By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Last week, the PA Institute for Instructional Coaching held its last multi-day professional development and learning conference for the year. It was very well attended and instructional coaches from across the state were able to network with each other and share their insights, experiences, and new learnings.

One of the things that was abundantly clear was the need to continue sharing new information and providing ongoing opportunities for coaches to talk to one another about practice, consistency of instructional support, and how adults learn. Guess what, adults are not just “big” kids! They want to learn and collectively problem solve and they do it in ways that are different than the ways in which our children learn.

Have you ever heard of the term, “Andragogy”? This is the science of helping adults learn and refers to the learner centered method (adult as learner). Much of the work on adult learning is credited to Malcolm Knowles and based on five critical assumptions about a person’s maturation process as a learner: 1) adult learners are self-directed; 2) adult learners “collect” experiences which become resources for their learning; 3) adult learners are ready to learn; 4) adult learning is relevant with the learning focused on problem solving; and 5) adult learners are motivated to learn. (

So, how does the theory of andragogy apply to instructional coaching? Adult learners have diverse and distinctive characteristics and to be an effective coach, recognition of these characteristics will make the difference between an instructional coach who coaches “light” and an instructional coach who helps change instructional practice. Instructional coaches must understand how adults learn and provide them with ample opportunities to learn new things, practice what they have learned, and then talk about that practice and what worked well.

When you reflect on your year as an instructional coach, think about the art and science of working with adults and your practice as a coach. Have an internal monologue and answer these questions: Where do you need to nourish your professional growth? What are you doing to help teachers improve their practice? Which of your own practices need to be strengthened, revamped, and realigned with the greater good for increased student engagement and improved student outcomes?


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  2. As a coach, I feel the change from light to heavy is so important, but the transition must be done carefully. First you must develop a relationship of trust, then from that will come the opportunity to coach heavier with those teachers to change instructional practice.

  3. You are so right, Traci. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Establishing a trusting relationship takes time. You start working with "the willing" and building your own credibility. Helping teachers understand that coaches and teachers are partners in the learning process and are there to help teachers confirm what works well in classrooms and what areas need more support begins the transformative process between coaches and teachers.