Teachers Like Coaching for PD, but Impact Could be Greater
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Educators like being coached. In a national online survey of 1,246 coaches, administrators and teachers, nearly nine in 10 said they found value in coaching as a form of professional development. More than half (52 percent) said it was "highly" or "very" valuable to them. And exactly half reported that coaching had a positive impact on their practice to a "large" or "great" extent.
As the authors of "Prevalence of Coaching and Approaches to Supporting Coaching in Education" noted, "These findings suggest that coaching may lead to other positive outcomes, such as increased teacher job satisfaction and retention." The research project was undertaken by Digital Promise and Learning Forward with financial support from Google.
Technology came into play in the results of the survey. In 2017, Digital Promise worked with EdTechTeam and Google on the "Dynamic Learning Project," an instructional coaching program that sought to raise the impact of technology in the classroom while also increasing educational equity, an initiative that teaches schools how to develop and effectively use coaches. Digital Promise led a corresponding study to provide formative feedback to coaches and their professional learning mentors, as well as to assess the impact of the program. That research found that teachers who participated in the DLP used technology more frequently and with greater impact in areas such as student engagement and learning.
Interestingly, in the more recent survey, the research discovered that teachers and coaches view the use of technology in the coaching process itself quite differently. While 94 percent of coaches reported using technology to communicate with their educators, only 74 percent of the teachers said the same. And while 90 percent of coaches said that technology facilitates their work, such as scheduling and organizing, just 46 percent of teachers would agree. Even though 80 percent of coaches reported that they used tech to support teacher learning, such as by sharing web-based content, 45 percent of the teachers said that was true. And fewer than half of the teacher respondents agreed that their coaches supported them in using tech with their students for learning -- 31 percent versus 76 percent of the coaches who claimed to be doing so.
Those teachers who reported finding coaching valuable were more likely to report that their coaches used tech at higher rates than the teachers who didn't find the coaching valuable. "It's possible," the report noted, "that there is a greater need for coaching programs like the [DLP] that help coaches improve their ability to use technology themselves and support teachers in their ability to use technology."
The report offered several recommendations and next steps for districts and schools related to professional development coaching, including these:
The study found that coaches carry heavy workloads. Four in 10 were still part-time classroom teachers. And more than half supported 16 or more teachers at once. To enable coaches to have the greatest impact, the report suggested, principals and district administrators needed to support them by "monitoring their workload and protecting their time."
Those teachers who found coaching most useful have at least biweekly meetings with their coaches. The more frequent the meetings, the more valuable the coaching was rated. The ideal set-up would be for coaches to spend at least half an hour every two weeks with each teacher.
For their part, coaches need to examine how well they're using technology to facilitate their coaching, since there's a wide gap between how they view their usage and how their teachers view it.
The report is openly available on the Digital Promise website. A webinar on the results has been scheduled through the Learning Forward website for Feb. 11, 2020 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.