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Models of Coaching. Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia. Sharon Walpole University of Delaware. How we define coaching.

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models of coaching

Models of Coaching

Michael C. McKenna

University of Virginia

Sharon Walpole

University of Delaware


How we define coaching

“Coaching is a strategy for implementing a professional support system for teachers, a system that includes research or theory, demonstration, practice, and feedback.”

McKenna, M. C., & Walpole, S. (2008). The literacy coaching challenge:

Models and methods for grades K-8. New York: Guilford.


Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers

Joyce, B., Showers, B. (2002).

Student achievement

through staff development.

Washington, DC: ASCD.

a professional support system
A professional support system

Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement

through staff development. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


We are certain of one thing:

“… there is no one ‘right’ coaching model for all settings and there are models that would be poor choices.”


How do we select a model?

Start by considering the professional standards adopted by IRA and the National Staff Development Council.

These have a long history, dating back all the way back to the turn of the century. 


A chronology of coaching standards

  • IRA. (2000). Excellent reading teachers.
  • IRA. (2000). Teaching all children to read: The roles of the reading specialist.
  • NSDC. (2001). Standards for staff development.
  • IRA. (2004). The role and qualifications of the reading coach in the United States.
  • IRA. (2006). Standards for middle and high school literacy coaches.
  • IRA. (2007). Revised role definitions of reading professionals.

Additive coaching qualities

Knowledge of content areas

Knowledge of adult learning

Knowledge of struggling readers

Knowledge of excellent classroom instruction


Two types of coaches

  • Change Coaches
  • Help administrators reorganize resources
  • Help build leadership and understanding related to site-based goals
  • Set the stage for coaches of teachers

Two types of coaches

2. Content Coaches

  • Work once resources are allocated
  • Although they interact with administrators, their focus is more squarely on the teachers.
  • They help teachers learn new ideas, to implement them during instruction, and they provide formative feedback


and Roper

  • Neufeld, B., & Roper, D. (2003). Coaching: A strategy for developing instructional capacity: Promises and practicalities. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute Program on Education and Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
  • Available:

a coaching model
A coaching model …
  • is a set of guidelines for professional developers who provide ongoing formative support for teachers (Those professional developers are called coaches, and their specific roles in schools vary.)
  • includes a logistical plan for collaboration with teachers, and specific strategies for designing, understanding, and reflecting on teacher instruction
  • provides for knowledge-building, instructional planning, and observation of teaching
  • is informed by strategies for assessing student achievement.
6 characteristics common to all coaching models
6 characteristics common to all coaching models
  • Establishing a role for the coach
  • Building knowledge for teachers
  • Choosing instructional strategies
  • Making instructional plans
  • Reflecting on instructional quality
  • Assessing student learning

Let’s examine six coaching models, each based on different goals and assumptions. We’ll start with the least intrusive model and move to the most intrusive.

mentoring new teachers
Mentoring New Teachers
  • One-one-one approach that links a beginner to an experienced teacher
  • Non-evaluative–a safe way for the novice to share frustrations and confusions
  • Longstanding approach, but not well defined
  • Focus is on nuts and bolts of teaching in a specific setting
  • Often evolves into coplanning sessions
  • Best mentoring is flexible and responsive
  • Mentoring is expensive, usually involving release time
  • Danger is that mentoring may perpetuate status quo

Typically, a veteran teacher at the same grade level is called on. Sometimes the same teacher mentors many teachers but does not teach. This situation has advantages and drawbacks.

How are mentors chosen?


Mentoring New Teachers

peer coaching
Peer Coaching
  • Well articulated and researched
  • Intended as a bridge between formal PD and classroom implementation
  • Begins with principal targeting a problem and identifying an outside expert to provide PD in a strategy designed to address the problem
  • Does not embrace particular strategies
  • Entire staff implements the strategy and models it for one another
  • Teachers coach one another
peer coaching24
Peer Coaching
  • Steps in peer coaching:
  • Principal facilitates forming teams of 2 or more
  • Teams meet to discuss goals and plan lessons
  • They observe one another teach from these plans
  • They meet again afterward to discuss the lesson
  • Joyce and Showers maintain that the observers also receive coaching through the modeling they observe
peer coaching25
Peer Coaching
  • Teachers are not likely to see peer coaching as threatening
  • It is relatively inexpensive
  • It helps build cohesive relationships within teams
  • Especially appropriate if a particular schoolwide strategy is key (e.g., guided reading or reciprocal teaching)
  • But it places heavy reliance on a single strategy
  • Also, there are few “quality controls” for implementation

