Nicole Turner, instructional coach in Indiana, shares 10 coaching strategies she's found valuable over her career and some practice tips for each one.
s an instructional coach, you've no doubt heard various strategies that will help make you more effective supporting teachers in the classroom. While there are millions of techniques out there, I've compiled a list of my top 10 instructional coaching strategies—all of which I personally use in my school district alongside my teachers.
Some may not see this as a strategy, but it truly is! Observing is a way to gain an understanding of what is happening in the classroom upon which we can set goals and start the coaching process. After we have set these goals and collected initial data, we use the same observation strategy to collect more data to see if there's been an improvement.
From our observations, we're able to create a data log that we can use to show teachers what they're doing well and what they may need to work on to improve their overall effectiveness.
When you're modeling, you implement a technique that you proposed to the teacher you're working with. With this strategy, you get up in front of the teacher's classroom and teach a skill using a process that you and your teacher collectively came up with. This is an effective strategy because it shows the teacher that it can be done, and if they're struggling with the skill, it teaches them how to better utilize a tool you have given them.
When you co-teach, you work with the same students your teacher is working with every day. We've all worked with resistant teachers and by getting up and teaching with them, you show them that even their students can benefit from this type of instruction. Importantly, you implement the ideas that you're trying to sell to your teacher and therefore, you're also modeling to them at the same time!
Co-planning is a powerful tool because you and your teacher sit down to create a lesson plan together. While you're creating this lesson plan, you're able to ask the teacher how they're going to implement the strategies you discussed in the past. This gives you a chance to ask them to model what they're going to do and explicitly say what this will look like when they teach.
5) Effective feedback
While observing, modeling, co-teaching, and co-planning are great, they're all for naught if you don't give your teachers effective feedback. Giving effective feedback means that you're going back and talking with your teachers about what you observed. It's a great opportunity to look at the data and discuss whether there is growth or not as well.
Giving positive, effective feedback is essential to good coaching moving forward (like in finding new goals) and for building on the ever-evolving coach-teacher relationship. I'm not saying you have to be sunshine and rainbows, but you do want to make sure your feedback is constructive without being destructive. For more tips on effective feedback, check out my six steps to effective feedback on my site, Simply Coaching + Teaching.
6) Real-time coaching
Real-time coaching is crucial when working with a teacher who is really struggling to grasp a concept or a teacher who is fairly defiant. When you use real-time coaching, you're in the room giving the teacher step-by-step instructions of what to do next. There are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Use a whiteboard to write down the next steps. Then, show it to the teacher discreetly and ask them to write down the next step.
- Stand by the teacher and tell them what to do as the class progresses.
In between steps, you can also walk around and observe students to make sure they're understanding the concepts being taught to see if this instructional strategy is effective.
7) Data-driven instructional strategies
Using data to create or implement instructional strategies is important because we need something to support our ideas and recommendations. Ultimately, we need to have tangible proof that the strategy is necessary.
When you use data from observations, look at and reflect on what you see in the classroom. Do you see growth? Or are you seeing the same issues over and over again? With this evidence in hand, it's easy to either praise or have a stern talk with your teacher.
8) PLC videos
When you use a PLC video or some other instructional training or demonstration video, you create an opportunity to give effective feedback after an observation. There are two ways to use these videos.
The first way to use the video is to talk about the strategy you (or hopefully your teacher) has come up with. Then as you watch the video, pause every so often to ask the teacher probing questions about the strategy. Stopping the video works best if you have a teacher who's a little reluctant to your ideas. You may want to stop more with them to keep them focused on the task at hand and keep an attitude out of the way.
The second way to implement this strategy is to watch the video all the way through and then discuss what the teacher saw. Regardless of how you choose to use this strategy, you'll want to make sure to ask probing questions at the end and discuss whether the teacher is willing to try to implement these ideas.
9) Video coaching
Video coaching actually puts the teacher in front of the camera and create vulnerability. This strategy, similar to using PLC videos, can be done in two ways.
The first way is to tell the teacher that you're going to be recording them (it's just common courtesy!). Now, when recording your teacher, he or she will most likely bring their "A game." If this happens, don't worry about it; there are still flaws in a "perfect" day of instruction and you'll be able to identify areas your teacher could use some help in. After you've recorded the teacher, sit down with them to watch the video together. During this time, both you and the teacher will fill out an observation form and, afterwards, discuss what you saw and what you both thought through reflection.
The second way to utilize this style of video coaching is to have the teacher record themselves and send it to you. I do this with two teachers currently and they upload everything to Google Drive and then I give them feedback to them remotely.
10) Peer-coach-peer observations
While peer-coach-peer observations are not always appropriate for all organizations, they're great when you have a teacher who isn't receptive to your feedback but may be receptive to another co-worker's. There are two ways to use this strategy.
The first way is to have a teacher who is implementing the same or a similar strategy go into the reluctant teacher's classroom and observe. They'll write down what they observed on an observation form you have provided for them and then you and the observing teacher will meet to discuss what was observed. After meeting with the teacher one-on-one, gather as a group of three to collectively share what was seen.
Another way you can use this type of observation is for you and the other teacher to be in the room together to both observe. You and the other teacher will discuss what you see together, and then you will bring in the reluctant teacher with the hopes they are more receptive.
There are so many strategies out there to help you improve your coaching. This list of strategies are just a few that I've successfully implemented throughout my coaching career.
Remember, whatever strategies you use, you want to build positive relationships in the classroom because relationships are the backbone to coaching. A reluctant teacher can turn over a new leaf with a little respect, and a whole lot of patience!
About our Guest Blogger
Nicole S. Turner is an educational consultant, owner of Simply Coaching + Teaching, LLC, and the host of the Simply Coaching Summit, the first virtual summit exclusively for instructional coaches and teacher leaders. In addition, she serves teachers and students as an instructional coach in Indianapolis, IN.
Nicole has 14 years of K-12 classroom and leadership experience. She has held positions as a classroom teacher, lead teacher, differentiated accountability coach, district- and building-level instructional coach, assistant principal, dean of students, textbook company trainer, AdvancEd diagnostic review team member, and school improvement and turnaround specialist for the Indiana Department of Education.
Nicole works with school districts, presents at conferences, hosts online training and courses, and creates digital resources supporting instructional coaches and classroom strategies. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Indiana State Teacher Association, and Indiana State Reading Association.
Follow Nicole on Twitter @coachandteach!