If you are a teacher or looking into the teaching profession, you might be wondering what an instructional coach is. The most simple definition of an instructional coach is a professional who is trained in how to help teachers become more effective in the classroom so that students improve in their academic performance. Coaches do this by helping teachers learn how to use what are called “evidence-based” practices. That is, they help them to utilize practical teaching strategies to more effectively engage students and to maximize good academic outcomes. Those strategies need to be based on research that supports them.
Providing Professional Development
Many professions offer professional development to those who work within the field. It is quite usual to find professional mentors in fields such as medicine and law. Instructional coaches are mentors who provide important professional development in the field of education, according to the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching. They are trained to work directly with teachers and often do so one-on-one or in small groups. Sometimes they also arrange larger trainings or resource groups that are made available to all teachers in a given area.
Often instructional coaching is carried out within the classroom setting so teachers can learn to put strategies into place while on the job. Coaches help teachers problem-solve and put new teaching methods into place to make their classrooms more effective places of learning.
Importance of Good Communication
Learning what an instructional coach is involves learning what an instructional coach does. Because coaches work with teachers in school settings, they must be good communicators, able to clearly instruct teachers but also good in communicating with administrators. Principals can help coaches identify which teachers and classrooms might be best served by coaching. Not every school district or school uses instructional coaches. It’s still a growing field, and there is not yet a lot of research regarding how effective its use has been, though the research is growing too. The Kansas Coaching Project has been established to look at the practices and protocols that have proven most effective, and they are currently implementing that kind of learning in over 30 provinces and states in North America. They also provide resources, such as articles and and news of conferences and workshops, that help schools and districts learn more about building effective coaching programs.
Although some teachers might resist working with instructional coaches, most will likely welcome the opportunity to gain extra insights and expertise into the best ways to work with their students. Where there has been research, it does appear that instructional coaching can be effective in helping to improve academic outcomes for students in key areas like math and literacy. Instructional coaching provides practical mentoring for teachers as they work with students; coaches sometimes model certain strategies for teachers and then give them the opportunity to put them in place themselves, offering them constructive feedback.
Related Resource: Become a Teacher at a Charter School
Instructional coaches help teachers gain confidence in using strategies with proven track records of helping students learn better. By modeling, observing, sharing resources and helping teachers to problem solve, they help teachers manage their classrooms effectively. To learn what an instructional coach is, you might want to talk with teachers who have worked with one or speak with an instructional coach directly.