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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why we can ALL use a coach

In his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, John Hattie notes that "...the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching..." In his 800 meta-analyses of 50,000 research articles (looking at the effects of learning on more than 240,000 students), Hattie found that teachers who receive formative feedback regarding teaching practices had a .90 effect size on student learning (ie. one of the highest impacts on student learning). Meaning, teachers who let others see them in action, who receive feedback on their practices, and then reflect on, plan around, and act on that feedback (especially when doing so collaboratively with their peers), have a much greater impact on student learning than those who do not.

This is huge! Of the 138 instructional practices reviewed, Hattie ranked formative evaluation of teachers' instructional practices as the 4th greatest impact on student achievement!

I was a huge fan of coaching while teaching my own class. I often invited coaches in to help me problem solve the instructional challenges that I was having with specific students. If after trying everything that I knew how in order to reach a specific student and he/she still wasn't showing growth, it was time for a second opinion!

So why do many teachers shy away from coaching? In my experiences so far as a coach, I am getting the impression that many of my teacher colleagues now see me as an evaluator of sorts. It is important to note that although Hattie describes this practice as "formative evaluation," this does not at all mean that coaches are coming into teachers' classrooms as "evaluators" deciding who the "good teachers" are and who the "bad teachers" are. We are around to help all teachers grow! And we all have some growing to all of the time. The world is always changing, students are different every year, and we need to change with them!

I also notice that many teachers are afraid of people seeing them "fail." Teachers are perfectionists and have a hard time letting someone observe their room when it is functioning at any level other than perfection-- which we know is silly, because we also know that there is no such thing! And yet, it is hard to shift out of that mindset. Somewhere, and sometime, long, long ago someone put it into our heads that teachers should be the holders of all knowledge (which is impossible, of course), and so to admit that we are not is a challenge-- it means a HUGE change in mindset.

What we really should be modeling as teachers is our commitment to lifelong learning. Aside from the data that tells us how powerful coaching is to boosting student success, it is our job as teachers to instill a love of learning, or at least an understanding of the importance of learning, in our students. What better way to model the importance of lifelong learning than by inviting a coach into your room to show your students that you are just that-- a lifelong learner.


  1. Wonderful post. Great timing for reminding us about the importance of reflecting on our practice. #CE15.

  2. I agree with your observation that many teachers are perfectionists and do not want to share unless they can ensure that it is the best. Lifelong learning is our call, but we often expect ourselves to know it all as teachers! Happy I found you through #educoach Blog Challenge :)

  3. I was just having this conversation with a group of coaches the other day. We wondered...why do teachers and other professionals see coaching as trying to fix something that is wrong. In sports, we don't assume that they players on a team are terrible because they have coaches. We assume that they coaches are there to help them improve. How do we shift our thinking in education to make coaching a privilege instead of a punishment?

    1. Oops! Meant to mention that I found you through the blog challenge! @ErinJackle

    2. Such a great point! I wonder the same thing myself. Luckily this year, as a new coach, my teachers have been really welcoming and I've gotten more request for support, collaboration, modeling, etc. than I expected!