Instructional Coaching

What is instructional coaching?

“Definition of coaching as “a process that can move a person
from where he is to where he wants to be. A coach needs to "enroll" a teacher.... A teacher has to want it... Once the teacher has been enrolled, the coach should help her determine goals for her practice...” (Aguilar, 2011, in Wang 2017).

Growing numbers of classroom teachers and specialists around the country— in elementary through high schools—are being asked to assume a chal- lenging new role: providing support and guidance to their peer colleagues through a process called "coaching" (Deussen, Coskie, Robinson, & Autio, 2007; Hasbrouck & Denton, 2007; Neufeld & Roper, 2003; Sturtevant, 2003). Various titles are being used to describe essentially the same role, including "literacy coach," "reading" or "math coach", "academic" or "instructional coach,"" "reform coach," or "instructional facilitator." Coaching has also been applied in business and in other domains (e.g., "life coaches") (In C. Denton et al 2009).

Why think about research on "instructional coaching"?

“Lockwood, McCombs, and Marsh (2010) found evidence that reading coaches improved student achievement in reading, but they did not find the same level of evidence in students’ mathematics scores.This result does not suggest that mathematics coaching is not effective. Instead, it suggests that coaching should target specific subject
content” (Yopp et al 2011).

What instructional coaching is not/ common beliefs/myths about "instructional coaching"

In practice, a lot of instructional coaching tends to be reactive on the side of the coach, casually scheduled, and focused on anecdotal data. It is common for coaches to spend time with teachers who request support as opposed to working on a set schedule with specific teachers and grade levels based on data and strategic priorities. In terms of coaching content, the coach often helps teachers work on practices requested by the teacher as opposed to those of need and/or are aligned to school improvement efforts. Similarly, data used to drive coaching should not be teacher anecdotes, but instead needs to be driven by measurable student and implementation data. Coaches also tend to spend a lot of time attending meetings and talking with teachers and teams. The core of coaching should observing and modeling.

Research says:

A recent meta-analysis of 60 studies found positive and significant effects of teacher
coaching programs on both instruction and student achievement. The studies all employed teacher coaching methods, but the definition of those methods varied. For example, some studies looked at coaching as a way to ensure fidelity of instructional methods from previous trainings. Others, however, focused on encouraging teacher reflection through coaching or providing direct feedback from observations. Many of the studies focused on literacy coaches due to large federal investments in that area. The results of the meta-analysis found a significant positive effect of coaching on teachers’ instructional practices (e.g., the use of open-ended questions) when averaging across studies. The study
also found significant positive effects on student achievement associated with coaching, but they were of a smaller magnitude than the effects on instructional practice. Interestingly, the study found that the effect size was smaller for general coaching programs when compared with content-specific programs (e.g., programs that target specific subjects, such as literacy, science, or math coaches). The effect of coaching on achievement was larger for programs that paired coaching with group trainings or with instructional resources or materials. The study concluded that having high dosage (more hours with coaches or in professional development) was not associated with better outcomes, supporting a hypothesis that the quality of the content and time with coaches is more important (Denton and Hasbrouk 2009). Meta Analysis of empirical research on instructional coaching: “findings affirm the potential of coaching as a development tool, further analyses illustrate the challenges of taking coaching programs to scale while maintaining effectiveness. Average effects from effectiveness trials of larger programs are only a fraction of the effects found in efficacy trials of smaller programs” (Kraft et al 2018).

Practice/tools and resources

  • Jim Knight’s company - Instructional Coaching Group. See Resources tab.

  • Elena Aguilar’s website - Author of the The Art of Coaching. See Tools and Publications tab.

Full source citations

Denton, C. A., & Hasbrouck, J. (2009). A description of instructional coaching and its relationship to consultation. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 19(2), 150–175.

Desimone, L. M., & Pak, K. (2017). Instructional Coaching as High-Quality Professional Development. Theory into Practice, 56(1), 3–12.

Devine, M., Houssemand, C., & Meyers, R. (2013). Instructional Coaching for Teachers: A Strategy to Implement New Practices in the Classrooms. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 93, 1126–1130.

Fabiano, G. A., Reddy, L. A., & Dudek, C. M. (2018). Teacher coaching supported by formative
assessment for improving classroom practices. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(2), 293–304.

