Aside from ensuring the safety and orderliness of the learning environment, instructional leadership is among some of the most significant work for school and district level leaders.
The most critical function of instructional leadership is instructional coaching.
According to EdWeek, in order for instructional coaching to significantly improve student outcomes it must be;
- Intentionally focused
Oftentimes, the traditional coaching support in schools primarily consists of top-down approaches with emphasis on the technical aspects such as, defining the role of the coach, establishing coaching cycles, and facilitating coaching conversations. While these tasks are necessary to lay a solid foundation for coaching support, more is required if the ultimate goal is to raise teacher ownership towards sustained improvement in practice.
Instructional leaders must employ more impactful methods to support instructional coaching efforts at every level of the organization to create lasting change.
3 Highly Effective Leadership Strategies to Create Lasting Change
To support this transition, we define three key strategies leaders can leverage to modernize educator support with highly effective coaching that fosters deeper levels of autonomy and professional learning.
1. Establish a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Educational research has collectively deduced raising student achievement is largely the byproduct of improving both teacher and leader capacity. Coaching is one the most relied upon tools for growth and development.
Barriers to Adoption
Although generally accepted and acknowledged by most educators as necessary for performance improvement, many remain resistant to the idea of coaching. Coaching can’t be successful in a toxic environment. Even the most effective coaches can’t combat a systemic climate that runs counter to the goal of high levels of teaching and learning.
For example, some schools have positioned coaching as a response to marginal performance, and it is therefore perceived as punitive versus an opportunity to hone one’s craft. In other instances, ineffective and inconsistent coaching models and practices can create a chasm between teachers and instructional leaders. In addition, deeming coaches as experts and having a monopoly on best practices can leave those they support feeling inferior and inadequate.
Regardless of what educators have experienced or believe to be the purpose and desired outcomes for coaching, the notion of improvement must be seen as an integral to the DNA of the organization. One strategy to help mitigate this challenge is to ensure the organizational environment is intentionally curated to foster continuous improvement for all educators.
By normalizing growth for all educators, the stigma is removed and coaching can be seen as something being done “for me” rather than “to me.” Some of the keys ways leaders can communicate their commitment to growth across the organization might be:
- Articulating a coaching philosophy that supports the mission and vision,
- Providing opportunities for ongoing feedback,
- Equipping leaders to model a growth-mindset, and
- Prioritizing time and resources to ensure coaching takes place
2. Maximize Various Coaching Styles
There’s no one approach or model that will universally meet the diverse needs educators might develop over time. Coaching support is no different.
In order for coaching to impact and improve educator practice, it must be tailored to meet specific challenges associated with the educator’s work.
The coaching style employed will have a significant impact on coaching outcomes. While there are no inherently good or bad styles, it is crucial for coaches to be cognizant of different approaches and to be able to utilize them as appropriate.
For example, one educator might benefit from peer coaching focused on observation and collaboration, while others might be a perfect candidate from the collegial relationships provided by mentorship. Perhaps one educator needs a coach to share expert content knowledge using an instructive approach, whereas the teacher across the hall needs support to solve a specific instructional challenge that could be best through collaborative problem-solving.
In order for coaches to provide optimal support, they will need training and ongoing support themselves to deepen their knowledge of the critical attributes of various coaching styles and how to best leverage them as tools for coaching at the next level.
3. Make the Shift to Transformational Coaching
Although there are numerous coaching styles and approaches, they all share a common objective: to enhance the practice of coaching participants. Organizations can only improve if the people within them do the same.
Transformational coaching is a model of coaching where the focus transcends from individual enhancement to extend and encompass the overarching goals, ideals and beliefs of the organization holistically.
Transformational Coaching can create a ripple effect with endless possibilities.
- Challenge Assumptions. Transformational coaching encourages educators to reflect on their beliefs, values, and assumptions about teaching and learning. By increasing self-awareness, educators can identify areas for growth and develop strategies to enhance their practice.
- Educator Retention. Transformational coaching can also help educators to rediscover their passion for teaching and regain a sense of purpose. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and a renewed commitment to their students and profession.
- Student Achievement. When educators receive transformational coaching, they are better equipped to create a positive learning environment that fosters student success. This too can lead to improved academic outcomes and better overall student performance.
Transformative processes are systems-focused, and therefore require educators to consider the varying organizational players and layers that work in tandem to produce large-scale change. Effectuating organizational change is challenging and requires the individual commitment of every member within it to materialize. Every educator brings the totality of themselves to the organization they serve, and transformational coaching is a way of supporting them in becoming the highest and best version of themselves.
Creating an organizational culture that embraces coaching as strategy to ensure continuous improvement is a process that takes a significant amount of time and effort. It will also require leaders to approach this work creatively and strategically. Don’t feel pressed to make sweeping changes without thinking through the logistics, limitations, and desired outcomes. It will require ongoing conversations with educators at all levels and commitment to reflect and revise as often as needed. Be sure to set aside the time at the school and district level to facilitate ongoing collaboration focused on creating a sustainable coaching philosophy and model.