Collaborative Coaching

The practitioner (teacher leader, principal, district administrator) engages in powerful, collaborative, and self-initiated coaching for the purpose of improved teaching and learning.
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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

The practitioner engages in self-initiated and collaborative coaching with a coach who may be a peer, supervisor, or other colleague/administrator to reflect on evidence of practice and develop a plan for improved practice and performance.

Method Components

What is Collaborative Coaching?

Coaching, as referred to in this micro-credential, is not the role of instructional coach, but is collegial, partnership coaching in which the coaching is voluntary and is focused on the improvement of professional practice that impacts teaching and learning.

Components of Collaborative Coaching

There are four key practices critical to this type of voluntary, collaborative, and self-initiated coaching:

  1. Establish trust and maintain equality in a self-initiated collaborative coaching relationship
  2. Engage in growth-focused observations and dialogue
  3. Provide evidence-based graphic feedback
  4. Reflect collaboratively and plan action

1. Establish trust and maintain equality in a self-initiated collaborative coaching relationship

Carl Rogers and Richard Farson (2015) posed that effective communication can only take place in a nonthreatening environment: "The climate must foster equality and freedom, trust and understanding, acceptance and warmth. In this climate and in this climate only does the individual feel safe enough to incorporate new experiences and new values into his concept of himself" (p.281). The carrot and stick may, on occasion, prod people to meet minimum standards and expectations, but only high-trust connections can inspire greatness (Tschannen-Moran, 2010). Working relationships between adults work best in adult-to-adult interactions (Knight, 2011). In this key component, the practitioner demonstrates the ability to create a safe and supportive self-initiated collaborative coaching relationship that produces ongoing mutual respect, openness, and trust. The practitioner exhibits behaviors and dispositions that support collegial conversations such as confidentiality, kindness, and respect. Coaches see their colleagues as equals, listen much more than they talk, carefully consider everything the colleague says, and position the colleague as judge and decision maker.

2. Engage in growth-focused observations and dialogue

To arrive at decisions and actions that will impact professional practice, the partners in coaching engage in dialogue. Joyce and Showers (2002) stressed the importance of non-evaluative feedback by encouraging coaches to focus their feedback on inquiry rather than evaluation. In this relationship, one party does not impose, dominate, or control. Both parties engage in conversation about evidence and artifacts and think and learn together. Observation and examination of "artifacts" focus on specific aspects of educator growth and student achievement that provide high leverage for improving professional practice and student learning.

Active listening is an important component of dialogue.

Tips for Active Listening:

  • Don't interrupt.
  • Test your understanding by paraphrasing or summarizing what you have heard before you respond.
  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. "What I'm hearing is…" and "Sounds like you are saying… " are great ways to reflect back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points or confirm your understanding. "What do you mean when you say…" "Is this what you mean?"
  • Summarize the speaker's comments periodically
  • Use silence. Refrain from talking every time there's a lull in the conversation.

It is important to engage in preplanning dialogue prior to observation to establish the focus of the coaching. Some sample questions might include:

  • What do you want to focus on in our observation or dialogue?
  • Where are you now in relation to what you need to achieve?
  • What is currently happening that you want to change?
  • What is the desired end goal?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are you hoping to achieve? What is the desired impact?

3. Provide evidence-based graphic feedback

Evidence comes from two critical sources: direct observation and the examination of artifacts (Danielson, 2007). It is important to establish through dialogue what the coaching focus is prior to gathering evidence or providing feedback. Questions to ask during this focus-setting dialogue might be: "How can I be of help to you?" "What specifically do you wish me to look for?" and "Is there a particular behavior or standard you wish me to look for?"

Feedback in this type of coaching relationship does not include statements such as "you should have…" or "I would never…" Instead, feedback is centered on the pre-identified area of focus and the coach is another set of eyes to capture evidence and data related to current practice.

