The Coaching & Development Cycle
The Role of a Coach
At Rocketship Education, we believe the role of an instructional coach is to maximize the talent, energy, content knowledge, planning, delivery, and sheer mad determination of some of the best and brightest young leaders this country has to offer, so that our Rocketeers can grow and develop into this kind of leader, too. We believe our coaches must develop our teachers in and through their current role, catalyzing their growth as educators and leaders. This means that our school leaders are responsible not only for improving teachers’ practice so that all teachers achieve the mutually reinforcing goals of students’ academic achievement and personal growth, but also for coaching teachers to be the teacher-leaders and professionals who are poised to become masters of their craft and/or to be on the path to school leadership in the future.
The model to the right represents how Rocketship Education believes teachers impact student achievement which we believe has two dimensions: 1) as scholars, Rocketeers not only master basic skills but also master rigorous content which includes critical thinking, problem solving and meta-cognition and 2) as citizens, Rocketeers strengthen the values, dispositions, and life skills that will support their hard work and future success.
Everyone involved in coaching our teachers – including our teachers themselves – has these two ultimate aims in mind and drives towards these goals in their work. We constantly ask ourselves, "To what extent will students emerge on a different life path as a result of major academic and personal growth? We believe that these two areas of growth—academic and personal—are mutually reinforcing. Academic growth accelerates when students have strong personal values and display traits such as resilience and love of learning; these characteristics are also built up and reinforced in the pursuit of rigorous academic goals.
With this vision in mind, our coaches employ a range of coaching and development strategies and techniques to develop, broaden and refine our teachers’ knowledge, skills and mindsets to maximize our teachers’ impact on student outcomes. In doing so, we enable teachers to develop the habits essential to continuously increasing their own effectiveness, so as to lead their students to make the significant academic progress and personal growth necessary to succeed in elementary and beyond.
Coaching & Development Cycle
Ultimately, we want to see Rocketeers emerge as scholars and citizens on a different life path as a result of major academic and personal growth. The primary way our teachers and their instructional coaches work toward that vision is through the coaching and development cycle.
The coaching & development cycle has two primary purposes:
- To increase student achievement through targeted support and problem-solving
- To build teachers’ independent ability to reflect on their own practice through problem-solving
In addition to accomplishing these two primary purposes, the coaching & development cycle has been designed to support teachers in maximizing the experiential learning opportunities afforded by our teaching model:
- By reflecting on evidence – we use data and evidence on student outcomes and student actions that correlate to teachers’ actions and teachers’ underlying knowledge, skills and mindsets.
- By recognizing successes – teachers benefit from recognizing their own successes, and having others recognize them as well in order to gain confidence as well as understand and build upon their areas of strength.
- By identifying and following-up on solutions/next steps – teachers and coaches execute strategic, specific next steps that will contribute to teachers’ increased effectiveness and hence to their students’ achievement.
The coaching and development cycle is comprised of three phases of work:
Analyze. In the analysis phase, coaches use multiple points of evidence to identify potential professional development priorities for a particular teacher. This typically involves studying a teacher’s lesson plans, analyzing student work and student data, and conducting a classroom observation. At the cohort level, this requires coaches to draw upon their work with individual teachers to identify trends across campus.
Align. There are two components of alignment that are critically important:
- Alignment between people. Alignment at all levels—between teachers and coaches, among coaches and between a coach and manager—is critically important. Most typically, coaches align directly with teachers via debrief conversations in which coaches illuminate professional development priorities, invest teachers in their professional development priorities and action steps, and build teachers’ independent ability to reflect on their practice. At the campus- and network-level, coaches align with other school leaders to determine campus- and network-wide needs.
- Alignment of outcomes, causes and solutions.During debrief conversations, both teachers and their coaches work to draw out the connections between student outcomes and student actions, between student actions and teacher actions, and between teacher actions and the teacher’s underlying knowledge, skills and mindsets. Additionally, we work to ensure that the next steps will truly increase a teacher’s proficiency in their prioritized areas of growth. Through this process of identifying outcomes, causes and solutions, we ensure that we are maximizing student achievement in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Act. Coaches work with teachers to determine the most appropriate professional development activities (“solutions”) to most efficiently close gaps in their practice or to build upon existing strengths. To this end, coaches use a variety of coaching strategies:
- Real-Time coaching: providing concrete & specific feedback in the moment followed by observing teachers do it again until (ideally) a coach sees mastery of the skill (e.g. using ear bud technology)
- Modeling: building a teacher’s vision of what a particular instructional practice looks and sounds like when executed well.
- Video-recording and reflection: a coaching strategy designed to increase a teacher’s self-awareness and ability to analyze their own practice.
- Group learning experiences: a learning experience for a group of teachers who share a similar area of development.
- Lesson planning support: coaches often review their cohort’s lesson plans and facilitate collaborative planning time to build teachers’ backwards-planning mindsets and skills.
- Teacher-led development: a development technique in which the teacher takes the lead in designing and facilitating with support from their coach.
- Peer-to-peer coaching: this strategy can take a variety of forms including strategic observations and coaching between colleagues, collaborative work and professional learning communities.
In all cases, our coaches strive to develop teachers in the most efficient and effective manner and in a way most aligned to the teacher’s learning style and readiness.
The following table outlines the overarching structure of the coaching and development cycle:Analyze / Align / Act
Purpose / To identify the most pressing gaps in the classroom to inform the focus areas for the coaching cycle / To ensure teacher know their strengths and areas for growth, are invested in their development and capable of reflecting on their practice independently / To develop teachers in the most efficient and effective manner and in a way most aligned to the teacher’s learning style and readiness.
Target Outcomes / *Determine coaching priorities
*Provide teachers with observation notes and data on their practice / *Recognize progress
*Identify next steps / *Build knowledge, skills and mindsets
Frequency** / *Approximately once every two weeks / *Approximately once every two weeks / *Approximately once every two weeks
Length** / *Roughly 30-45 minutes / *Roughly 30-45 minutes / *Roughly 60-90 minutes (depends greatly on the strategies chosen!)
**Rather than focusing on the time recommendations, it’s best to allocate whatever amount of time is necessary to achieve the targetoutcomes. Coaches will likely extend or shorten these times based on the needs of the individual teacher.**