Improving Instructional Coaching Skills: Do’s and Don’ts for Teacher Coaches

Effective instructional coaches continuously work on improving their instructional coaching skills to best support the teachers they coach.

When coaches develop their coaching skills, teachers and ultimately students benefit from stronger positive outcomes.

“Evocative Coaching” author Megan Tschannen-Moran joined Edthena founder and CEO Adam Geller for a PLtogether Lounge Talk about getting better at instructional coaching.

The instructional coaching expert shared what instructional coaches should do and not do to improve the skills they need to coach teachers more effectively.

Check out the full video of the coaching advice above or keep reading for three do’s and two don’ts of improving instructional coaching skills.

Coaches, do these things to improve your instructional coaching skills

To improve instructional coaching skills, coaches often can benefit from taking a step back to reflect and take an objective look at themselves and their coaching practices.

Here are some suggestions from evocative coaching expert Megan Tschannen-Moran:

Do self-reflect on your instructional coaching practices

Megan Tschannen-Moran shared that engaging in a self-reflection process is a key way for instructional coaches to start their learning.

Megan suggested coaches ask themselves questions to “pay attention to their own story” such as:

  • What are the stories I am telling myself?
  • Are those stories serving me or do I need to shift my thinking?
  • What needs of mine are being well-met and which might need more attention?

Instructional coaches can learn a lot about the development of their instructional coaching skills by paying attention to and listening to themselves.

Do assess if coaching goals are being met

After turning inward and self-reflecting, instructional coaches can reflect on their coaching to determine if their coaching goals are getting accomplished.

Namely, Megan Tschannen-Moran noted that coaching goals are being met when the teachers supported by instructional coaches are showing motivation and movement.

Coaches can consider and assess if teachers are feeling energized about their professional learning and motivated to move forward.

In addition, teacher coaches can note if they are seeing evidence of teachers’ improvement. It’s also a good idea to simply ask the teachers being coached what about their coaching has felt meaningful or needs to be adapted.

Assessing if instructional coaching goals are being met is another important to-do for a coach’s ability to identify what in their instructional coaching skills and practices may need improvement.

Do record and watch your coaching conversations

Evidence shows teachers recording and watching video of their own instruction helps them improve teaching practices.

According to Megan, coaches should try a similar strategy by recording and watching their coaching conversations.

For example, Megan suggested coaches can track who is talking for how long during a coaching conversation.

photo of 2 people talking with text about improving instructional coaching skills: "Are you talking too much?

Megan said, “If we discover that we [coaches] are doing way more talking than teachers doing, then likely we’re taking too much ownership and responsibility [in coaching].

How does this relate to improving instructional skills?

Identifying coaching behaviors or skills that may not be not working while watching back videos of recorded coaching conversations enables instructional coaches to then consider how they will improve those skills.

Avoid these pitfalls during teacher coaching

Instructional coaching expert Megan Tschannen-Moran also identified things that instructional coaches should avoid doing that often “interfere with the coaching.”

Don’t get caught in the “Fix-It” trap

Sometimes instructional coaching can take the form of directive coaching, where coaches tell teachers what they should do to fix a classroom problem.

But Megan says this means the coach is taking on too much responsibility for a teacher’s development and improvement.

Coaches offering all the solutions can also often lead to teachers saying, “Yes, but…” and not taking ownership over their own classroom problem-solving.

Read more about the “Fix-It” trap here: A Guide to Evocative Coaching

Don’t fall into the “Hurry, hurry” pitfall

“In schools, we live in a constant state of time poverty. There’s never enough time,” said Professor Tschannen-Moran.

This can result in instructional coaches “nipping at a teacher’s heels” to hurriedly improve.

yellow background with sand timer and text about improving instructional coaching skills: "In schools, we live in a constant state of time poverty."

Megan shared that this should be avoided because it can cause resistance from a teacher who doesn’t feel they are being fully supported, but rather only being asked for quick compliance.

This hinders the coaching work being done because the teachers feel a lack of connection, rapport, and trust.

Coaches should support teachers in committing to incremental teaching growth and change.

Stronger instructional coaching means stronger teaching

Instructional coaching is complex and Megan’s suggestions can help coaches more intentionally strengthen their practices.

Coaches can self-reflect, assess their coaching goals, and watch recorded videos of their own coaching to help them work on their instructional coaching skills.

Avoiding offering teachers all the solutions or hurrying educators into compliance also supports instructional coaches in more effective coaching.

When instructional coaches improve their coaching, teachers benefit from stronger support.


For more from Megan Tschannen-Moran, check out this blog post: What is Compassionate Communication for Coaches?

To learn more about evocative coaching, check out more resources at the Center for School Transformation, founded by Megan Tschannen-Moran.

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