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Read About Best Practices in Guiding professional growth


This session examines ways to guide the professional growth of K–8 educators and explores the resulting benefits to the learning community. In this session, coaches learn the fundamental steps in planning for, implementing, and monitoring teachers’ on-going strategic processes and instructional practices.

What Does Guiding Professional Growth Entail?

Educators have the unique experience of witnessing and analyzing student behavior and learning on a daily basis. From these observations, they are expected to make quality decisions regarding what should happen next in student achievement and how to make it happen through a carefully planned sequence of instructional activities.

Since an additional pair of expert eyes can assist in this process, more and more teachers today receive support from academic coaches. As a result of their specialized training, coaches are able to work closely with teachers in order to:

  • observe students and develop and refine theories about how learners acquire knowledge and skills
  • develop and refine theories about effective teaching based on study and self-reflection, including the “why” behind instructional decisions
  • problem-solve
  • interpret findings and data to determine whether current instructional interactions need to continue, evolve over time, or change immediately in an effort to improve student achievement
  • implement current research-based methods of assessment, planning, and instruction

Above all, coaches guide the professional growth of experienced K–8 teachers through:

  • training
  • modeling
  • mentoring
  • arranging study groups
  • bringing experts on campus
  • accessing professional resources
  • conducting observations and follow-up
  • arranging for teachers to attend professional conferences
  • facilitating one-on-one and small-group planning and discussion sessions

The desired outcome is deeper understanding and improved instructional practices by all educators for the benefit of the students.

How Does A Coach Guide Fellow Educators’ Professional Growth?

Begin by supporting teachers daily based on their immediate individual and common needs. These can be determined through classroom observations, self-evaluation forms, questioning, reflective discussions, and examination of student data, and can range from pedagogy, to how to work with particular students, to where to locate needed resources and materials.

Next, provide a necessary framework for growth by helping teachers set short- and long-term goals. These include working toward the improvement of professional skills and the expansion of a theoretical knowledge base. An Individual Professional Development Plan can capture teachers’ goals on a quarterly basis.

How Does A Coach Develop and Lead Professional Development?

Once needs and goals are established, begin planning site-based professional development opportunities:

  • invite the building administrator to join you in brief classroom observations and conferences with each participating teacher
  • dialogue with the administrator to narrow down the range of possible activities and topics based on immediate needs and your own areas of expertise and training
  • develop a timeline for training, study, guidance, and in-class coaching that connects theory to practice
  • consider funding issues, time constraints, and personnel issues
  • select appropriate research-based materials to support implementation
  • look ahead to how you will arrange to supply the same instruction and materials to new teachers

Finally, evaluate professional development effectiveness using multiple data. This should include teachers’ attainment of short- and long-term goals and their ability to take on new instructional strategies as supported by coaching observations, teacher reflections, student achievement, and testing data.

Following are general components of collaborative professional development that can be negotiated by the coach, participating educators, and district- and building-level administration:

  • Resources and shared readings
  • Methods of reflection
  • Opportunities to learn from experts in the field, including attending conferences and workshops or participating in focused professional development sessions
  • Classroom visitations from colleagues to observe instructional techniques
  • On-going progress monitoring of students in targeted classrooms
  • Scheduled class demonstrations with on-going coaching and mentoring
  • Selection of assessments to measure program effectiveness

Adapted from Fulenwider, Kordic, Scheuermann, Vollenweider, Anderson, & Rodriguez “Constructing A Model of Professional Development to Support Early Literacy Classrooms.” In E.M. Rodgers & G.S. Pinnell, Learning From Teaching In Literacy Education.

What Are The Benefits Of Working Collaboratively With Educators?

  • The learning community has a solid base and structure.
  • Everyone works from the same research-based information and resources.
  • Teachers increase their theoretical and practical knowledge and skills.
  • Teachers have guidelines and support for assistance.
  • Successful collaborations result in favorable, improved student outcomes.