Instructional coaching

Assembling the essential ingredients of PD

Hey 👋

How’s tricks? This week, we’re building on our effective PD theme with a quick dip into instructional coaching

Big idea 🍉


One of the most powerful and reliable ways to improve teaching is through instructional coaching. This involves one teacher working with another teacher, to help them take small, personalised steps to improve their practice.

However, not all forms of coaching are equal. The most effective are those which contain a high proportion of the 6 essential ingredients of PD, packaged in a way that is easy to use and time efficient.

The model we have been developing at Steplab aims to achieve this, through a regular (weekly or fortnightly) cycle of observation and feedback, covering 8 phases:

In the observation phase, the coach will typically drop in to the teacher’s lesson for 10-15 minutes to...

  1. Gather some evidence of what is happening, to ground things in the reality of the classroom (this can be done via video).

  2. Review how the teacher is getting on with their broader goals and associated steps.

  3. Identify an area that the teacher might focus on to improve further.

  4. Plan the feedback meeting.

In the feedback meeting, the coach and teacher will typically meet for 25-30 minutes and...

  1. Discuss progress made against ongoing teacher goals.

  2. Explore options for, and then agree on, a small step to focus on.

  3. Analyse and deconstruct a model of ‘what good looks like’ for the step.

  4. The teacher then adapts this for their context, and then rehearses it, ideally several times, with feedback from the coach between each round.

Compared with other approaches to professional development, the above is much more likely to lead to reliable improvements in teaching. That said, instructional coaching isn’t a panacea. It’s best combined with things like co-planning (for developing curriculum knowledge) and group rehearsal (for core techniques).

Finally, coaching isn't only for early career teachers—it's just as valuable for experienced teachers. Over the last few years, increasing numbers of schools are figuring out how to implement coaching for all staff and are seeing some pretty encouraging outcomes. Here are some of the challenges they have worked through to get to this point.

🎓 For more, check out this paper on the evidence behind the above model.

Finally, if you haven’t done so recently, go check out → I honestly believe it’s the most surefire way that a school can take their teaching and learning to the next level 🚀


  • Instructional coaching has the potential to be a powerful package for the essential ingredients of PD.

  • Effective coaching entails regular cycles of observation and feedback.

  • This works best when schools set things up so every teacher in a school gets coaching.

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Stay cool/warm (as appropriate).

Peps 👊