Fostering a Culture of Growth and Belonging: The Multi-Faceted Impact of Instructional Coaching in International Schools

Fostering a Culture of Growth and Belonging: The Multi-Faceted Impact of Instructional Coaching in International Schools

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8795-2.ch012
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In recent years, many international schools have been considering whether or not to invest in instructional coaching programs. However, discussions on both sides usually proceed from the assumption that coaching programs are mainly intended to lead to improved student learning. This chapter explains that properly implemented instructional coaching does much more than that; it creates a culture of growth and belonging which can lead to greater teacher satisfaction and retention. By demonstrating a school's commitment to personalizing teacher professional development, coaching empowers teachers to flourish and creates a humanizing community of learning. Incorporating material from over 30 interviews with coaches, teachers, and leaders who have appeared on the podcast #coachbetter, this chapter explores what instructional coaching is and isn't, what the coaching process looks like in practice, why coaching is important to schools focused on teacher retention and professional growth, and what helps coaching programs succeed, particularly in international schools.
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Literature Review

Instructional Coaching

Instructional coaching is defined and carried out in very different ways in different educational districts and institutions, but at its heart it is a process whereby a coach “works collaboratively with a teacher to improve that teacher’s practice and content knowledge, with the ultimate goal of affecting student achievement for the purpose of learning new skills or improving current skills” (Sutton et al., 2011). Coaches usually follow a cycle that involves some combination of pre- and post-conferencing with teachers, observing classroom teaching, and modeling new practices (Neufeld & Roper, 2002).There has long been a widely-recognized shortage of empirical evidence on coaching’s efficacy. Publications on coaching tend to be descriptive, relying on qualitative case studies (Borman & Feger, 2006; Cornett & Knight, 2009). However, there is a growing body of evidence that coaching can be meaningfully linked to improvement in instructional practice, as well as to student improvements in literacy and mathematics (Kraft, Blazar, & Hogan, 2018; Sailors & Shanklin, 2010; Campbell & Malkus, 2011).

Instructional Coaching as Professional Development

Looking beyond student achievement, evaluations of coaching programs have shown that coaching can help teachers effectively link their institutions’ broader standards, policies, and reform efforts to daily instructional strategies (Knight, 2009). Whereas traditional professional development models like workshops take place outside of teachers’ practice and have poor efficacy in terms of changing teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, coaching programs can be more effective, due to their more classroom-embedded and flexible nature (Kim & Viesca, 2016; Garet et al., 2001). When looked at through the lens of five identified key features of professional development (content focus, active learning, sustained duration, coherence, and collective participation), instructional coaching “presents itself as a powerful tool for improving teacher knowledge, skills, and practice” (Desimone & Pak, 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Growth Mindset: The belief that abilities are not fixed, and that everyone has the potential to improve or build new skills.

Psychological Safety: The shared belief that a working environment is a safe space for taking risks, trying new things, and being able to fail without fear of the consequences.

Coaching Cycle: A repeatable process of goal setting, action, and reflection whereby a coach supports a teacher.

Instructional Coaching: A structured, non-evaluative, reflective, confidential process that takes place over time, based on actual data and observation of in-classroom experiences, in partnership with the teacher and supported by an instructional coach who is also part of the school community.

Coaching Stances: A variety of contextually appropriate roles or stances that coaches can move among to meet the needs of the teacher or team they are working with.

Coaching Menu: A document provided by a coach based on teacher needs assessment to provide examples of the variety of ways the coach can support teachers.

Collective Efficacy: When school stakeholders work well together to have a positive impact on student achievement and the community as a whole.

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