You are here

How Instructional Coaching can Support ELA Teachers

A study by the Learning Policy Institute shows that high teacher attrition is one of the leading factors driving the teacher shortage. When researchers study factors impacting attrition, two areas stand out:

  1. Teachers value high-quality professional learning and administrative support.
  2. Teacher leaders desire opportunities to grow without leaving the classroom for administrative roles.

This module highlights how using teacher leaders as instructional coaches can address these factors, lead to impactful shifts in instructional practice and build a culture of ongoing learning.

Instructional Coaching

Instructional coaching is a unique model of professional development that has been shown to improve teacher practice and positively impact student achievement outcomes. On average, instructional coaching raises the quality of teachers’ practice and their impact on student achievement as much or more than the differences observed between a novice teacher and an experienced veteran. Instructional coaches can be change agents for a school, resulting in improved teacher effectiveness and student success.

A popular coaching format is to pair teacher leaders with other teachers to guide them in developing their instructional skills. Another approach is to establish learning teams in which individual teachers take turns observing each other in order to coach each other around a particular instructional strategy. Regardless of the model, it is important to ensure instructional coaches are provided professional learning in the art and skills of coaching.

True instructional coaching is collaborative and emphasizes a partnership between the teacher and coach. Coaching is not evaluative, nor should it be. Because trust is the hallmark of any good relationship, a teacher leader, rather than an administrator, is the ideal person to provide coaching. However, if coaching is being provided by an administrator, then both the teacher and administrator should establish the an effective observation/feedback/coaching cycle with clear delineation between which observations are evaluative and which observations are a part of coaching. And, instructional or pedagogical practices that are focal points within coaching should never be a part of evaluation scores unless discussed and agreed upon by teacher and coach. Schools are encouraged to explore technology tools to help establish efficient coaching protocols. A range of digital platforms and shared spaces for coach and teacher collaborations exist. Flexible scheduling allows for class coverage and enables both teacher and coach to have opportunities for collaboration during the school day. 

Designing for Equity

Instructional coaching is a model of support that is proven effective for all teachers, not just those who are new or struggling. One of the single best predictors of student success is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher. To ensure all students have access to a highly effective teacher, consider building a coaching culture where everyone deserves to have a great coach. Often, instructional coaching programs are present only in large districts with more staff to implement the initiative. However, small and rural educators merit this kind of support as well. Consider the ways in which technology tools can span geographic regions and bridge gaps. Instructional coaches are not limited to working within their districts. Small, rural schools can pool resources and technology to leverage coaching consortiums with other districts.


■ Begin by conducting a staff survey to assess your school’s readiness to adopt an instructional coaching model. Conducting this self-evaluation will help leaders understand current staff attitudes and beliefs related to professional learning and identify critical needs.

■ Identify teacher leaders in your school who may be ready for an instructional coaching role. Connect them with resources from instructional coaching experts such as Jim Knight/Insight Education Group, Instruction Partners and the Instructional Coaching Group’s free webinars and videos.

■ Consider the steps school leadership can take to value coaching and increase coaching visibility. When administrators work with instructional coaches, it sets the tone for other teachers to engage with coaching.

■ Review the Regional Education Laboratory West’s summary of information from the research literature organized around four themes of instructional coaching: goals of coaching, defining a coaching cycle, effective coaching practices and structural support for implementation of effective coaching.

■ Ensure instructional coaches are guided by the evidence base for specific disciplines and grade bands such as early reading and English language arts.


■ Professional development workshops provide foundational knowledge for teachers, but follow-up support for implementation is essential and can be provided through instructional coaching.

■ Instructional coaches need professional learning to successfully guide teachers. Without training and support, instructional coaching initiatives may fail.

■ Technology tools and flexible scheduling allow for innovative instructional coaching models.

■ Instructional coaching provides leadership opportunities for talented teachers and a support structure for all teachers.


NOTE:  The contents of this page was created through a collaborative effort with the Oklahoma Department of Education, ASCD, Learning Policy Institute, and REL West.