Instructional Coaches: The Key to Support Your Teacher’s Growth

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Imagine a classroom where every teacher feels supported, confident, and equipped to inspire their students. 

This isn’t just a dream—it’s a reality achievable through the power of instructional coaching

If you’re an educator, school leader, or someone passionate about improving education, this post will help you understand and harness the transformative power of instructional coaching.

At Ensemble Learning, our mission is to strengthen educational environments so that multilingual learners have access to equitable opportunities to learn, contribute, and thrive.

We have worked with over 190 schools and CMOs across the nation, improving instruction for over 100,000 students.

By the end of this piece, you’ll know exactly what instructional coaches do, how they make a difference in schools, and how they can help teachers like you create a vibrant learning environment.

Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll gain:

  • Enhanced Teaching Techniques: Discover how instructional coaches help teachers refine their skills and adopt innovative teaching methods.
  • Boosted Student Engagement: Learn how these coaches foster a learning environment where students thrive and actively participate.
  • Sustainable Professional Growth: See how ongoing support and development from instructional coaches lead to lasting improvements in teaching practices.

 

What is an instructional coach?

 

An instructional coach is a support to teachers, leaders, and other site staff within a school system. 

Instructional coaches build content knowledge and support implementing best practices to increase students’ achievement and learner identity. 

While instructional coaches are often experts in a particular field or content, in order to be effective, they must leverage adult learning theory and approaches that place teacher/leader goals at the center in order to support students.

 

What does an instructional coach do?

 

An instructional coach is someone who reviews school/classroom data and creates relationships with teachers, leaders, students, and families in the classrooms they support. 

They are able to determine what is working and what could be improved within a school. Also, they meet with teachers and/or leaders for individual coaching sessions.  

They observe instruction, debrief observations, model a strategy, co-teach, or provide just-in-time feedback while a teacher facilitates instruction.

As part of their engagement, they are often involved in reviewing observations and determining the next steps for supporting teachers and leaders to improve student outcomes. 

They also build professional learning sessions, run communities of practice, and partner with leaders to determine the next steps and goals for coaching. 

 

How do instructional coaches support teachers and impact student learning?

 

Instructional coaches play a crucial role in helping teachers improve their classroom practices. 

Collaboratively with the teacher, they review se formative and summative student assessment data to identify what works well and where growth is needed. 

Coaches support teachers in learning and implementing new practices through a collaborative process.

This process involves regular observations and feedback cycles, allowing teachers to make data-driven changes to their instruction. 

Furthermore, the classroom culture shifts as teachers gain a deeper understanding of their content and consistently apply student-centered practices. This shift creates an environment where students can build their identities as learners and engage in high-quality, grade-level instruction that is relevant and meaningful to them.

 

Instructional coaches make a difference for the teachers and leaders they support. Having a thought partner, a safe person to discuss how to address challenges occurring on-site or within their classroom practice, provides teachers with the bite-sized, timely action steps they need to change and/or implement a new strategy effectively.

 

How can instructional coaching fit into other support structures? 

 

Instructional coaching can be individual 1:1 coaching or can be a part of a larger professional learning cycle. 

At Ensemble, we often conduct an initial walkthrough with a partner school or district that determines a school-based focus area for our instructional coaching. We provide professional development, and after a professional development session, our instructional coaches may support teachers and leaders in implementing a new strategy through an onsite demonstration lesson within a classroom. 

The demo brings together teachers to watch the instructional coach model the strategy within their school setting. It is followed by a debrief, during which participants reflect on the next steps in their practice. 

As teachers implement the practice, they then have follow-up one-on-one instructional coaching sessions to share successes and address any challenges prior to the next whole-group professional learning session. 

In this way, our professional learning builds on the strengths of teachers and the school while building community across the larger school teams.

 

What does an instructional coaching session look like?

 

Prior to a coaching session with a teacher, the coach will review any former observation data, from the last coaching session and may prepare resources or possible next steps based on what they think the teacher may need. 

Most importantly, they plan the questions they will ask to help the teacher accurately assess what is working within their own classroom spaces, as well as determine how they want to continue to grow. 

During the conversation, the coach provides space for the teacher to share their thinking and facilitates the teacher’s reflection. The two will also determine an action step to help move the practice forward, and the coach may offer to model the strategy, role play, plan, or other tools to best support the teacher with the new practice. 

Depending on the action step and the goal, the coach may follow up at the next coaching session, conduct an observation cycle, co-plan, or model the strategy for the teacher.

 

Why do teachers need instructional coaches? 

 

Instructional coaching supports teachers and schools by:

  • Increasing teacher efficacy
  • Building and supporting common practices across a school
  • Increasing access for students to engage with high-quality instruction. 
  • Increasing overall support for teachers, ultimately improving teacher retention

It’s key to highlight that common systems provide continuity of learning for students.  

Leadership and teacher coaching also provide professionals with a safe outlet for addressing challenges or concerns–having a person to talk to can help make the next steps or defining a problem within the system easier.

Here are some of the teaching challenges that an instructional coach can help address:

  • Developing a new expertise in a content area
  • Shifting mindsets and beliefs about students/teachers/the profession
  • Developing pedagogical practices that support students across content areas

 

What are the limitations of instructional coaching?

Instructional coaching only works if the teacher/leader is invested in change or growth, and it doesn’t work overnight!  

Coaching is a partnership between the coach and the coachee, and true change/growth happens over time. 

The best coaching empowers the teacher to make changes, take risks, and own their instructional decisions. 

 

What is an effective instructional coach?

 

Ideally, instructional coaches are reflective practitioners who are driven to implement best practices, research best practices, and keep up with the latest research-proven strategies within their discipline.

They must be emotionally intelligent and be able to separate themselves from the work.

They must have the instructional expertise and content knowledge to be able to analyze situations, and able to provide specific, timely feedback to move their teacher’s practice forward.  It is key that instructional coaches seek out what current research says about pedagogy and adult learning theory. As learning research grows, understanding the connection between content knowledge and how people learn can provide coaches with tools they can use to support their coachees.

An effective instructional coach must continue to grow their own skills by practicing having critical conversations and developing ways of navigating change management within a system. 

Understanding these components can help a coach create a momentum of change within a classroom or school and give the school community agency.

 

Embrace the power of instructional coaching 

 

Instructional coaching isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a proven, transformative approach that helps teachers thrive and students succeed. 

By providing personalized, ongoing support, instructional coaches can help create vibrant, effective classrooms where both teachers and students reach their full potential.

At Ensemble Learning, we are dedicated to making education equitable for all students. 

Our experienced coaches have a track record of success, having worked with over 190 schools and CMOs, improving instruction for over 100,000 students.

Ready to see the difference instructional coaching can make in your school? 

Contact Ensemble Learning today to explore how we can support your teachers and elevate your educational environment. 

Let’s work together to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn, contribute, and thrive.

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