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Adapting instructional coaching for different levels of expertise

Jon Hutchinson explores how to tailor instructional coaching to individual teachers’ unique needs and strengths, moving beyond generic training sessions.

One of the major benefits of instructional coaching is that it is personalised to individual teachers. No more sitting in the hall with dozens of other teachers, all with different levels of experience and expertise, receiving the same presentation which may or may not be applicable to you.

Teaching is a composite job, made up of a huge number of skills. Behaviour management, modelling, questioning, motivation, subject knowledge, providing feedback, the list goes on and on. All teachers will be more skilled and more knowledgeable in some areas than others. Instructional coaching provides the opportunity to celebrate areas of strength whilst identifying areas most ripe for development.

This is why it makes little sense to have a blanket approach to the action steps that teachers receive during coaching conversations. If a coach has decided that the development point is going to be ‘cold calling’ before they enter the classroom, there’s little point in doing a drop-in in the first place. 

This is not to say that it is inappropriate for a school to decide on a broad area that all teachers should focus on for a period. This can be helpful in terms of building coherence and clarity, allowing for discussion around key research, sharing of best practice and common difficulties. For example, a senior leadership team might decided that for a half term the coaching will be on fading guidance.

Instructional Coaching

However, it is critical that the context of each classroom and teacher remains at the heart of the process, and that coaches are ‘looking at’ not ‘looking for’ when they spend time in their coachee’s classroom. Just as a doctor will begin with symptoms before suggesting a prescription, coaches should start with the problem, and not with the solution.

Instructional Coaching Process diagram

In some instances, the coach may need to be more directive, carefully guiding the conversation and providing suggestions for what to do next. In other circumstances, the teacher may be able to drive the conversation, correctly identifying challenges and solutions. Clearly, this requires skill from the coach, who will need to make a judgement about when to be directive and when to be facilitative. This may vary from week to week even with the same teacher as different areas of growth are identified.

Learn More

Jon Hutchinson has created two brand new modules, ‘Adapting Coaching for Teachers at Different Levels of Expertise’ and ‘How to Coach Teachers Who Don’t Want to be Coached’ which explores how instructional coaching programmes can be tailored to best meet the needs of the expertise of the teachers involved and how to coach teachers who are coaching sceptics. To find out more, view the tasters and click through to view the full module descriptions below.

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Discover more BlueSky Learning Literacy modules here

Tamsin Denley

Author: Jon Hutchinson

Jon Hutchinson is currently Director of Training at the Reach Foundation and an LSX fellow with New America.

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