The Compelling Case for Instructional Coaching


The Compelling Case for Instructional Coaching

San Francisco, NAIS Annual Conference 2016

It may have been fortuitous that a few weeks after being given the opportunity to create two new instructional coach positions with our team, I found myself in a breakout session at NAIS called, “The Compelling Case for Instructional Coaching” by Matthew Horvat, Brenda Leaks, Gerald Buhaly, and Jessica Hanson from The Overlake School.

The presentation provided key insights from the perspectives of the IC (instructional coach), a teacher and the principal. I hope to get the actual slides, but for now I’ve shared a few slides I captured via phone.

Learning-focused Supervision: Assessing and Developing Professional Practice Using the Framework for Teaching by Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman

A Primer on Instructional Coaches by Jim Knight

Instructional Coaching: Kansas Coaching Project & More Scholarly Articles About Instructional Coaching

Teaching Channel: Instructional Coaching

Teaching is Complex: Don’t Try to Simplify What Teachers Do

What do you wonder about the role and benefit(s) of working with an instructional coach?

Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback

Our team has recently discovered this fabulous book, recommended by Meredith Monk from Folio Collaborative. The authors outline the 3 types of feedback we all need and receive as human beings: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation.

None of these concepts are new, but the clarification of each one, as well as the interconnectedness of them are providing important insights for us. Just the summary from Chapter 1 alone has given us great fodder for discussion and reflection.

“Feedback” is really three different things, with different purposes:

Appreciation – motivates and encourages.
Coaching – helps increase knowledge, skill, ability, capability, growth, or raises feelings in the relationship.
Evaluation – tells you where you stand, aligns expectations, and informs decision making.

We need all three, but often talk at cross-purposes.

Evaluation is the loudest and can drown out the other two. (And all coaching includes a bit of evaluation.)

Be thoughtful about what you need and what you’re being offered, and get aligned.

#5 Why Conduct Student Surveys?

Why should teachers solicit feedback from their students at the end of the semester?

The answer is simple. Growth.

Our team and our school promote this practice in our five year strategic plan as well as the standards of professional excellence by which we coach and evaluate our teachers.

Seek feedback and measure attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of students about their work and contribution within the classroom environment. -iPlan17

We also highly value the idea and posture of Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset. (For more on this concept, see post #6 of the #60-60-60Challenge tomorrow.)


Here are some key thoughts for educators and teams to consider…

Students should be invited to reflect and share feedback about their learning in each class at the end of each semester.

Teachers participate in writing the survey questions.

Phrase questions to elicit specific, constructive feedback.

Discard destructive comments and personal attacks or matters of personal taste vs. good practice. (ex: Kids may not like the practice of a daily essential question, but if done properly, it is good practice and should be continued.)

Pay attention to patterns of consistent, recurring comments.

Pay attention to comments that describe specific behavior.

Filter every comment through the perspective that kids are honest, yet they are still kids.

Ask why.


What has caused you to grow the most in your field? What are your thoughts and experiences with end of course student surveys?

Tear Down Classroom Walls With Learning Walks

One of the most untapped and useful resources available to us is the experience, practice, and expertise of the professional colleagues on our own campus. Learning Walk are a fun, inexpensive way to immediately impact your own educational practice. As lifelong learners, we seek professional and personal growth through many avenues including conferences, webinars, articles, in-service workshops, presentations, twitter, blogs, etc. These are all elements of our PLNs (Professional Learning Networks). Learning Walks are another powerful, yet underutilized element. This practice is one key towards establishing a professional learning community. Each teacher is expected to complete one learning walk per semester as part of their professional evaluation, but we encourage you to conduct as many learning walks as you would like/as your schedule permits.


What is a Learning Walk?

A learning walk is one part of a multi-faceted, professional learning approach designed to give educators access to their peers’ expertise in short, focused observations. It is an opportunity to unashamedly borrow or steal the best ideas, strategies, and inspiration from our colleagues next door. It brings down walls.

What are Learning Walk norms?


  • Learning Walks are not about criticizing the teachers you visit, but rather about growing yourself and seeking to glean insights from the experience and expertise of your colleagues. It’s about you directing your own growth through observation and reflection. You are there to learn.
  • Plan your walks in advance, put it on your calendar, coordinate with your Head of Grade.
  • Decide on your specific focus in advance – what are you looking for? (ie – one of the standards of professional excellence or how your vertical team members teach a specific math learning outcome, essential outcomes, assessments, use of technology, etc.). Limit your focus to 1-2 specific practices.


  • Learning Walks should take 20-30 minutes max. Keep each visit brief – 1-5 minutes in each classroom.
  • Observe an entire hallway, building, or vertical team, not just one or two people.
  • Learning Walks may or may not be announced in advance. If unannounced, when you enter, you can say, “I’m on a learning walk – just ignore me.”
  • If you are being observed, keep teaching. Don’t stop.
  • Quietly observe and ask students questions – look for student learning.
  • Take notes on what you discover/learn, especially about your specific focus.
  • Take a picture. (If you plan to share it on twitter, etc. – make sure it represents the School in a positive light (Be a raving fun publicly).


  • Within 24 hours, email the teachers with positive, specific praise about something you learned and took away from their practice.
  • Tweet about what you see – try to share useful, applicable practices to other teachers who follow…
  • #learningwalk  #MVMiddle  #MVPSchool (use these hashtags in your tweets so we can all benefit).
  • Implement something specific that you learned in your own classroom.