Instructional coaches partner with teachers to help them improve teaching and learning so students are more successful. To do this, ICs collaborate with teachers to get a clear picture of current reality, identify goals, pick teaching strategies to meet the goals, monitor progress, and problem solve until the goals are met. We define instructional coaching as follows: “Instructional coaches partner with teachers to analyze current reality, set goals, identify and explain teaching strategies to hit the goals, and provide support until the goals are met.”

Devona Dunekack, who has worked with me since 1999, was prompted to try and define instructional coaching a few years ago when she was asked a question many coaches tell me they hate to be asked: “Tell me, what is it that you do?” Devona’s friend, who asked the question, was genuinely curious about Devona’s work. Devona did her best to explain her job, talking about how she worked with teachers and helped them improve their instruction.

Her friend, who was a nurse, trying to understand, then asked, “so you’re a trainer of trainers is that right, you train teachers?”

“Well in a way, I suppose,” Devona said, “we help teachers improve what they do.”

“We have them in nursing,” Devona’s friend said. “I hate that.”

“Why?” asked Devona, somewhat taken aback.

“Well they show up and we have to sit in a room all day and hear about stuff we already know. And the sessions are boring. And we sit there and talk about the presenter’s hairstyle or her shoes, and we have to go just to remain certified. I hate that.”

“Well I’d hate that too,” said Devona. “But what if your trainer of trainers met you on your floor and got to know you, and really listened to you and affirmed you? What if you became comfortable telling her where you wanted to improve, and the trainer of trainers worked with you and showed you exactly how to improve in your chosen area by working with your patients, and then watched you and gave you helpful suggestions and support until you could easily do the new skill you wanted to learn?”

“Oh I’d love that,” said Devona’s friend.

“That’s what I do,” said Devona.

And that is what instructional coaches do. Shoulder to shoulder with teachers they respectfully share teaching strategies that help teachers meet goals that they set.

Instructional coaches partner with teachers to

  • analyze current reality,
  • set goals,
  • identify and explain teaching strategies to hit goals, and
  • provide support until goals are met.