Article: Keep Growing – Real Learning Happens in Real Life
Written by Matt Kelly.

Below is a brief summary of Jim Knight’s article in the April 2021 issue of The Learning Professional, “Keep Growing: Real Learning Happens in Real Life.” 

The value and impact of instructional coaching is clearly illustrated when considering two different models of professional development:

Outside-in PD: Leaders identify effective teaching practices for teachers and provide professional development designed to help them learn those practices.

Inside-out PD: Teachers identify students’ needs and a strategy to address those needs. Teachers then learn and adapt the strategy until students’ needs are met.


While the logic behind an outside-in model is easy to follow, teachers can find it difficult to fit the new strategy into their already existing way of teaching, and they are expected to implement it even they don’t think it is appropriate or it is a bad fit for their teaching. The argument for this model is that the strategy is proven, so teachers need to implement it whether they like it or not. This model rarely impacts reality in classrooms.

On the other hand, the inside-out model often leads to real change. Teacher sill implement proven strategies, but those strategies are not handed down from above – they are chosen by the teacher to address their students’ needs.

“Simply put, with the inside-out model, real learning happens in real life.”

—Jim Knight

Instructional coaches are what make the inside-out model possible. They empower teachers to:

  • see the reality of their classrooms
  • help them identify clearly defined, achievable, student-focused goals
  • choose and adapt strategies to be most effective at helping their students achieve

In theory, teachers could do inside-out PD on their own, but in reality, teaching in and of itself is more than enough work for one person. An instructional coach can partner with them to do the work of the inside-out model and achieve an unmistakably positive impact in students’ lives and learning.


Read the full article in The Learning Professional >>


  1. zulkufli mahayudin

    This article is really inspiring me. I do agree that inside-out model of professional development will help teacher to practice his or her own strategies based on the current reality. Teacher
    knows best what is happen in the classroom. Effective coaches will support them with dialogical approach.

  2. Heather Mann

    As an Instructional Coach myself I refer to this as Student Centered Coaching. We focus on the need of the student and what teacher moves need to take place in order to faculty student learning. It is incredibly effective and feels safe for everyone because it isn’t about the teacher doing anything “right or wrong” it is about giving the students what they need to be successful.


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