Peer Coaching

cognitive coaching
Cognitive Coaching
  • Coaches learn personal interaction techniques similar to those used by counselors
  • Goal is to facilitate a teacher’s self-directed learning
  • Cognitive coaches
    • Collaborate with teachers in planning and instruction
    • Help build knowledge and skills outside the classroom
    • Explore the quality of teaching

Cognitive Coaching Cycle



  • Goals clarified
  • Evidence chosen
  • Strategies selected
  • Self-assessment





  • Evidence gathered
  • Strategies documented
  • Guided self-reflection
  • Evidence shared
  • Conclusions for future
cognitive coaching31
Cognitive Coaching
  • There is enough flexibility that any goal can be addressed
  • But Cognitive Coaching does not specify what or how to teach
  • Potential problem: What if teachers choose goals that are inconsistent with research?

Cognitive Coaching


Center for Cognitive Coaching

subject specific coaching
Subject-Specific Coaching
  • Coaching targets a single subject area
  • Thus, an LC is really a subject-specific coach!
  • Can be linked to standards in a given area
  • No established approach for implementation
  • Gabriel speaks to subject-specific coaching in LA
  • He argues that leadership must be shared within teams.
  • He cautions against evaluation but reminds coaches that especially troubled instruction might have to be reported to the principal.
subject specific coaching37
Subject-Specific Coaching
  • Gabriel’s view of the coach’s role makes subject-specific coaching potentially more intrusive than mentoring new teachers, peer coaching, or Cognitive Coaching.
  • Gabriel stresses the need for curriculum mapping.
subject specific coaching38
Subject-Specific Coaching
  • A map is a good metaphor since there are usually more than a single route to a given destination.
  • Curriculum maps help teachers assure horizontal alignment (across classrooms at the same grade) and vertical alignment (across grades).
subject specific coaching39
Subject-Specific Coaching
  • Gabriel includes scenarios for how a subject-specific coach can use data to promote teacher engagement.
  • He recommends both formal and informal assessments.
  • A coach must not overrely on scores, but they can provide a window for constructive reflection.

Subject-Specific Coaching

program specific coaching
Program-Specific Coaching
  • Targets implementation of a commercial (or nonprofit) program
  • Slightly controversial since some authorities distinguish between training and true PD.
  • Two influential models of program-specific coaching are Reading Recovery and Success for All (SFA).
  • These models take different approaches to coaching for implementation.
  • These differences are instructive.
reading recovery
Reading Recovery
  • 30-minute lesson frame
  • One-on-one instruction, first grade only
  • Children progress through leveled books that encourage application of recently taught skills
  • Each lesson involves complex decision making before, during, and after the lesson.
  • A train-the-trainer model is used. Trainers receive extensive work at university sites, then return to prepare teachers as Reading Recovery teachers.
  • Trainers watch teachers behind one-way mirrors, then provide follow-up conferencing.
success for all
Success for All
  • Provides materials, grouping plans, and assessments
  • 90-minute block in five-day cycle
  • Externally validated
  • Highly specific, but coaching still needed.
  • Coach’s role is to ensure fidelity to SFA
  • Observation checklists are used by coach
  • Coaches do not choose curricula or strategies
  • They use lesson plan templates

Program-Specific Coaching


Reading Recovery

Marie Clay


Success for All

Robert Slavin Nancy Madden

reform oriented coaching
Reform-Oriented Coaching
  • Developed by us within REA and Reading First (K-3)
  • Is the most intrusive of these six coaching models
  • Unlike program-specific models, goals may change over time, depending on assessment data
reform oriented coaching53
Reform-Oriented Coaching
  • Based on four up-front decisions:
  • School community recognizes that past practices are not yielding acceptable outcomes.
  • School has used a comprehensive, thoughtful procedure to select high-quality commercial instructional materials for grade-level instruction and for intensive intervention.
  • District and school leaders have committed to extended instructional time and schoolwide assessments.
  • There is time during and after the school day for the coach to provide professional development for teachers.
reform oriented coaching54
Reform-Oriented Coaching
  • Our model requires much of coaches! They must:
    • Work with each grade-level team to construct classroom schedules to specify how their curriculum will be implemented
    • Design an assessment system to screen students for potential problems
    • Employ flexible informal strategies to specify exactly what those problems are and how to address them.
reform oriented coaching55
Reform-Oriented Coaching
  • Our model requires much of coaches! They must:
    • Monitor progress to document the effectiveness of instruction
    • Understand outcome measures to chart growth over time
    • Interpret and represent data for individual children, classrooms, grade levels, and schools, using both cross-sectional and cohort tracking.
    • Design and implement a reflexive professional support system
reform oriented coaching56
Reform-Oriented Coaching
  • Coaches typically adopt one of two roles: “director” or “mentor” (similar to Neufeld and Roper’s change and content coaches)
  • This model is comprehensive and maintains choice, which is both a strength and a weakness!
  • It is adaptive to local contexts and is sure to look different at different sites (unlike curriculum-specific approaches)
  • Because of its intrusiveness, teacher resistance may become a challenge for coaches