Areas to Consider:

  • Avoid evaluative language that provides a value judgment:
    • "Your lesson/presentation seemed a bit boring since your students/participants were not engaged"
  • Avoid giving advice and calling it feedback:
    • "I think you should use some essential questions when setting up your lesson activity or presentation to ensure students/participants are clear on the important concepts."
    • "I would not have scored the teacher's lesson as exemplary."
  • Descriptive language creates clarity:
    • "Here are some research-based strategies I saw you use today…"
    • "Here is something I learned from you today…"
    • "I saw you..."
  • Evidence-based graphic feedback should always be written. This ensures accuracy and clarity. Some ways to gather evidence-based graphic feedback include:
    • verbal flow (map the conversation) or selective verbatim (record word-for-word what is said about an area of focus)
    • event count (record the number of specific occurrences of a tracked action)
    • duration (record how much time is spent on a particular activity)
    • physical map (drawing of where things are located and the activities that happen there)
    • time sample (record of what occurs at specific intervals of time, e.g., what is happening every five minutes)

4. Reflect and plan action

Focus energy and actions on collaboratively identifying specific, research-based professional learning and practices that will facilitate growth and effectiveness in professional practice and improve teaching and learning. In this coaching model, there is not one practitioner acting as expert and the other as a novice or apprentice practitioner. Both practitioners are equals who are collaboratively working to improve their professional practice. Collegial coaches help each other reflect on their own practices without passing judgment or making evaluations about their observations.

Use reflection-driven questions, such as:

  • What did you learn from...?
  • What does the students'/teachers' work tell you about….?
  • What was challenging about…?
  • What was your favorite part of….?
  • What worked for you?
  • What will you do differently?

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

The following sources support the research on effective collaborative and collegial coaching:

  • Tschannen-Moran, M. & Tschannen-Moran, B. (2010) Taking a Strengths-Based Focus Improves School Climate. Journal of School Leadership, 21,422-448.

Engage in growth-focused dialogue

  • Bruce, Joyce and Showers, Beverley. The Evolution of Peer Coaching. ASCD, Alexandria VA. March 1996.

Provide evidence-based, graphic feedback

  • Danielson, Charlotte (2009). Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching (2nd ed). ASCD, Alexandria VA.

Reflect and plan action

  • Danielson, Lana (2009). Fostering Reflection. Education Leadership, vol. 66 no. 5.


Establish trust and maintain equality in a self-initiated collaborative coaching relationship

  • Aguilar, Elena. “How Can a Coach Gain a Teacher’s Trust?” Edweek Teacher Blogs, September 2, 2013.
  • Knight, Jim. (2002), Partnership Learning Fieldbook. University of Kansas Center for Research on Teaching and Learning, Kansas.

Engage in growth-focused observations and dialogue

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Jan 2013. Feedback for Better Teaching: Nine Principles for Using Measures of Effective Teaching. MET Project. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Foltos, Les. The Secret to Great Coaching. Journal of Staff Development, Learning Forward. June 2014.

Provide evidence-based graphic feedback

  • Wiggins, Grant. Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Education Leadership, ASCD. September 2012.

Reflect and plan action

  • Burkins, Jan Miller. “Questions and Stems for Coaching Conversations.” Literacyhead. Web. 30 Sept. 2016

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 and a "Yes" score for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

With a colleague, engage in the four steps of self-initiated partnership coaching in which each practitioner gives and receives coaching, and provide context for the following questions (250-word minimum for each question):

  • How was trust established in the coaching relationship?
  • Describe the area(s) of focus the coaching was centered on. From your coaching conversations, share examples of growth-focused observations and dialogue that occurred. Provide direct quotations as well as some reflections about how the conversation was growth-focused.
  • How was graphic, evidence-based feedback provided? Share some examples of the specific feedback.
  • As a result of the coaching, what was the plan of action that was collaboratively decided upon? Describe how the coaching conversation and reflection led to the plan of action.

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Submit either a 10-minute video or audio file, OR a written transcript (1,000-word minimum) of a self-initiated collegial coaching conversation that reflects the four conditions of self-initiated, collaborative coaching described above.

Provide an annotation to the video or transcript in which you highlight each of the four conditions (500-word minimum).

Part 3. Reflection

Reflect on your experience engaging in collaborative coaching using the following questions as a guide (500-word minimum):

  • How was this practice of self-initiated, collaborative coaching different from other coaching scenarios you have participated in?
  • What about your professional practice changed as a result of either coaching or being coached?
  • What other reflections do you have about the skills and overall practice of self-initiated collaborative coaching?

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 Collaborative Coaching
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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