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Teacher Coaching to Improve Instruction at Scale: Opportunities and Challenges in Policy Contexts

by David Blazar - 2020

Background/Context: Teacher coaching, defined by sustained observation and feedback cycles, has a longstanding theory of action that has held up to several rigorous evaluations in recent years. Policymakers and practitioners have taken note of these findings, rolling out coaching programs in classrooms and schools across the United States as a key policy initiative to improve instructional quality and student outcomes at scale. One likely factor leading to its success is that coaching program activities are situated much more closely to key outcomes than other initiatives (e.g., certification, licensure). However, coaching too exists in a broader policy context that creates both opportunities and challenges for success. On one hand, coaches are uniquely positioned not only to help teachers improve their practice but also to serve in leadership and capacity-building roles for their broader education systems; on the other hand, coaches’ role in system infrastructures can mean that their work is impeded by these same organizational factors, including top-down hierarchies and competing reform interests.

Purpose/Objective/Research Design: This piece synthesizes qualitative and mixed methods research presented in this volume in order to situate coaching programs within broader policy contexts and identify avenues for continued exploration.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Navigating these tensions requires additional research and data on the conditions and mechanisms that drive effective teacher coaching and how these conditions and mechanisms can be replicated at scale. One mechanism that should serve as the focal point of ongoing work are the coaches themselves. What skills and dispositions do coaches need in order to work with teachers to develop instructional practice while also effectively navigating policy conditions in their schools and districts?

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 10, 2020, p. 1-9
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23437, Date Accessed: 1/23/2021 2:06:53 AM

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About the Author
  • David Blazar
    University of Maryland, College Park
    E-mail Author
    DAVID BLAZAR, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Education Policy and Economics at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research primarily draws on applied quantitative methods to examine dimensions of teacher and teaching quality and to evaluate the success of interventions aimed at improving both.
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