A hardness scale for coaching

| | | | | | | | | |

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


A hardness scale for coaching

| | | | | | | | | |

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

review of basic models
Review of Basic Models
  • Mentoring New Teachers
  • Peer Coaching
  • Cognitive Coaching
  • Subject-Specific Coaching
  • Program-Specific Coaching
  • Reform-Oriented Coaching
reform peer coaching
Reform + Peer Coaching
  • Teachers work in pairs to help one another implement a new approach or refine their use of a familiar one.
  • LC works with principal to form pairs.
    • Remember that in peer coaching, there is no LC and the principal forms pairs or larger teams.
    • Pairings could match a strength in one teacher with a weakness in another.
    • Pairings could match a resistant with a cooperative teacher.
    • Pairings could match a proficient veteran with a new hire.
    • Pairing should avoid matching teachers who are both resistant (actively or passively).
reform peer coaching68
Reform + Peer Coaching
  • LC coordinates pairings and helps schedule peer observations and conferences.
  • LC meets with each pair to discuss concerns and offer suggestions.
  • LC could cover one teacher’s class while the teacher observes in the partner’s classroom.
  • LC synthesizes information across pairs and periodically summarizes progress.
  • LC periodically works with principal to form new pairings.
take 5
Take 5

Would this hybrid coaching model be likely to work in your setting?

What are the advantages and drawbacks?

Could it be modified to make it work?

reform mentoring
Reform + Mentoring
  • LC works with principal to craft or revise a mentoring program for new teachers.
  • The resulting plan would include a key coordinating role for the LC.
  • LC recruits mentors who are
    • Enthusiastic veterans committed to best practice.
    • Nurturing individuals with practical wisdom as well as technical expertise.
    • Educators who are unlikely to co-opt new teachers into unproductive habits.
reform mentoring71
Reform + Mentoring
  • LC meets periodically with mentors to discuss concerns and offer suggestions.
  • LC meets with mentor-mentee pairs by invitation.
  • LC draws conclusions across pairs with a view to improving the mentoring program and to finding ways to proactively prepare new hires as a group.
  • LC continually seeks mentoring resources such as videos and articles.
take 572
Take 5

Would this hybrid coaching model be likely to work in your setting?

What are the advantages and drawbacks?

Could it be modified to make it work?

reform as mentoring
Reform as Mentoring
  • LC works with new hires as the only mentor.
  • This hybrid requires a high level of teacher turnover.
  • Mentoring involves a combination of:
    • Introduction to SBRI and differentiated small-group instruction
    • Observation and conferencing cycle
    • Accelerated study of key topics
    • Data interpretation and its use in planning
take 574
Take 5

Would this hybrid coaching model be likely to work in your setting?

What are the advantages and drawbacks?

Could it be modified to make it work?

reform specialist
Reform + Specialist
  • LC works part-time as specialist.
  • Possibilities for teaching role:
    • Interventionist outside the block or
    • Push-in small-group teacher.
  • Coaching time is limited and must be focused and selective.
  • If focus is on teachers whose students the LC teaches, data can be more easily shared.
  • It makes sense for the LC to serve the struggling students of struggling teachers.
take 576
Take 5

Would this hybrid coaching model be likely to work in your setting?

What are the advantages and drawbacks?

Could it be modified to make it work?

review of hybrid possibilities
Review of Hybrid Possibilities
  • Reform + Peer Coaching
  • Reform + Mentoring
  • Reform as Mentoring
  • Reform + Specialist
  • Can you suggest other hybrids?
  • Perhaps hybrids of hybrids!?