Tag Archives: popular posts

The Coaching Cycle: The Link Between Coaching and Student Achievement

Instructional coaches are tasked with many responsibilities. Leading and developing workshops, collaborating with PLCs, facilitating school-wide assessments, organizing learning walks, analyzing student achievement data, and various other activities all contribute to  positive change in schools. However, in the proceedings and productions of these large-scale activities, oftentimes, the heart of coaching, the one-on-one coaching cycle, can fall to the wayside.

Why? To some people, the coaching conversation seems so small. Facilitating workshops and school-wide activities seems important and can make the coach feel important. Activities like these might provide justification for his or her job to wary teachers and administrators.  Let’s face it — big activities look good.  Also, it feels like we are accomplishing more (faster!) when we have lots of people involved. The coaching cycle just doesn’t seem time efficient, right?

However, much of the available research about coaching suggests that change really happens one collaboration at a time, through the use of one-on-one coaching.

So, what do I mean by a coaching cycle? Although there are many interpretations of what constitutes a “cycle”, I categorize a cycle as a professional learning sequence that includes a pre-conference, classroom instruction, and a post-conference reflection.

The classroom instruction and reflection can play out in three scenarios.

  1. The coach observes the teacher teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the teacher.
  2. The coach and the teacher plan and teach a lesson together. They then reflect together.
  3. The teacher observes the coach teaching a lesson and provides feedback to the coach.

There is still much research to be done, but studies that suggest that coaching has a positive impact on student achievement describe collaborations that I would characterize as coaching cycles.

Some studies show that teachers implement more literacy strategies in their classrooms when they work with literacy coaches (Feighan & Heeren, 2009; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Teachers especially give high praise to one-on-one coaching when compared to traditional off-site professional development (Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Of all the possible ways coaches work each day, teachers report that significant coach and teacher collaborations have the most impact upon the learning in their classrooms (Campbell & Sweiss, 2010; Gross, 2010; Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Most studies show that teachers report increased student engagement and on-task behavior as results of coaching collaborations (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010). Coaching cycles help teachers make changes in their instruction because coaches can tailor data collection, planning, and advice to the individual teacher’s situation and needs.

A three-year study of elementary schools tracked the amount of time spent coaching and resulting student achievement.  The researcher used alphabet letter recognition and scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (PPVT-III) to measure student achievement.  A significant correlation between time spent coaching and student achievement was found in the first year, but weak correlations were found during the following two years.  The first year both coaches and teachers had a strong focus on particular content and techniques.  They also had well-defined consultative and reflective conversation cycles.  Teachers and literacy coaches had little focus and fewer structured coaching cycles in years that yielded weak correlations.  The author suggests that more time is not as important as the “type and quality of the interaction” (Shidler, 2009). Thus, the use of structured coaching cycles and a school wide focus likely explains the greater student achievement results in the first year of coaching.

In a study of four middle schools where literacy coaching was implemented for one year,  teachers reported much higher student engagement levels, and student scores made modest gains. Baselines from the state reading test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) from the prior school year were compared to scores on both assessments after the year of literacy coaching.   Classrooms with the treatment (individual literacy coaching collaborations) increased an average of five points on the state test and seven points on the ITBS (Feighan & Heeren, 2009).

According to available research, structured coaching cycles yield a significant impact on student learning.

Lasting change happens one conversation at a time. Let’s not allow the elaborate productions of meetings, workshops, and high-stakes data blind us from what we can do that really helps teachers become better for their students: one-on-one coaching.


Campbell, M. B., & Sweiss, C. I. (2010). The secondary literacy coaching model: Centrality of the  standards and emerging paradigms. Journal of Reading Education, 35(3), 39-46.

Feighan, K., & Heeren, E. (2009). She was my backbone: Measuring coaching work and its impact. CEDER Yearbook, 67-93.

Gross, P. A. (2010). Not another trend: Secondary level literacy coaching. The Clearing House, 83, 133-137.  doi:10.1080/00098651003774844

Kretlow, A. G., & Bartholomew, C. C. (2010). Using coaching to improve the fidelity of evidence-based practices: A review of studies. Teacher Education & Special Education, 33(4). 279-299. doi:10.1177/0888406410371643

Shidler, L. (2009). The impact of time spent coaching on teacher efficacy of student achievement.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5). 453-460.

Top 5 Posts of 2014

2014 was the year I finally decided to seriously blog. After reading so many amazing posts from other educators’ blogs on Twitter, I resolved to become brave enough to put my own voice and thoughts out there. I am happy to say that it has been an amazing experience so far. Blogging has been clarifying for my own practice, as well as becoming a way to connect to other educators.

I have to give credit to two people who inspired me to become more serious about blogging in 2014. After some great conversations about the book Digital Leadership during an #educoach chat last spring, Kathy Perret, Julie Bauer, and I met to talk blogging during a Sunday afternoon Google Hangout. Kathy had been blogging for quite some time, and her advice about developing ideas for writing and finding your audience were invaluable. Julie, who was brand new to blogging, helped me feel like I had a partner in this new venture, as we both believed that we had much to say — even though we weren’t quite yet confident about sharing our ideas in such a public way!

When I reflect upon my venture into the blogging world last year, I must admit that it has changed me as an educator. I feel more connected to my colleagues around the world. I feel that I have experience, knowledge, and ideas that other find valuable. I feel more reflective about my own practices as a teacher and instructional coach, making me more aware of my successes and areas for growth.

If you wonder about whether your voice has value, I assure you it does. We need you. Start a blog this year. Top

Without any further ado, here are my five most popular posts from last year.

5. Five “A-Ha’s” from ISTE 2014

ISTE is a huge conference. It was my first time attending, and to say it was a bit overwhelming for me would be a understatement. I decided that reducing what I learned into five take-aways would help me reflect and take action.

4. The Vocab Games: Talk a Mile a Minute/The Pyramid Game

This is a simple post about one of my favorite easy-to-use vocabulary-building activities. Making vocabulary acquisition engaging for students is a passion of mine, and this post was the first in a series of 6 posts about fun vocabulary activities. I also mention how this strategy can make word walls “interactive.”

3. Establishing Partnerships as an Instructional Coach

I received a lot of positive feedback on this post. It seem like there is such a wide variety of preparation that teachers receive when they take on a coaching role. Some have absolutely no knowledge of effective ways to build partnerships with colleagues. I feel passionately that instructional coaching only works through positive partnerships, not pseudo-principal evaluations. This may be my most personal post of the top five.

2.  Five Movement Strategies for the High School Classroom

In my district, we have begun an instructional framework of daily strategies for all classrooms. One of those is movement. It seems that movement in every class every day is a trending topic right now, so I am proud that my district has been “ahead-of-the-curve.” Many colleagues wanted practical ays t incorporate movement in their lessons, so this post recounts five movement strategies that I used or observed during the course of a work week. Just yesterday, an adapted version of this post was published at TeachThought.

1.  4 Ideas for Motivating Adolescent Male Readers

Male readers are struggling across this nation, and many teachers are unsure of what to do. This post combined my own experiences with what research says about male readers in order to promote motivation. I originally posted this piece at ASCD Edge (a great place to post if you would like the potential for wide readership!). Since then, the post was adapted for TeachThought, and it was included in the resources section of NEA’s website.


Reflecting on these five posts, it is apparent that passion drives my most popular (and possibly best?) posts. So, again, I encourage you to write about your passions. Begin your blogging journey.

If you are a brand new or emerging blogger, please share a link to your blog in the comments, so we can learn from you!