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Instructional Coaching

Instructional coaching for implementing service-learning

By April 14, 2020April 21st, 2020No Comments

Instructional coaching has become a necessary tool used in schools to assist teachers in effectively implementing new teaching pedagogies and practices. Instructional coaches provide teachers with an objective perspective of their teaching methods, provide much-needed support in implementing new teaching strategies and processes, as well as make teachers feel that they are not alone in the process. Instructional coaching is personalized and assists teachers in improving learning and developing their own teaching knowledge and skills.

What is instructional coaching?

Let us start from the beginning by defining what instructional coaching is. Jim Knight defines instructional coaching as the process that occurs when instructional coaches partner with teachers to analyze current reality, set goals, identify and explain teaching strategies to hit the goals and provide support until the goals are met[1].

This is all done with the aim of improving teaching and learning so that students become more successful. Teachers often need an outside perspective on their teaching and how the students are absorbing the information, which is provided by the instructional coach[2].

Coaches are able to see things from a different perspective and provide insight that will help increase performance levels in the classroom. Teachers are under so much stress and are required to focus on so many different elements within the classroom that small things may go unnoticed. An example of this is that a student’s learning can be affected by the way students are instructed or how the classes managed, but the affect is not noticed due to the familiarity of the routine. In this case, an instructional coach will be able to identify these elements and will help the teacher put measures in place to rectify this.

Diane Sweeney’s approach is focused on student centred coaching. This places students at the center of all teaching and learning. Instructional coaching starts with the coach and teacher/s looking at learning data. This data informs next steps in the coaching cycle – goals, teaching instruction, assessment of learning, analysis.

In a productive instructional leadership relationship, coaches are there to guide teachers and give them a clear picture of current reality, to set goals and to help problem solve any issues that arise[3].

Effective Instructional Coaching

Effective instructional coaching involves creating a relationship based on trust and support between the coach and the teacher. Principles used to guide this process include the following[4]:

  • Equality: instructional coaches and teachers are equal partners  
  • Choice: teachers should have a choice regarding what and how they learn 
  • Voice: professional learning should empower and respect the voices of teachers 
  • Dialogue: professional learning should enable authentic dialogue 
  • Reflection: reflection is an integral part of professional learning 
  • Praxis: teachers should apply their knowledge to their real-life practice as they are learning
  • Reciprocity: instructional coaches should expect to get as much as they give 

The ultimate goal of an effective instructional coaching program is to improve teaching and provide students with high-quality education. This is achieved by assisting and supporting teachers through coaching with the focus being on improving their teaching techniques so they can be at their best for their students.

Instructional coaching

Instructional Coaching and Service-Learning

Instructional coaching is about improving instruction to achieve better outcomes related to student learning and well-being. Once a goal has been set, an instructional coach partners with teachers to identify a strategy the teacher can implement to achieve their goal[5]. This is where service-learning and instructional coaching interlink.

Service-learning is an instructional pedagogy based on experiential learning principles where students are taken out of their typical learning environments and challenged with learning in different ways to meet community needs that provide them with different experiences. For teachers to implement service-learning into their curriculum, they may need more information on teaching strategies and techniques that are involved in this pedagogy.

This is the perfect time to introduce instructional coaching into the mix. Instructional coaches are experts in their fields, and in the case of service-learning, will be able to assist teachers with:

  • Incorporating service-learning activities and techniques into their curriculum
  • Provide ways to explain and showcase complex concepts through service-learning
  • Design and implement lessons that include research-based instructional strategies
  • Providing the support needed to enhance student communication and interaction skills, facilitate teamwork and foster citizenship as well as an understanding of others, real-world issues and differences
  • Develop teaching activities around service-learning that encourages critical thinking, problem-solving skills and decision making while developing kindness, empathy and caring dispositions.

We have all had various experiences with coaches. Most think of a sports coach when asked to reflect on a coach. Coaches are able to help individuals and teams improve. In sport it is obvious if the team is winning, and players are working together. Instructional coaches are similar, they are able to look at the big picture of learning, listen to the teacher’s need for support to meet a goal, and help guide instruction to meet that goal and ultimately improve student learning.

Instructional coaches need to know themselves, their skills and attributes to be able to effectively coach others. Deep reflection is ongoing as to improve and hone one’s skills as a coach. It takes time to develop trusting relationships with teachers, so that teachers feel and know that coaching is non judgemental. A great way to start conversations with teachers is “How can I help?”. Active listening skills are key to effective collaboration and co-teaching, as is a coaching tool to effectively plan and collect data in a coaching cycle.

Instructional coaches play an important role in helping teachers build on their knowledge and skills. Experienced coaches also prove to be invaluable when implementing new teaching tools and strategies like service-learning. Everyone needs someone to help guide, support and motivate them, and teachers are no different. This is why instructional coaching has become even more important over the years within the field of education.

[1] Knight,J. 2016. What Do Instructional Coaches Do?. Instructional Coaching Group. Viewed 31 March 2020.

[2] Dr Jones, G. What is Instructional Coaching?. Teacher Development Trust. Viewed 31 March 2020.

[3] Knight,J. 2016. What Do Instructional Coaches Do?. Instructional Coaching Group. Viewed 31 March 2020.

[4] Knight, J. 2011. What Good Coaches Do. Coaching: The New Leadership Skill. Volume 69.Number2. Pages 18-22.

[5] . Knight, D.; Hock, M.; Skrtic, T.M.; Bradley, B.A.; Knight, J. Evaluation of video-based instructional coaching

Sweeny, D. 2011. Student Centered Coaching. A Guide K-8 for Coaches and Principals.

Sage Publications Inc. Thousand Oaks, United States.

for middle school teachers: Evidence from a multiple-baseline study. Educ. Forum 2018, 76, 50–51. [

Tara Barton

Tara brings passion and a deep understanding of service learning, rooted in years of experience, to her training. Her training builds bridges from theory to implementation while generously sharing her resources and knowledge to ensure our success. Tara works with the whole school (administration, teachers, students, and SL leaders) to build a sustainable program that is embedded in the curriculum and tied to the mission. She energized a faculty on a Friday afternoon, no easy feat, leaving them with a desire to learn more about SL and to become more involved. I cannot recommend Tara highly enough.

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