Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
What Is an Instructional Coach?
An instructional coach, or IC, is a professional who works collaboratively with teachers to promote best teaching practices, often through the use of educational models. Because instructional coaches are specially trained and fluent in specific subject matter and pedagogy, they can provide school administrators with curricula support. For example, they may help teachers understand district goals and objectives, collect and analyze data, and model teach. Instructional coaches also conduct observations and set performance criteria; they aren't meant to function as evaluators.
Instructional coaches come in all shapes and sizes. Some are content specific, such as a reading, math, or data coach. Some travel between several schools, and some are assigned to just one. Some are given specific instruction and have little wiggle room, while others are autonomous members of the school who determine their own outcomes.
Let's take a look at three of the models currently used in the field.
The GROW Model
The GROW model is a tool used to format coaching or mentoring. While not specific to instructional coaching, many ICs use it to frame their practice. GROW stands for goal, reality, options, and way forward or will. This simple 4-step model allows ICs to set both short-term and long-term goals with teachers; this circular model is often repeated during the school year.
- Goals: Some educational goals can be set at every curricula planning meeting, but general overarching goals should also be addressed and revisited.
- Reality: Instructional teams use district and state expectations and student data to determine goals. They also develop methods for measuring success.
- Options: Once goals are set, the team explores options, or steps, towards meeting the goals. For example, what type of instruction is necessary? Are academic interventions needed?
- Way forward or will: Finally, team questions help the educational model or process get off the ground. This demands commitment, motivation, and accountability from both coaches and educators.
The SMART Model
Another popular, user-friendly coaching method is the SMART model, in which ICs and teachers determine performance indicators by creating
- Realistic, and
- Time-bound goals
Let's say that an instructional coach has just finished observing a teacher, and the two sit down to talk about the observation. In particular, the coach has noticed a lack of wait time in the classroom: the teacher isn't giving the students enough time to answer questions before supplying the answers herself. After talking about its importance as a teaching strategy, the IC and teacher set a realistic and time-bound goal of increased wait time using the SMART model.
Specifically, the two determine how many more minutes the teacher will add to the amount of time students have to answer a question. The IC and teacher also set up a method of measuring the outcome, as well as making sure the goal can be realistically accomplished within a given framework. For example, it wouldn't be feasible for the teacher to increase her wait time to the desired amount by the end of the first day, since it usually takes a while to establish new routines. Like the GROW model, the SMART model can be used throughout the school year for many applications and situations.
The FUEL Model
Another model used in instructional coaching is the FUEL model. FUEL stands for
- Explore, and
Using this model allows ICs and teachers to have rich, specific, and outcome-based conversation about student, academic, and professional achievement.
Using this model, the IC first frames the conversation, or sets the purpose by communicating the desired outcome. Using the wait time example, the coach might begin the conversation by discussing wait time and its purpose and impact, engaging the teacher in the discussion to aid in a deeper understanding of the importance of the practice.
Next, the IC uses data from the observation to help the teacher understand how well he or she is performing the task. While doing this, it's important for the IC to use objective, concrete data in place of subjective or indefinite observations. Third, the team explores the desired outcome, asking questions about and brainstorming methods of achieving the goals. Finally, they lay out a plan using specific action steps. Remember to include a plan for accountability, and be realistic about the outcome. Sometimes, small steps are necessary to implement a big change.
Finding & Implementing a Model
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to educational coaching and modeling. Coaching models are often determined by your particular school district. As an IC, be aware of the methods and models, but equally aware of your teachers' educational needs and wants. It's also important to remember that coaching is a job of doing, which includes spending time in the classroom with teachers, offering tips and pointers or even model teaching.
In implementing an educational model, instructional coaches need to establish a relationship of trust with their teachers: educators need to know their interactions with a coach are confidential. Communication is key, and ICs should provide feedback on a timely basis, as well as relevant, specific goals for use in the classroom. A one-size-fits-all educational model alienates coaches from teachers who need specific and timely tips and strategies to improve their immediate practice.
Before we wrap this up, let's go over a few tips teachers can use when implementing these models. Principals are a good resource for direction and resources if you're in a situation in which you need advice or guidance. You can also reach out to other instructional coaches in your building or district for help. Remember, while a good relationship with teachers is important, your role as their adviser sets you apart from them in a nuanced way. Be respectful and mindful of this liaison and strive to work as a team.
As a final note, remember that instructional coaching isn't meant to be rigid or prescriptive. Instead, ICs should follow models that work for them with the caveat of adapting to any situation that arises.
Let's take a few moments to recap some of the important things we've learned about educational coaching models…
Teachers often work with instructional coaches, or ICs, who are professionals who work collaboratively with teachers to promote best teaching practices, often through the use of educational models. There are many instructional coaching models from which you can choose. Your district may require you to use a specific model, or you may have the freedom to choose your own.
When considering which model to use, first consider the specific needs of your staff. If you have a situation in which you need to increase communication, you should probably use the FUEL model: FUEL standing for frame, understand, explore, and lay. If you have identified goals and need a good tracking system, try the SMART model, in which ICs and teachers determine performance indicators by creating specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals. Or, if you need an often used, reliable over-arching method that can be applied to most situations, it would be good to use the GROW model, which is a four-step model that moves from determining goals to developing realistic methods, to exploring options, to finally determining the way forward.
Whichever you choose, remember to be flexible, understanding, and intentional with your staff. What teachers need most often is a good listener.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack
Resources created by teachers for teachers
I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.