By Megan Wagaman
Math Instructor
Delaware Technical Community College
George Campus

“No matter how well-trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own,” says a caption in a New Yorker article by surgeon, public health researcher, and author, Atul Gawande (2011).

So what do we do? As teachers, how can we improve? How can we recognize the little changes that might make a big difference in our students’ learning? Or the big changes that can revolutionize our teaching?

One method to foster development that many school districts and individuals have been adopting in recent years is to have instructional coaches. There are many roles a coach may play, and many ways in which they can work (Borman & Feger, 2006), but the common theme is that a coach helps instructors improve – whether it is through guidance while planning lessons, observing and critiquing lessons, encouraging thoughtful reflection on classroom issues, helping an instructor try a new strategy, or assisting in other ways as needed.

This was the topic of discussion of the December 4th meeting of the faculty research discussion group at the George campus, in which we reviewed the above cited articles. This post will summarize some of the ideas that came up during our discussion.

Coaching is an exciting concept and it is a great way to foster continuous improvement, but there are some challenges. People need to feel comfortable opening up to it, accepting criticism, and trusting their coach. Going along with that, you need to have the right coach – someone who will foster improvement, rather than the opposite.

How can we implement coaching?

We felt that coaching should be voluntary, and could be facilitated by an institution’s teaching and learning department (CCIT at Delaware Tech). Some aspects of coaching could be best done by instructors in the same field as the coachee, while for others it may not matter. If being in the same field is important, the teaching and learning professionals could help departments investigate different instructional strategies, and the department members could then work together on how to implement them in ways that make sense for their field. It could also be connected to new faculty development or mentoring programs.

A great argument in favor of coaching is that it helps teachers actually implement ideas they learn about. According to Gawande (2011), a study done in California showed that after a professional development workshop, only 10% of teachers used the new skill in their classrooms. However, after coaching was integrated with new skill instruction, more than 90% implemented the method. Even if there are just small things you’d like to get feedback or guidance with, a coach could help.

So, check out these articles and see what you think.


Borman, J., & Feger, S. (2006). Instructional coaching: Key themes from the literature. The Education Alliance at Brown University. Retrieved from www.brown.edu/academics/educati…

Gawande, A. (2011, October 3). Personal best. The New Yorker. Retrieved from www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011…


Another article about coaching:

Garmston, R., Linder, C., & Whitaker, J. (1993). Reflections on cognitive coaching. Educational Leadership, 51(2).

These are about ways and reasons to conduct observations:

Grimm, E. D., Kaufman, T., & Doty, D. (2014). Rethinking classroom observation. Educational Leadership, 71(8), 24-29.

Moss, C. M., & Brookhart, S. M. (2013). A new view of walk-throughs. Educational Leadership, 70(7), 42-45.

Powell, W., & Napoliello, S. (2005). Using observation to improve instruction. Educational Leadership, 62(5), 52-55.

This is about handling teachers resistant to coaching (but I think offers good proactive advice for coaching in general):

Jay, A. B. (2009). Tackling resistance. Journal of Staff Development, 30(5), 56-58.

Here is a link to a video with the coaches talking in the teacher’s earpiece:


And a couple articles to go with it:

Rock, M. L., Gregg, M., Howard, P. W., Ploessl, D. M., Maughn, S., Gable, R. A., & Zigmond, N. P. (2009). See Me, Hear Me, Coach Me. Journal of Staff Development, 30(3), 24-31.

Rock, M. L., Zigmond, N. P., Gregg, M., & Gable, R. A. (2011). The Power of Virtual Coaching. Educational Leadership, 69(2), 42-48.

Here is another video just showing coaching in action:


I read a few chapters from this book. Chapter 7 talks about setting goals; Chapter 4 is about the coaching process (I liked this one a lot):

Aguilar, A. (2013). The Art of Coaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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