Which teachers benefit from coaching?

Marzano, R. J., Simms, J. A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. B. (2013).        Coaching classroom     instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.

Ross, J. A. (1992). Teacher efficacy and the effect of coaching on student achievement. Canadian Journal of Education, 17(1), 51-65.

The journal article, Teacher Efficacy and the Effects of Coaching on Student Achievement by Ross (1992) illustrates the link between teacher efficacy, instructional coaching and student achievement. The researcher started with the question, “Who benefits from coaching?” (Ross, 1992, p. 62) The study included 18 history teachers in an Ontario School District. The selected teachers had a wide range of experience and demographic factors. The study also followed six coaches that supported the teachers. The identified coaches were highly competent in the area of history and also had a wide range of demographic factors and experience. All eighteen teachers were tasked with implementing a new history curriculum and were provided with three main resources. The resources included the curriculum materials, three half-day workshops and the third resource was contact with the coach. (Ross, 1992, p. 54) The contact with the coach was defined as face-to face or virtual meetings. The minimum requirement for this study was one contact of each between the coach and the history teacher. The district assigned coaches to each teacher based on their physical location. The coaches had their own community of practice to support one another throughout the study.

The study collected data on student outcomes, cognitive skills and coaching.  Student outcomes were measured by a multiple-choice pre and post assessment in the area of history. Teacher efficacy was measured through a self-report from the eighteen teachers. “Subjects used a six-point agree/disagree scale.” (Ross, 1992, p. 55) The researchers collected data on coaching in two different ways, through an interview and a self-administered questionnaire.

Findings from the study indicated a significant increase from pre to post assessment for the student outcome measure. The teachers that had the most contact with their coach had the higher student results. The author also found that the teachers who had higher self-efficacy, had a higher frequency of interactions with the coach and higher student achievement results. Overall the “investigation found that all teachers, regardless of their level of efficacy, were more effective with increased contact with their coaches.” (Ross, 1992, p. 62) One of the surprising findings from this research was that teachers who had the most principal contact had some of the lowest student outcome results.

The discussion portion of the article was a strength. The author revisited the driving research question and how that was answered by the study. In addition, Ross (1992) also shared three hypotheses he had going into the study and explained how they were confirmed or not confirmed through the study.   This was helpful because it gave the reader more insight into the design of the study. The author used this section to connect to other research and show similarities as well as highlighting the uniqueness in this study. It was helpful to have the author make these intentional connections to other studies. As a reader, it allowed you to make sense of how this study fits into the field of coaching. Ross(1992) also used the discussion section of the article to suggest possible future research.

One way to improve this study would be in the area of data collection, specifically the data collection on coaching. The self-administered questionnaire that was collected as data at the end of the study only gave information on the frequency that the history teachers interacted with personnel resources. The questionnaire did not reflect the quality of the coaching interactions or if the interactions had a direct connection to the student outcomes. In addition, the self–administered questionnaire was not only on the coaches that were assigned to them. There were layers of support that they gathered information on; the coach that they were assigned, use of other teachers in school, use of the coaching network and school administrator support. (Ross, 1992, p. 55) The data collection on how frequently the teachers interacted with the administrators and colleagues at their school didn’t seem to align with the driving research question, “ Who benefits from coaching?” (Ross, 1992)

I think the study would have been improved if the researcher collected data not only on the frequency of the interactions with coaches but also the type of interaction and the quality of the interaction with the coach. Ross (1992) explains that the coaching “relationship was less reciprocal in that the coaches were relative ‘experts’ in the history program and there was virtually no classroom observation component.” (p. 54) Thus, coaches’ feedback was given almost entirely on teacher report and through other artifacts such as lesson plans and student work. I believe in the power of in classroom coaching. Marzano and Simms (2013) research on Coaching Classroom Instruction describes how “traditional professional development usually leads to about a 10% implementation rate.” (p.6) The authors went on to reveal that “our experience has shown that when teacher receive an appropriate amount of support for professional learning, more than 90% embrace and implement programs that improve students’ experiences in the classroom.” (Marzano and Simms, 2013, p.6) I believe the appropriate amount of support for professional learning includes assessing what coaching support would be best for the teacher such as in class observation, modeling or team teaching. Therefore, I think it would have been beneficial to also collect data on the type and quality of the interaction.

I believe researching the impact coaches have on teacher effectiveness and student achievement is worthwhile and positively contributes to the field of education. I was an instructional coach for several years and had the opportunity to participate in a national coaching study with the American Productivity and Quality Center with a leading expert in coaching, facilitating the study. The goal of that study was to identify a direct link between the work of instructional coaches in supporting teachers and student achievement. After reading this article and participating in the APQC study, I am interested in continuing to research how access to coaches support teacher effectiveness and student achievement.