Gibbons, L. K., Kazemi, E., & Lewis, R. M. (2017). Developing collective capacity to improve mathematics instruction: Coaching as a lever for school-wide improvement. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 46(201500018), 231–250.

Gibson, S. A. (2011). 2011 Coaching conversions. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 24(1), 5–20. King, M. B., & Bouchard, K. (2011). The capacity to build organizational capacity in schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 49(6), 653–669.

Knight [email protected], J. (2015). Teach To Win. Principal Leadership, 15(7), 24–27.
Retrieved from

Knight, D. (2012). Assessing the Cost of Instructional Coaching. Journal of Education Finance, 38(1), 52–80.

Knight, J., Elford, M., Hock, M., Dunekack, D., Bradley, B., Deshler, D. D., & Knight, D. (2015). 3 Steps to Great Coaching: A Simple but Powerful Instructional Coaching Cycle Nets Results. Journal of Staff Development, 36(1), 10–18.

Knight, J., & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2012). Instructional coaching: A focus on practice. Coaching, 5(2), 100–112.

Kraft, M. A., Blazar, D., & Hogan, D. (2018). The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 003465431875926.

Kurz, A., Reddy, L. A., & Glover, T. A. (2017). A Multidisciplinary Framework of Instructional Coaching. Theory into Practice, 56(1), 66–77.

Lee, S. C., Nugent, G., Kunz, G. M., Houston, J., & DeChenne-Peters, S. E. (2018). Case Study: Value-Added Benefit of Distance-Based Instructional Coaching on Science Teachers’ Inquiry Instruction in Rural Schools. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 29(3), 179–199.

Melo, V. (2019). Emancipatory Education and Youth Engagement in Brazil: A Case Study Bridging the Theory and Practice of Education for Social Transformation. Education Sciences, 9(1), 23.

Neumerski, C. M. (2013). Rethinking Instructional Leadership, a Review: What Do We Know About Principal, Teacher, and Coach Instructional Leadership, and Where Should We Go From Here? Educational Administration Quarterly, 49(2), 310–347.

Ramkellawan, R., & Bell, J. (2017). Raising the Bar: Using Coaching Conversations to Address Issues of Low Expectations for Students in Urban Settings. Educational Forum, 81(4), 377–390.

Reddy, L. A., Dudek, C. M., & Lekwa, A. (2017). Classroom Strategies Coaching Model: Integration of Formative Assessment and Instructional Coaching. Theory into Practice, 56(1), 46–55.

Rush, L. S., & Young, S. (2011). Wyoming’s Instructional Facilitator Program: Teachers’ Beliefs about the Impact of Coaching on Practice. Rural Educator, 32(2), 13–22. Retrieved from

Stefaniak, J. E. (2017). The Role of Coaching Within the Context of Instructional Design. TechTrends, 61(1), 26–31.

Teemant, A., Leland, C., & Berghoff, B. (2014). Development and validation of a measure of Critical Stance for instructional coaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 39, 136–147.

Teemant, A., Wink, J., & Tyra, S. (2011). Effects of coaching on teacher use of sociocultural instructional practices. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(4), 683–693.

Waitoller, F. R., & Lubienski, C. (2019). Disability, Race, and the Geography of School Choice: Toward an Intersectional Analytical Framework. AERA Open, 5(1), 233285841882250.

Walkowiak, T. A. (2016). Five Essential Practices for Communication: The Work of Instructional Coaches. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 89(1), 14–17.

Wall, H., & Palmer, M. (2015). Courage to love: Coaching dialogically toward teacher empowerment. Reading Teacher, 68(8), 627–635.

Walpole, S., McKenna, M. C., Uribe-Zarain, X., & Lamitina, D. (2010). The relationships between coaching and instruction in the primary grades. The Elementary School Journal, 111(1), 115–140.

Wang, S. (2017). “Teacher Centered Coaching”: An Instructional Coaching Model. Mid-Western
Educational Researcher, 29(1), 20–39.

Yopp, B. D., Burroughs, A., Luebeck, J., & Mitchell, A. (2011). How To Be A Wise Consumer of Coaching: Strategies Teachers Can Use to Maximize Coaching’s Benefits.