Instructional Coaching – exploring the 7 principles of partnership

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Coaching, Leadership

Instructional Coaching – exploring the 7 principles of partnership

Following on from my article of last week Instructional Coaching – a pedagogy for learning I want to explore the principles of partnership that underpin the theoretical framework that explains why this phrase instructional coaching does lie under the umbrella of coaching. I want to share with you how through coaching it is possible to change the culture within a school or college so that learning is an essential element of whole school improvement for all, leaders whether senior, middle, subject or pastoral, teachers, Teaching Assistants and all those who support,

Instruction as a word in this country is not synonymous with coaching, it isn’t even a word we would associate with mentoring. It is, however, the knowledge that this approach was born in the USA where the word instruction defines pedagogy and teaching that makes the phrase work as a specific approach to a carefully crafted model for the coaching community. Specifically a coach working with a teacher as a partner to share ideas and agree on how the teacher can improve their practice, innovate with their approaches and try out different strategies linked to specific goals and targets. These partnership principles hold the key to a framework for excellence in learning and teaching.

Seven principles of instructional coaching

Jim Knight who introduced the phrase instructional coaching sets out his seven principles that define his partnership approach, which are,

  • Equality
  • Choice
  • Voice
  • Dialogue
  • Reflection
  • Praxis
  • Reciprocity

Developing a team of coaches who will follow this instructional model of coaching need to be aware of these seven principles and understand how to put them into their own coaching practice in order to create a relationship with the teacher, their coachee so that there is a mutual bond linked to a desire for continuous improvement in learning and teaching. So lets take each one and look at it in more detail.

Equality: Instructional coaches and teachers are equal partners

The message here is that the coach and the teacher or coachee are seen as equal participants in the process of continuous improvement. The teacher should have a choice in what it is that they want to improve on or learn about. Their ideas and contributions to the process must count and be heard. This does not mean that the coach and the teacher have equal knowledge and are both experts in how they might achieve their respective goals but it does mean that the teacher’s opinions and ideas are as important as the coaches.

A skilful coach with allow their coachee to share their ideas and be ab le to define themselves how incremental change is impacting on their pedagogy. The teacher should leave a conversation or a coaching interaction feeling that they are valued and that their opinion matters.

Choice: Teachers should have choice regarding what and how they learn

One of the reasons why professional development ‘initiatives’ sometimes don’t work is because the change or challenge is imposed and the teachers who have to implement the change have little choice and therefore resist the changes they are forced to make. Skilfully using dialogue and professional conversations about the choices that will lead to improvement and learning help to foster trust and professionalism.

The teacher knows what he or she needs in terms of their professional learning and the coach is their to facilitate the change, Sometimes change is an imposition because it is clearly a school wide policy, a change in government policy or a trust wide change but the implementation and processes as to how the change will manifest is a choice made between the coach and the teacher.

Voice: Professional learning should empower and respect the voices of teachers

One of the skills a coach needs to learn is how to listen actively to what another person is saying. When a coach listens empathetically to another the coach communicates that the other person’s ideas, thoughts and concerns are important and meaningful. The coach has a role in encouraging the teacher to articulate and say what it is that they want. For many teachers their workload is significant and they are spinning many plates, where the coach encourages a discussion about what really matters in terms of their own priorities and duty to their well-being and sanity the relationship is strengthened and they feel reassured that their voice is heard.

One way that Jim Knight suggests that coaches support teachers to find their voice is to ask them to write a vision for what they want to achieve in the classroom, in short, using their own voice to articulate what they want to change and challenge.

Dialogue: Professional learning should enable authentic dialogue

At the heart of instructional coaching is a profound belief that that any partnership that is successful must involve a positive two-way dialogue, a community of thought. The coach must encourage a conversation that leads to new ways of thinking; that is a two way process where both individuals can explore possibilities without confrontation or disagreement. Instructional coaches use a variety of communication strategies to make it possible for a two way dialogue to exist.

Dialogue like this should engage both participants in dialogue that is truthful, respects each point of view given and empower the sharing of ideas and views around a particular subject. Dialogue can make individuals both the teacher and the coach see new perspectives so that teachers take the first step away from a rigid and long held paradigm to real self-beleif and a desire to try out new approaches.

Reflection: An integral part of professional learning

The Substance of EducationInstructional coaches will not tell teachers what to do or what to believe, they respect the teacher as a professional. They can, however, present and share ideas and information that will provide their coachee , the teacher with enough information to make their judgements and decisions. The coach needs to have the skills to allow the coachee to consider the pros and cons of their ideas and decisions about changes to practice and to reflect on their successes or otherwise.

Reflection requires an individual to make decisions about what to keep and what to reject, what needs to change and what doesn’t. It is not the role of the coach to reflect on behalf of their coachee. It is their role to encourage reflection. Reflection is about self-improvement of both the coach and the teacher/coachee.

Praxis: Teachers should apply their learning to their real-life pratice as they are learning

How can teachers shape new ideas to reshape what they already do. Praxis is essentially putting the theory into practice. In order to apply new thinking into what the teacher is already doing requires them to think carefully about what is currently the status quo and how this new approach or new idea will change that,

Praxis is established when teachers have a chance to explore, soul-search, stretch and recreate whatever they are learning and then reconsider their go to usual teaching practices to incorporate a new way of working. Praxis allows for the teacher to rethink their teaching and to put their new thinking and ideas into practice.

Reciprocity: Instructional coaches should expect to gain as much as they give

Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. Where a teacher and his or her coach work together both partners benefit from the success that comes from the opportunity and both learn from the experience.  The rewards are linked to what each individual contributes. Teachers and their coaches expect to learn from each other, it is a two way mutual opportunity to belong and creates a growing sense of pride and confidence in the process. Sharing success and being aware that change has made a difference is infectious and provides for the coach and coachee the motivation to want to continue with the relationship.

Seven principles of partnership- interlinked and intertwined

These seven principles of partnership are not separate entities in themselves but all work together to create the necessary harmony that mutual respect and understanding bring to the art of coaching. Partnerships mean that all participants benefit from the success of the endeavour.

The participants are all rewarded by what the other contributes. The coach enters the relationship beleiving in the potential of the teacher and respects their growing knowledge and expertise. It is through adhering to these principles that strengthens the potential of this coaching model to raise the self-esteem of all those involved in the process.

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