Save the Date: EL Education's NEW website launches Monday, June 26!

Coaching for Change: Effective Instructional Coaching

What makes instructional coaching effective?

Several characteristics and components need to exist in order for instructional coaching to be effective. EL Education believes that the following are critical:

1. Instructional coaching is focused on supporting the learning, growth, and achievement of students and is most often linked to a school's improvement priorities.

2. Student-centered or teacher-centered methods of coaching are strategically selected based on individual teacher needs and readiness.

3. Instructional coaching is rooted in relational trust and effective communication.

4. Instructional coaching is most effective when it occurs in cycles.

5. Consistent structures, systems, and internal capacity support instructional coaching.

For the full document, open Beliefs about Instructional Coaching in EL Education Schools. 

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. Albert Einstein, scientist

Learning Target

I can describe the characteristics of effective instructional coaching.

Watch: Instructional Coaching: Plan, Observe, Reflect

Watch this video from the Teaching Channel, Instructional Coaching: Plan, Observe, Reflect, and reflect on these questions:

  1. The coaching video illustrates the plan, observe, reflect components of coaching. Describe how each distinct component benefited the teacher.
  2. How did the coach’s behavior promote learning for the teacher?

Watch: Why Professional Learning Fails

Please watch the video below featuring author Jim Knight.  Below the video, you will find relevant articles that you can read independently or discuss with colleagues. 


If you have the opportunity to work with others, you may split the following articles up among the group members. Each person should become an expert on the video(s)/article(s) she or he reads and report out the main ideas to the group. Use a recording form (download on this page) to support your reading and sharing.

Step 1

After viewing the short video of Jim Knight explaining why professional learning for teachers often fails, read the following two articles in sequence
Adult Learners: Characteristics, Qualities, Needs: An article that outlines five assumptions about adult learners.  

  1. What are the five assumptions that characterize adult learners?
  2. Think of recent professional learning experience of your own. How did these assumptions play out for you as a learner in this experience? 
  3. How might your school better tailor professional development to meet the needs of adult learners?

Instructional Coaching Cycles in EL Schools: An EL Education overview document that describes the various characteristics of coaching cycles.

  1. What are the four components of a strong coaching cycle, and how does each component support professional growth and learning?

Step 2

Now, have each group member choose one piece of text from the four provided below.
Terrain of Instructional Leadership: An EL Education overview document that describes how instructional leadership operates in our schools.

  1. Describe the structures and practices needed to build a foundation for strong instructional leadership.
  2. What is the role of instructional coaching in this leadership model and how does this practice connect with other features of the model (i.e., professional development, positive culture, data inquiry, etc.)?
  3. How would you characterize an instructional coach operating within this model? (Someone who…)

Instructional Coaching: Eight factors for realizing better classroom teaching through support, feedback and intensive, individualized professional learning by Jim Knight: An article by Jim Knight that outlines eight factors in implementing effective instructional coaching.      

  1. What are the eight factors in implementing effective instructional coaching?
  2. Reread EL Education’s beliefs about coaching at the top of this page. How do these 8 factors align with EL Education’s beliefs about coaching?

Step 3

Now, decide how much time your group will spend sharing out the main ideas of the resources. It is helpful to have a facilitator and a time keeper. Take turns sharing and learning from one another. 

Dig Deeper

How to Be a Wise Consumer of Coaching: An article that outlines strategies teachers can use to maximize the benefits of coaching.    

  1. What are the behaviors that help teachers to benefit most from coaching?
  2. Which of these practices does your current coaching practice align with?
  3. Which of these practices do you aspire to in your coaching practice?

Personal Best: An article by Atul Gawande’s about professional coaching in the field of medicine. 

  1. What are Gawande’s main points about professional coaching?
  2. How is the professional coaching outlined in this article similar to effective instructional coaching in the field of education?


  1. After reading your article and sharing with your colleagues, what is your understanding of how instructional coaching is implemented effectively? How have your beliefs about instructional coaching changed or been strengthened?  
  2. What two or three steps would you advocate that your school take to support effective instructional coaching? Why these steps?

Resource Downloads

Please log in to access the downloadable resources.