By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Monday, November 2, 2015

In the October 20, 2015 Ed Week online commentary, Mike Schmoker comments that a transformation in teacher education will require the answers to two questions:  1) Are we training teachers in methods that are among the very best practices that exist today—those with the strongest, most enduring evidence base and pedigree; and 2) Are we observing those principles most essential to effective training that focuses on frequent monitoring, feedback, and follow-up training?

These two questions are very important for instructional coaches…are coaches and other school leaders sharing the most effective (I don’t think “best” is a wise word choice) instructional techniques, strategies, and practices with their teaching colleagues; are teachers receiving the support they need to ensure that the practices shared are appropriate to their students’ needs; and are teachers given the opportunity to practice what they learn and given feedback in real time?

As an instructional coach, you know the importance of bringing teachers together, honoring their voices, and providing opportunities for them to share their expertise. Remember what Urban Institute researcher Jane Hannaway said, “Teachers work in isolation. They learn what they learn and then they plateau. They get no valid input.”  You need to be the catalyst that ensures multiple opportunities for teachers to learn from each other. Students benefit when their teachers learn from their peers. As per the Importance of Peer Learning for Teachers study (Jackson & Bruegmann, 2009) … when the quality of a teacher’s colleagues improve, the students of that teacher benefit.

When teachers learn, share, and practice together, they become more knowledgeable in their content, more skilled in delivering that content, and more likely to engage in reflective practices which helps them make adjustments in their teaching to better meet the needs of their students.

Coaches are on the side of helping teachers implement effective instructional practices by helping them identify which practices are effective and which practices need to be strengthened.

How do you help teachers identify their most effective instructional practices and then help them collectively problem-solve and work collaboratively?

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