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Student-Focused Coaching

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

Student-Focused Coaching: The Instructional Coach’s Guide to Supporting Student Success Through Teacher Collaboration coauthored

Authored by: Dr. Jan Hasbrouck and Dr. Daryl Michel

As a coauthor of Student-Focused Coaching (SFC), I often work with educators who are hired and given the title of “coach,” yet who end up with primary responsibilities that are far from coaching. Rather than supporting peer colleagues with addressing problems or concerns based on student data or evidence, they find themselves directly working with students, serving as an interventionist or tutor, acting as an assistant administrator, and more. Unfortunately, this isn’t the role that many signed up for. Fortunately, there are solutions.

Jan and I (2022) define SFC as a “cooperative, ideally collaborative, professional relationship with colleagues mutually engaged in efforts that help maximize every teacher’s skills and knowledge to enhance student learning” (p. xi). Teachers choose to work with a coach and have control over the coaching process. Coaches have the challenge of using various tools and resources to establish trusting relationships, including keeping conversations confidential. When planning, the teacher shares ways in which the coach can best support the implementation of evidence-based practices to achieve a problem or concern faced by one or more students. The coach then continues to learn and provide ongoing differentiated, sustained professional learning experiences to support the teacher in achieving this goal(s).

It is important to note that SFC coaches do not (a) evaluate, can easily become a legal liability for them; (b) supervise, or (c) “fix” problems. SFC is not a top-down, hierarchical process; and SFC does not conform to the late 1970’s evaluation model of pre-conference, observe, post-conference (unless this is requested by a colleague). Rather, SFC coaches are peer colleagues who are equal partners in the coaching process and find themselves mostly serving in the roles of Facilitator, Collaborative Problem-Solver, and Teacher/Learner.

Facilitator: Support teachers, establish cooperative relationships, implement systems of support

Collaborative Problem-Solver: Lead teachers through the SFC Collaborative Problem-Solving Process, deliver ongoing professional development and learning, build collaborative partnerships, help teachers solve classroom-based problems or concerns

Teacher/Learner: Remain grounded as a learner and well-informed of current research, plan and deliver workshops or seminars based on a problem or concern (e.g., book or article study)

In the SFC book’s Introduction, Jan and I say that “Instructional coaching can have a significant impact on improving student outcomes if

§ The right person has been selected

§ The role of the coach is clearly defined, communicated, and adhered to

§ The coach receives sufficient training in how to do their job effectively

§ Coaching is focused on supporting teachers to successfully implement proven research- and evidenced-based instructional practices, rather than supervising or evaluating colleagues

§ The coach has ongoing support from the administrator/supervisor” (p. ix).

I want to stress the word “can” because coaching can also have little or no impact if the coach’s responsibilities are unclear or not communicated and adhered to. As Jan and I say in the final chapter of SFC, Working With Administrative Partners, “Successful coaches must have sufficient training, time, and support” (p. 204). And, as Poglinco and Bach (2004) concluded, administrators must “enter into a partnership with coaches if the coaching model is going to succeed in their schools” (p. 399).

I believe that Jan and I wrote Student-Focused Coaching in such a way that administrators, coaches, teachers, and others can benefit from the content. Most of us would likely say that we could improve our verbal or non-verbal communication skills; learn more about delivering or supporting effective instruction and intervention; or benefit from examples of planning, organizing, or leading effective meetings or professional development and learning experiences. It’s also possible that many of us would say that we have one or more systems that can be improved, and this is where the SFC SAILS framework can be of value: Studying and selecting Standards to teach; using Assessments to measure student growth; planning, aligning, and delivering evidence-based Instruction and Intervention; providing ongoing Leadership and allow others to lead; and allowing time for change to happen while planning for Sustainability.

Whatever you do, remember that establishing any change, including a coaching culture, takes time, on average 3-5 years (Hall & Hord, 2015), will require persistence and guarding against additional change initiatives, and may require the need for a reset of the coaching role. If you find that your organization (a) routinely adopts new programs, (b) expects the administration of new assessments (sometimes redundant measures) that reduces instructional time, or (c) annually rewrites district curriculum, then you shouldn’t expect organizational change. If everyone within the organization is expected to successfully implement a new change initiative, then those making these decisions may need to read or revisit Hall and Hord’s research.

Daryl Michel, PhD

Co-author of Student-Focused Coaching

Be A Change, LLC Founder

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