Instructional Coaches Need These 4 Things

As the public education system evolves to meet the demands of the moment, one thing remains constant: the impact of an effective instructional coach on the success of schools, teachers, and students is undeniable. 

To ensure an instructional coach’s effectiveness, however, we must first understand the challenges unique to their role in an educator’s professional learning and growth, especially as public schools wrestle with record turnover and staffing shortages. 

As a talent development and coaching provider for nearly 300 public school districts since 2011, engage2learn (e2L) is well versed in the daily practice and responsibilities of coaches. To support our experiences with data and get a clearer picture of what coaches need, we partnered with Hanover Research to conduct a nationwide study of full-time, K-12 public school instructional coaches, professional learning directors, in-service training directors, teacher mentor directors, and staff development specialists.

43% of instructional coaches support 10-19 teachers at a time; 30% support up to 29 teachersThe survey found that a vast majority of instructional coaches work primarily with new teachers (92%) or teachers on performance improvement plans (72%) across a variety of subjects, including general instructional best practices, digital learning, science, and math.

This highlights a tendency of districts to relegate coaching only to first-year teachers or teachers who find themselves struggling, whether due to budget constraints or misconceptions about instructional coaching.

The surveyed instructional coaches also report supporting a range of teachers across multiple schools, with coaches in districts with 10,000+ students supporting more teachers than those with less than 10,000 students:

  • 43% of coaches support 10-19 teachers at a time.
  • 30% of coaches support up to 29 teachers at a time.
  • 65% of coaches support teachers across 2-4 schools. 
  • 23% of coaches support teachers across 5+ schools.

With so many teachers to support, coaches express the need for a single, streamlined coaching and tracking system that enables them to manage large rosters of teachers efficiently, individualize support, document conversations and observations, and monitor all teacher growth.

“Every school needs coaching management software that collects and saves all documents in one place and is accessible to teachers undergoing coaching.”

Survey Respondent

Despite this need, the study reveals a significant lack in the use of instructional coaching management tools designed specifically for education. 

In fact, 89% of those surveyed report tracking, scheduling, and managing coaching interactions with third-party digital tools, such as online calendars, spreadsheets, digital notebooks or binders, and running checklists, instead of an integrated coaching platform. 

For the 55% of instructional coaches who do use some form of coaching software in addition to their third-party tracking tools, nearly half of them are not using a coaching platform designed for educators. Unlike GroweLab, these business coaching platforms are not designed to meet the specific needs of educators, creating a disconnect between what the platforms offer and what users need.

Instructional Coaches Need...

01: A collaborative instructional coaching platform specifically designed for educators.

Integrating a collaborative tool that allows coaches to easily communicate with, monitor, analyze, and celebrate the progress of every educator on their roster enables them to keep things organized, focused on relevant topics, and efficient – especially one that’s designed with the needs of educators in mind. And as coaches become more efficient, they’re able to increase their capacity to support more teachers, instilling a widespread and inclusive culture of coaching.

What instructional coaches are saying: "We need better management software to increase efficiency."

Open-ended responses:

  • “We need better management software to increase efficiency.”
  • “We currently require a single software for all services, like video conferencing, document sharing, and performance tracking.”
  • “I need better tools for tracking attendance of my training sessions.”

02: An instructional coaching & professional learning resource library.

Equipping educators with a library of vetted resources, asynchronous courses, and relevant professional learning materials is an easy way to ensure that educators have access to what they need at any time. Not only does this make creating and sharing resources easier for instructional coaches, it also gives educators time back in their day, no longer requiring them to sift through an overwhelming amount of resources online – very few of which are vetted for quality.

What instructional coaches are saying: “We need an online platform for storing instructional coaching resources and materials that can be easily accessed by teachers.”

Open-ended responses:

  • “We need an online platform for storing instructional coaching resources and materials that can be easily accessed by teachers.”
  • “A library of best practices, case studies, and research-based resources.”
  • “We would benefit from having access to resources related to teacher assessment and professional development.”

03: A user-friendly progress monitoring & observation tool.

As instructional coaches observe, evaluate, and monitor the progress of educators, they need a single, user-friendly tool for ongoing documentation and real-time feedback – one that allows for open communication between educator and coach, maximizes everyone’s time, and provides educators with clear, actionable next steps.

What instructional coaches are saying: “Performance management software would reduce the need for manual entry and make tracking progress much easier.”

Open-ended responses:

  • “Performance management software would reduce the need for manual entry and make tracking progress much easier.”
  • “We need resources and tools with built-in functionalities for accurate progress monitoring.”
  • “We need a platform to provide feedback on and evaluate our work."

04: An advanced coaching & growth data analytics tool.

As we like to say, if you don’t have data on it, it didn’t happen. Having a tool that transforms all evidence of educator growth as a result of instructional coaching into data is important for quantifying the efficacy of coaching, identifying areas that require more attention and improvement, and connecting educator growth to improved student achievement. 

What instructional coaches are saying: “Tools that can gather data into a single, unified place and provide insights that can be applied to district administrative policy at a high level and teaching strategy at a lower level are needed.”

Open-ended responses:

  • “We need proper reporting software to manage all the information of the teachers.”
  • “We need access to data analytics to track progress and identify areas for improvement.”
  • “Tools that can gather data into a single, unified place and provide insights that can be applied to district administrative policy at a high level and teaching strategy at a lower level are needed.”

While the specific needs of coaches vary depending on the goals, capacity, and demographics of their school or district, it’s clear that all instructional coaches need a single, adaptable, and customizable platform that enables them to save time, stay organized, and provide educators with the right kind of support.

Introducing GroweLab, the All-In-One Coaching Tool

GroweLab, the all-in-one talent development and coaching platform, is the definitive solution to the challenges that instructional coaches are experiencing. 

Intended specifically for educators and school staff, GroweLab helps instructional coaches maximize their time, work autonomously and collaboratively, increase efficiency, and provide individualized, differentiated support relative to each educator’s needs. Paired with e2L’s evidence-based, research-backed coaching methodology that aligns to the science of coaching, GroweLab is designed to:

  • Enable instructional coaches to manage, document, and monitor all coaching activity with ease, no matter how large their roster.
  • Connect educator growth and student achievement data to show the ROI and impact of coaching through a user-friendly data dashboard.
  • Incentivize educator and staff growth through a microcredentialing and recognition system.
  • Grow school staff in differentiated, role-specific professional learning competencies.
  • Support 100% of instructional and non-instructional staff at a fraction of the cost.
  • Provide 24/7 access to asynchronous learning on competencies, a robust library of resources and courses, and real-time coaching interactions and feedback.

GroweLab, the all-in-one talent development and instructional coaching platform

As we look to a new-and-improved world of talent development and educator support, it’s high time we take what instructional coaches are telling us seriously and adjust accordingly.

“The future of equitable, meaningful, and sustainable K-12 talent development is here, and we’re just getting started!”

Shannon K. Buerk, Founder & CEO of engage2learn

RELATED: engage2learn Unveils the Future of Professional Development with New Talent Development & Coaching Platform, GroweLab