When coaches flourish, it is often because they work in settings where leaders are intentional and disciplined about providing the support necessary for coaching success. Without such support, coaches often struggle to have any impact at all.

Districts that support coaches ensure that everyone involved understands what coaching is and why it is necessary to address the complexities of the stages of implementation. They also hire great coaches, clarify their roles and how they are to use their time, and explain what is and is not confidential during coaching. Successful districts also create structures and cultures that promote learning. Finally, in settings where coaches are most effective, principals explicitly support coaches and, in fact, are often coaches themselves.

Here’s an excerpt from The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching: Seven Factors for Success, describing one aspect of system support, Establishing Districtwide Understanding of Coaching.



Establishing Districtwide Understanding of Coaching

Coaches are not the only people who need to understand what coaching is and is not. In settings where district leaders, teachers, and other educators don’t understand coaching, coaches will struggle to succeed. Lack of such understanding may result in coaches being asked to act in ways that are inconsistent with coaching best practices, or they may encounter educators who are hesitant to work with them because they don’t actually know what coaches do. To prevent such situations, district leaders should offer profes- sional development and learning so that everyone understands what coach- ing is, what coaches do, and how they can support coaches.

Leaders can encourage widespread knowledge about coaching through a combination of professional development workshops and follow-up small- group and one-to-one professional learning support. Four topics are especially important:

  1. The way of being that underlies the coaching program, which we describe as the partnership approach.
  2. The key elements of the coaching process, which for us is the Impact Cycle.
  3. Strategic knowledge, which includes the instructional playbook and how data are gathered.
  4. The coaching habits and skills that stand at the heart of better con- versations: listening, questioning, demonstrating empathy, fostering trust, and engaging in dialogue.

One way to guide discussion about what coaching is and isn’t is to share and discuss a T-chart like the one below. The facilitator of the conversation should have a deep and nuanced understanding of what each item on the list is and why it is important.


The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching

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