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Coaching for Change: Student-Centered Coaching

What does it mean to keep student work at the center of coaching?

EL Education believes that quality instructional coaching, whether teacher-centered or student-centered, contributes to student achievement. Part of good coaching is knowing teachers well. When coaches make intentional choices about which approach to take, they honor both teachers and students by providing the most effective and efficient route to improving student achievement.

Student-centered coaching differs from teacher-centered coaching by keeping student work at the center of the entire coaching cycle. During student-centered coaching, teachers and coaches analyze student work to gauge students' progress toward one or more specific learning targets.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. Lao Tzu, philosopher/poet

In both teacher-centered and student-centered coaching, student data (student work, student conversations, student questions, etc.) should be at the heart of every coaching session. However, the role played by that data is different depending on whether a coach decides to use a teacher-centered or student-centered approach. (See Teacher-Centered Coaching for more details.)

Learning Target

I can explain the characteristics of effective student-centered coaching practices. 


Two Approaches to Coaching: An EL Education document that describes the similarities and differences between teacher- and student-centered coaching methods. 

  1. Describe the similarities and differences between teacher-centered and student-centered coaching in your own words.
  2. Think about the teachers you coach. Which approach do you think is best for them? Does your response change based on the person? If so, why? What are you considering when determining which approach is best for a particular person?

Learner/Judger Mindsets: An overview of two mindsets people tend to operate from while coaching others. This is a great tool for reflection. 

Watch: Student-Centered Coaching 

In the video below, you will see a teacher and a coach who are somewhere between the Derive Implications for Changing Practice and Design Instruction phases of student-centered coaching. Student work regarding the target had been analyzed previously.

  1. Describe the role that is played by the teacher and the coach in this coaching session. How would you characterize their interaction?
  2. Refer to the Learner/Judger Mindsets. What language do you hear being used by both the teacher and the coach?
  3. How is this session similar to or different from the coaching sessions you are typically involved in?

Sweeney, Diane. (2013, September 10). Student-Centered Coaching at the Elementary Level- Segment 2. Retrieved October 14, 2015 from

Dig Deeper

Using Student Evidence: An EL Education document explaining the role of student evidence in coaching, as well as how to choose which evidence to use, and how to use it.
Student Centered Coaching Cycle Note-catcher: An EL Education note catcher to be used during student-centered coaching meetings. Please download the note catcher from this page.
Sorting Student Work to Inform Differentiated Instruction: An EL Education document explaining the step-by-step process of sorting student work to support differentiated instruction. 
Diane Sweeney’s website, author of Student-Centered Coaching: This website contains a variety of videos and other print materials related to student-centered coaching. 


  1. Considering your entire school context—systems to support coaching, student achievement, general teacher needs, and your experience with coaching—describe the vision of what coaching will look like in your school this year.
  2. How will you know you have achieved your vision? What will success look like/sound like/feel like?
  3. What is your very next step toward making the vision you have a reality?

Resource Downloads

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