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5 Effective Actions You Can Implement to Increase Student Learning

Anyone who has made the shift from teacher to instructional coach understands how it feels to suddenly be without systems and structures. No longer are there bell schedules, lists of subjects to teach, or report cards. Rather, it’s up to coaches to figure out how to they will organize their work.

The most powerful system used within Student-Centered Coaching are coaching cycles.

Since Student-Centered Coaching focuses on collaborating with teachers to design instruction that targets student outcomes, coaching cycles provide the opportunity to work in partnership to reach our goals for student learning. Yet, in reality, it’s all too common for coaching to feel episodic, like we are always helping “one person, one time, with one thing”. Another name for this is drive-by coaching. The risk here is that it often fails to make a measurable impact on teacher and student learning. Coaching cycles, on the other hand, provide a framework for designing ongoing and in-depth work with teachers. Coaching cycles:

  • Occur with a small group, pair, or individual teacher.
  • Focus on a goal for student learning that is driven by the standards.
  • Last approximately four to six weeks, and are typically tied to a unit of study.
  • Include at least one weekly 30–40 minute planning session to analyze student work and design instruction.
  • Include one to three times per week for the coach to work with the teacher in the classroom.

A Coaching Cycle: Beginning, Middle, and End

Any engineer will tell you that the best systems are simple systems, and this is true for student-centered coaching cycles as well. By using the principles of backward design, we are able to ensure that we reach our goals for teaching and learning. Here’s how a coaching cycle evolves across a four to six week time frame.

At the Beginning of the Coaching Cycle
Set a standards-based goal that is aligned to a curricular unit. Coaching that isn’t standards-based often misses the point that our purpose is student learning. For this reason, we begin a coaching cycle by setting a standards-based goal.
Unpack the goal into student-friendly learning targets that will serve as a success criteria. Student-friendly learning targets increase instructional clarity. They also serve as a success criteria and provide a mechanism for formative assessment by the teacher and self-assessment by the students.
Use a formative assessment to determine where the students are in relation to the success criteria. Pre assessing students provides baseline data. Using a formative (rather than summative) assessment makes the needs of students visible to the teacher and coach at the onset of the coaching cycle. This paves the way for differentiated instruction.
In the Middle of the Coaching Cycle
Co-plan and co-teach to implement effective instructional practices. Monitor and adjust along the way. Student evidence is used to drive decision-making when planning lessons. This aligns with the belief that coaching is built on a foundation of formative assessment. As coaches work with teachers in the classroom, they use a variety of coaching moves that increase teacher metacognition and transfer of practice.
At the End of the Coaching Cycle
Post assess student learning to determine student growth at the end of the coaching cycle. Identify how the teacher is using instructional strategies that promote student learning. It is our obligation to collect data to demonstrate how the students grew across the coaching cycle. By post assessing, we can indicate student growth and identify next steps for those who didn’t yet achieve mastery in the success criteria. We also identify how teachers grew in their use of effective instructional practices.

Next Steps

Coaching cycles provide the structure we need to make the desired impact on teaching and learning. They also create a deeper understanding among teachers about what it means to engage with a coach. By articulating the purpose and practices for coaching, we will not only impact student learning, we will also gain forward momentum for collaboration throughout the school community. Contact us below to find out more ways on how a student-centered coaching consultant can help your team improve student learning.

Discover More About Effective Coaching!

Written by

Diane Sweeney has been a national consultant since 1999. After teaching and coaching in the Denver Public Schools, Diane served as a program officer at the Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC) in Denver. She has become a respected voice in the field of coaching and professional development. Diane is the author of Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and PrincipalsStudent-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Leveland Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves.

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