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Instructional Coaching

Two Contextual Influences

The climate in which the coaching relationship is set can influence the likelihood of successful outcomes for the teacher. Two variables that relate to climate are whether or not (1) the coaching was chosen or imposed and (2) the school or school district values PD in general and the coaching component of PD in particular.

Chosen or imposed. If teachers choose to participate in PD with coaching, the prospects for a good experience are far more favorable than if the PD—and the coaching—are imposed.

Assigning coaches to teachers whose low performance has resulted in a corrective action plan may stigmatize the coaching situation and have a negative effect on the outcome (see, e.g., Aguilar, 2014). In effect, corrective imposition turns a situation that should be based on trust into one based on suspicion. PD planners should avoid this choice altogether. They might consider developing a list of alternatives for corrective action so as to be prepared for this all-too-common request.

PD climate. An unprofessional or “toxic” environment in the school can undermine morale or create such low expectations for students or teachers that even an excellent coach has little chance for effecting much change.

The school and district in which the coaching takes place has an effect on the likelihood of its success. Successful coaching programs require adequate resources: perhaps most importantly, regular and frequent coaching sessions and adequate preparation time.

Accordingly, administrators of professional development programs should maximize coaches’ time spent working directly with teachers and avoid relying on coaches for associated administrative tasks. An unprofessional environment may, for example, make teachers reluctant to engage in coaching because it requires additional effort and commitment that teachers or principals are unwilling to give (perhaps because they believe that additional effort and commitment are undervalued in the school or district).

The success of instructional coaching depends on more than just the coach and teacher.