“Simplify, simply”

—Henry David Thoreau


In this blog series, we describe the changes we have made to the ICG Coaching certification process. As part of streamlining our pilot certification process for instructional coaches (editing seven portfolio entries down to two), we revised the Impact Cycle entry (Entry 1) to more fully and specifically encapsulate what research-based, partnership coaching looks like “on the ground.” Many of the evidence pieces themselves are exactly the same or slightly modified. The main changes involve more specific directions and clarity of purpose on our part in including the evidence that shows that the coach is using the process, the data, the partnership interactions, and the reflection that make instructional coaching work for students.

Each of these four elements is described briefly below with some explanation and caveats based on the pilot experience.


The Process

Entry 1 is organized around the three phases of the Impact Cycle: Identify, Learn, and Improve. The coach-candidates illustrates their work with a specific Impact Cycle Teacher whose PEERS goal the coach has selected as the focus of the entry. The evidence of that interaction includes both written pieces and video clips.

In a high-pressure field like education, looking for simple answers to complex problems is tempting. Having three clearly labeled phases like Identify, Learn, and Improve could lead some folks with only a cursory understanding of the cycle to view it simplistically as “three easy steps” to school improvement. If only there were three easy steps to school improvement. Those three phases are complex and multifaceted (like learning itself), and coach-candidates demonstrate their understanding of those complexities in their portfolio entries.


The Data

One key element of the Identify portion of Entry 1 is the focus on setting and hitting PEERS goals. During the pilot phase, we saw not only a misunderstanding of what a PEERS goal is but also misunderstandings about what constitutes clear data that demonstrate the achievement of a PEER goal.

The entry asks not only that the coach-candidate include the data on the Impact Cycle Teacher’s PEERS goal but also for the data on 10 other teachers’ PEERS goals, interactions in which the students hit the goals. Our purpose in this regard is to give scorers enough evidence to see that the coach is setting and hitting goals with teachers regularly enough to produce evidence that shows a broad impact on students. That data need to include

  • some kind of baseline data for each goal,
  • some sort of progress data along the way to hitting each goal, and
  • the data showing that the students hit each goal.

Without that clear picture of progress, scorers won’t have the clear, consistent, and convincing evidence they need to feel confident that the coach is making a clear impact on students.

Crucial also to Entry 1 is the selection of the Impact Cycle Teacher. That teacher not only needs to be involved in a full Impact Cycle process, but also the teacher must be open to a high level of videotaping at all stages of the cycle. The PEERS goals for the Impact Cycle Teacher’s students and the students of the 10 other teachers must be achieved before submitting the entry.

Occasionally during the pilot phase, candidates would ask us to relax some of these requirements. We can’t modify the requirements for two key reasons:

  1. The scoring process only has legitimacy if we apply the same requirements, the same directions, and the same scoring criteria to all candidates.
  2. This process is a professional certification process and not a course or a training, so its purpose is to show that all ICG Certified Instructional Coaches are meeting the same high standards. The standards for what an accomplished instructional coach cannot change from coach to coach. Different coaches operate within different contexts, to be sure, but the research is clear on what constitutes “coaching that moves kids,” and we want the certification process to communicate, emphasize, and advocate for that kind of coaching.

The standards for an accomplished instructional coach cannot change from coach to coach. Different coaches operate within different contexts, to be sure, but the research is clear on what constitutes “coaching that moves kids,” and we want the process to communicate, emphasize, and advocate for that kind of coaching.


The Partnership Interactions

The video element of Entry 1 is crucial and involves some key logistical considerations.

  1. The coach-candidate has obtained the Impact Cycle Teacher’s permission to be videotaped at all stages of the process.
  2. The sound on the clip is consistently audible, and scorers can hear all active participants on the tape clearly at all times.
  3. The audio needs to either be spoken in English, or the video needs to include closed captioning in English on the video itself indicating what the participants are saying. We are delighted by how many coaches from numerous continents participated in the pilot phase, and we want to ensure that we score everyone fairly by understanding every word of the video clips. This criterion is also true for English-speaking teachers who teach other languages in class. When the teacher is teaching (and students are learning) in a language other than English, scorers need closed captioning in English to know what is happening in class.
  4. The length of each clip is specified in the directions, and any video that occurs after that time designation will not be scored. Scorers will begin watching and timing at the very beginning of the clip (which is why isolating a clip that exactly fits the time guidelines is best—to ensure that the part of the clip that the candidate wants scored is the part that is scored). Scorers will simply stop the tape once the designated time has stopped for that clip.


The Reflection

Finally, in the revised iteration of the certification process, we now include space for the coach-candidate to reflect on both their areas of strength and areas for growth as a dialogical coach. We did not include such a reflection in the pilot phase. (We had a reflection on the Partnership Principles, but not on coaching itself.) Scorers indicated that such a reflection piece could be helpful to them and to the coach-candidate in examining the evidence through the lens of the coach-candidate’s view of their own coaching. Because reflection is one of our Partnership Principles, we are happy to make that change.

The Impact Cycle is heart of what we do at ICG because it is the process through which coaching can bring about the most important changes for students. Coach-candidates who demonstrate clear, consistent, and convincing evidence that the Impact Cycle is shaping most of what they do are also demonstrating what powerful coaching looks like day-to-day and thus helping us to communicate what “effective instructional coaching” is around the world.


Up Next: In our final blog in this series, we’ll describe the new Entry 2: Collaborative Culture. Don’t miss it!


For further information on ICG Coaching Certification, contact Sharon Thomas at [email protected].