Coaching for Improvement

Teacher leader coaches a teacher to improve his/her practice with targeted outcomes and/or measurable goals.
Made by Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Learning at USD
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Graduate-level credit is available for this micro-credential. You can apply for credit through one of our university partners after successfully completing the micro-credential.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Teacher leader effectively plans and implements a full instructional coaching cycle with a teacher.

Method Components

Context and Foundations of Coaching:

Effective coaching starts with developing and maintaining a strong and trusting relationship with the teacher you are coaching. The following skills are fundamental and must be practiced and honed by the coach before coaching can begin:

  • Trust- and relationship-building
    • Spend time getting to know the teacher you are going to coach. Spending a little time off campus (e.g., going for lunch or coffee) and connecting is a great way to begin. Try to get to know the teacher beyond his/her professional practice by asking about hobbies, interests, hopes and dreams, family, etc.
  • Practice active listening and effective questioning
    • Learn about active listening skills and effective questioning skills to prepare for your coaching practice:

Please see the “Fostering a Collaborative Learning Culture” micro-credential for details on how to demonstrate and earn this prerequisite competency.

Coaching Cycle Components:

Once you have begun establishing a strong relationship with the teacher you will coach, role-play a conversation to practice your readiness to initiate the coaching cycle:

  1. Goal-Setting: Support the teacher to identify a clear, focused and measurable goal(s) related to teacher practice and/or student achievement. This should take place during an initial meeting during which you co-create a document that captures what the teacher wishes to improve during the coaching cycle. Goals may include:
    • Student outcomes
    • Instructional practices
    • Classroom management

  2. Observation: Observe a lesson using a data collection tool that aligns directly with the teacher’s goal(s)
  1. Debrief/Reflect: Research shows that the coaching cycle is most effective when the coach incorporates his/her experience into the reflection process. Through strategic questioning and discussion of evidence (related to teacher practice or student achievement), the coach engages in a reflective discussion with the teacher in order to:
    • Question assumptions or habits
    • Gain insight about practice
    • Identify solutions to challenges/questions
    • Understand progress toward the goal, and identify changes that will move the teacher closer to the goal

  2. Return to Step 1...

Suggested Coaching Strategies

  1. Before you begin your coaching cycle, try a role-play conversation with a friend or family member. Ask them to share about a dilemma they are trying to work through. Practice active listening and asking questions that facilitate shared understanding about the dilemma. Then, coach your friend/family member by identifying “keepers” (things that the person should continue to do that are working well) and “polishers” (some things the person could change or approach differently in order to resolve the dilemma).
  2. Set norms during your initial meeting: what norms will you both commit to? (Examples: meet to debrief within 24 hours of lesson observation, be fully present during meetings, come prepared, etc.)

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Research over the last decade has demonstrated that it is experience and the observation of other coaches that remain the primary sources of knowledge for coaches. Despite this, coach education and continuing professional development fail to draw effectively on this experience. Using the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this paper attempts to understand how the “art of coaching” can be characterized as structured improvisation and how experience is crucial to structuring coaching practice. Drawing on experiences from the educational field, we examine how coach education and continuing professional development can utilize mentoring and critical reflection to situate learning in the practical experience of coaching.

Teacher mentoring programs have increased dramatically since the early 1980s as a vehicle to support and retain novice teachers. However, researchers and facilitators of mentoring programs are recognizing that mentors also derive substantial benefits from the mentoring experience. This digest examines research on how mentoring contributes to the ongoing professional development of experienced teachers. Benefits to mentors include improved professional competency, increased reflective practice, teacher renewal, enhanced self-esteem, improved teacher collaboration, and development of teacher leadership.

Literacy coaches inspire teacher reflection and promote a culture of ongoing professional learning. This article illustrates the role of literacy coaches, describes how coaches differentiate support for a diverse group of teachers, and explains how teacher reflection can be a catalyst for change and professional growth. The authors suggest tools coaches can use to differentiate within the practice and describe how they used daybooks, surveys, and videotaping to foster teacher reflection. Furthermore, the authors examine how an awareness of reflection occurs during differentiated coaching.

Reflective practice can be beneficial to preservice and inservice teacher professional development. Reflective practice has been defined in terms of action research. Coaching and peer involvement are two aspects of reflective practice seen most often at the preservice level. At the inservice level, critical reflection upon experience and serving as a coach or mentor to peers are effective techniques for professional development. There are many successful techniques for investing teaching practice with reflection. These include action research and portfolio development. The primary benefits of reflective practice for teachers is a deeper understanding of their own teaching style and, ultimately, greater effectiveness as teachers. Other specific benefits include the validation of a teacher’s ideals, beneficial challenges to tradition, and respect for diversity in applying theory to classroom practice.

  • Zwart, R. C., Wubbels, T., Bergen, T., & Bolhuis, S. (2009). Which Characteristics of a Reciprocal Peer Coaching Context Affect Teacher Learning as Perceived by Teachers and Their Students?. Journal of Teacher Education,60(3), 243-257.

In the present study, the role of five categories of characteristics of a reciprocal peer coaching context was studied in relation to teacher learning. It was found that teachers learn when they are intrinsically motivated to take part in professional development programs; when they feel a certain pressure toward experimenting with new instructional methods; and when they are able to discuss their experiences within a safe, constructive, and trustworthy reciprocal peer coaching environment.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn this micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview question

(300-word limit)

Please describe the instructional coaching cycle you planned and implemented with a teacher. You may include:

  • What measurable goal(s) were targeted in this coaching cycle and why?
  • What were the results of the debrief conversation? Were the goal(s) met?
  • What evidence do you have to support your thinking?

Part 2. Work examples/artifacts

Please submit several artifacts that were created during the coaching cycle (such as links to writing, audio, images, video, or other products) including such items as:

  • Notes from the initial conversation, including identified goals
  • Data collection taken during classroom observation
  • Video from classroom observation or debrief
  • Notes from the debrief conversation

Part 3. Reflection

(300-word limit)

Provide a reflection on what you learned using the following questions as guidance:

  • What was challenging about the coaching process? What was successful?
  • What would you do differently during another coaching cycle with this same teacher if you had the opportunity?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
Requirements for Coaching for Improvement
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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