Showcasing the Impact of Instructional Coaching
Posted by Lindsay Deacon on February 9, 2021 at 3:37 PM
Have you ever struggled to share or summarize the work you do as an IC? If so, you're not alone! Learn from Lindsay Deacon, a school improvement coach in Portland, Oregon, how you can showcase the impact of your coaching to teachers and district leaders alike. 👍
everal years ago, I had an informal chat with a few of my school's teachers during lunch duty. The conversation turned to the upcoming school staffing budget and whether my coaching position would be retained. "No offense, but I just don't see the point of your job," a teacher shrugged. "The money they spend on you could be used to hire another teacher and reduce class sizes." His words cut deep—especially since I had spent a lot of time helping him with unit planning—but I was undeterred. If this teacher didn't understand how my coaching role benefited the school as a whole, I would need to do a better job of showcasing my work.
How can ICs share their work to staff?
Much of the work coaches do lives in confidential meetings or happens behind-the-scenes. It can be challenging to showcase coaching without crossing a boundary or appearing egotistical. At the same time, finding ways to share the progress and outcomes of coaching is a critical step in validating the work we do.
Start with your principal! An easy strategy for sharing work with them—especially if you struggle to find time to meet regularly—is via The Weekly Recap. Every Friday, send an email with brief updates on your coaching progress. Pass along the four to five most important things to know in short bullets or blurbs.
This strategy keeps a principal in the know, and ends the week on a positive before starting the weekend. This is especially useful for coaches who are based in a central office or outside the school building.
Pro tip: Don't be surprised if you don't receive a response to the email! That usually means you did a good job explaining.
Gather and share data
Once you've laid the groundwork with your principal, the next step is to collect and share data periodically, which can be done in one of many ways (like with TeachBoost!). Personally, I've found that creating a formative survey tied to evidence-based practices, and inviting teachers to respond at least three times a year has its perks. Teachers and your principal will likely appreciate that you're serving as a model and collecting feedback on your own practices.
Here are some example questions you could ask (don't forget to click the photo! 😉):
Lindsay also suggests providing at the bottom of your surveys for teachers to write in responses to qualitative prompts like: “An example of how working with my coach has impacted my students is…”
Pro tip: To increase the response rate, it helps to carve out time for teachers to fill out the survey. If you facilitate PLCs or whole group professional learning, set aside five minutes of the meeting to allow teachers to respond.
Coaches should constantly collect anecdotes that can be shared in a variety of settings. For instance, a coach's work can be showcased by asking a teacher to share a short coaching success story at the beginning of a staff meeting. When a teacher tells the story of solving a problem with the coach collaboratively, it shows the power of having a thought-partner and expert cheerleader, as well as sharing positive student outcomes that others can appreciate.
As you listen to the stories shared by teachers, ask yourself:
- What are the coaching stories that will inspire and motivate teachers and school leaders?
- What evidence can be shared that coaching made an impact on teacher practice and student outcomes?
By speaking to these areas, you'll not only validate to others that coaching matters, but will also feel rewarded for your—otherwise invisible—efforts.
How can ICs share their work with district leaders?
District leaders are often eager to gain a better understanding of how critical resources are being used. Many are also looking to learn how successful coaching practices can be scaled up or replicated. Already this year I have been blown away by the work of some first-year coaches, so never assume you don't have enough experience or expertise to share!
Share your survey results
If you are collecting ongoing formative survey data, you can briefly summarize and present the findings (in writing or in person) to a district leader or department. Beyond the formative survey, you can also design a more involved "End of Year Coaching Survey" to gather information on teachers’ perceptions of coaching as a whole. When summarizing the findings, make sure to answer: What was important to understand about this coaching data and what are the specific successes? How did the successes align with the overall school and district mission?
Invite leaders to see your work
In The Power of Branding: Telling Your School's Story, Tony Sinasis says that showcasing your work "isn't about selling kids or making false promises; it's about promoting the amazing things happening in our schools for those who don’t have the opportunity to experience them on a daily basis." District leaders are often looking to observe instructional leadership practices in action, and a coach can ask their principal to invite other leaders to observe (or even participate in) a PLC or team meeting that the coach will be facilitating.
Pro tip: "The feeling they have when they leave your building is the one that gets talked about at dinner tables, local restaurants, and at work the next day," says Sinasis, so pick an experience that will be informative and inspiring. Particularly good meetings are those where teachers examine student work or collaborate on a new curriculum!
I will never forget the words of my colleague, and though they felt hurtful in the moment, I am grateful for his honesty. After setting about better informing my staff about my coaching efforts (and the collaboratives successes of my school staff), I opened my box in the office one morning to find a printed copy of the article What Good Coaches Do by Jim Knight, with a handwritten note from that same teacher: "You are an asset to our school and your work is appreciated!"
About our Guest Blogger
Lindsay has a passion for coaching and currently serves as a school improvement coach, leadership coach, and soccer coach in Portland, Oregon. She is also the co-author of The EduCoach Survival Guide (2020).