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Instructional Coaching at BFIS

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What is instructional coaching?

Instructional coaching is a common practice in schools around the world. Like in sports, coaching is not just for “some” players.  Even the greatest sports players need coaches.  Everyone can benefit from working with a coach, and ultimately, it is our students who benefit the most.  Instructional coaches provide busy teachers with the time and resources needed to reflect on their teaching practice.  They act as thought partners to teachers as they strive to meet the diverse needs of their students.  A coach has a knowledge of the content and research-based instructional practices in the area that they are coaching.  They share their knowledge and expertise while honoring the knowledge and expertise of teachers.  A coaching relationship is built on trust and is non-judgmental.  Instructional coaches are not in a supervisory role.  Instead, these roles exist in schools to provide objective support and facilitate growth and learning. 

In order to build a culture of coaching at BFIS, we have developed a Teaching & Learning Team, made up of our three instructional coaches (PK-5 Math, PK-8 Literacy, PK-12 Tech) and the Director of Learning.  Sharing a collaborative work space, called The Collaboratory, this team offers extensive support in leading coaching cycles with teachers, peer observations, labsite classrooms, and school-wide professional learning sessions.  They also offer individual and team co-planning, co-teaching and modeling of instructional strategies.  A fundamental aspect of their work is the use of student data to plan and differentiate instruction around the needs of our learners.  

What does instructional coaching look like at BFIS?

There are many models of coaching that schools can utilize.  At BFIS, we use a research-based model called, “student-centered coaching”.  Our model: 

  • involves in-depth work between coach and a team of teachers, lasting approximately six to eight weeks, as a coaching cycle.
  • is driven by student data.
  • includes regular (weekly) planning sessions, and involves the coach in the classroom one to three times per week for co-teaching, modeling instruction, or observing the teaching and learning. 

In this model, we focus on the needs of our students, rather than the common misconception of “fixing teachers”.  Together, the coach and teacher use student work to identify a goal for students and then work together to co-plan ways to meet these goals.  In this way, our instructional coaches directly impact instructional practice and student achievement.  We measure the success of a coaching cycle based on the results we see in student learning.  To do this, we use pre-assessment data, daily formative assessments, and formal summative assessments at the end of a coaching cycle.  

What is the impact of instructional coaching on student learning?

Diane Sweeney, author and consultant for student-centered coaching says the following:

Since Student-Centered Coaching is an evidence-based model, it aligns with some of the most exciting research in education, the research associated with Visible Learning and the work of John Hattie. A meta-analysis of over 1,500 educational studies, this research base provides evidence of what schools can do to increase student achievement. 

At the top of the list of what schools can do to increase student achievement, are the very coaching practices that we promote at BFIS.  Our own internal action research that our coaches conduct with each coaching cycle supports this wider research.  

For more information on student-centered coaching, please watch Diane Sweeney’s video explanation here.