to learn more about context, and how particular approaches may work well with particular groups of people in particular centers/settings,” and that requires collecting the right kind of data, she adds.
“As often happens, I think everyone has gotten aboard the coaching bandwagon without knowing just how to make it work best for their community," Bridges says. " And it’s expensive, so this has real implications for the teachers and children who need the extra support.”
For school administrators, the Bellwether report provides an opportunity to look at the coaching models used in their schools and districts. Even though early-childhood classrooms are often located at elementary schools, those programs and teachers might be under the auspices of another agency, such as Head Start or a state pre-K program. This means that including early-childhood teachers in coaching opportunities already offered to K-5 teachers might require some coordination with leaders of other programs. Extending PD to early educators, however, can create more connection between teaching practices and curriculum, therefore, helping children as they move from preschool to kindergarten and the early grades.
The Every Student Succeeds Act increases opportunities for schools to pursue joint professional development. In a recent policy statement, the Council of Chief State School Officers also listed joint PD as one strategy for better connecting early childhood and the early grades.