Measuring the Impact of Coaching Cycles

Written by: Diane Sweeney and Leanna Harris, authors of Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves (Corwin, 2016)

Coaches often wonder how to measure their impact. We all know that we can’t base our success off of whether or not teachers sign up for coaching cycles, smile at us, or talk to us in the teacher’s lounge. We need to know more. And if we take intentional steps to evaluate our work, we will come to understand how our coaching is impacting teacher and student learning.

The Results-Based Coaching Tool

The Results-Based Coaching Tool provides a record of what occurred across a coaching cycle. It begins with a goal for student learning and ends with a close look at how well the students performed in relation to the goal. In between is where we capture the instructional practices we focused on, the coaching practices that were used, and information related to teacher growth.

The Results-Based Coaching Tool is a ‘guide on the side’ for coaches who are interested in ensuring that their work is making the desired impact. Some use it in partnership with teachers, others use it privately, the key is we are tracking our impact every step of the way.

To help you get started, we provided a link for a Template for the Results-Based Coaching Tool. (Note: Please make a copy in Google Docs before using.) You may also choose to watch the following video of a coach discussing her use of the tool click here. If you’d like more resources, please read 9 in Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves (Corwin, 2016).

Pre and Post Assess to Identify Growth Across a Coaching Cycle

If coaches want to know their impact, then they need to collect pre and post assessment data during the coaching cycle. Doing so requires clearly defined learning targets against which we continually assess and adjust teaching. This starts with pre assessing students to collect baseline data at the beginning of the coaching cycle. Then at the end of the cycle, we post assess students in order to measure student growth and understand the impact of the coaching work.

The assessments we use have several qualities in order to be both manageable and meaningful for teachers and coaches. They are efficient, provide descriptive insight into student thinking and understanding, and are aligned with the coaching cycle goal and learning targets. When we post assess to see whether or not students have met the goal, it is important to make sure we are assessing the same things as we did on the pre assessment. The following figure provides examples of how a pre assessment can be modified to also serve as a post assessment. Keeping them as similar as possible will give the most accurate measurement of student growth.

Examples of Pre and Post Assessments

Pre Assessment  Post Assessment
Read a passage, annotate text, and answer questions with evidence from the text. Use a slightly different passage from the same text. Keep everything else the same.
Complete a multi-step math problem with multiple opportunities to show work. Explain thinking in writing. Use the same problem, just switch the numbers.
Write to a prompt that is open-ended enough for some amount of student choice. Keep the prompt the same, instructing students to choose something different to write about.
Written response to a series of open-ended questions about historical events. Respond to the same questions in a new way, such as through a Socratic Seminar.

Once we have post assessed the students, we can take a good look at growth. This can be the percentage of students who met the goal, or a more nuanced view of how many were emerging, developing, meeting, or exceeding the goal at the beginning of the coaching cycle compared to at the end. Seeing real evidence of student achievement is a great way to measure the impact of coaching and know that the hard work of teaching and coaching has paid off.

Understand How the Teacher Grew

While the primary goal of student-centered coaching is to increase student achievement, we also work with teachers to refine their day-to-day instructional practice. If a coach and teacher work together throughout a coaching cycle, and the students demonstrate a lot of growth by the end, surely that is cause for celebration. Hopefully the students have learned new skills and understandings that they will carry forward in their learning and be able to apply in new situations. Yet consider how much bigger an impact the coaching will have if the teacher has acquired new learning as well. The benefit will be not only to this one group of students for this one unit of study, but for all of her students throughout her teaching career. Now that is a big impact!

So how do we assess teacher growth as a part of measuring the impact of coaching? We know that our job is to stay as far away from evaluation as possible. We also know that reflection on experience is a powerful way to enhance and solidify learning. Therefore at the end of a cycle, it is important to create opportunities for teachers to reflect on the coaching experience. There are many informal opportunities to encourage teacher reflection throughout the coaching cycle by asking questions such as, ‘How do you think the lesson went?’ ‘How did students respond compared to when you taught this in the past?’ and ‘What could we have done differently to help more students meet the target?’ When measuring the impact of coaching, we want to explicitly make time for reflection through asking a series of exit interview questions that we can document as evidence of teacher growth. Though some coaches feel that conducting such an interview seems awkwardly formal, we believe that intentionally doing so creates both a space for reflection and an opportunity to capture evidence that comes directly from teachers themselves instead from us as their coaches. Below are a few examples of exit interview questions aimed at promoting teacher reflection.

Exit Interview Questions for Teacher Reflection

  • How do you feel you benefited from the coaching cycle?
  • What changes, if any, have you made to your instructional practice as a result of our work together?
  • What does the data reveal about how the students performed in relation to the learning targets?
  • What about the way we taught the unit do you believe contributed to this result?
  • What, if anything, do you feel we could have done differently with regard to instruction?
  • How has your thinking grown or changed from this process?
  • Based on the work in our coaching cycle, what are the implications for your work going forward?

Plan for Students Who Didn’t Meet the Goal

The last fifteen years have seen a switch in education from ‘covering’ curriculum to teaching in a way that enables and expects all students to meet the standards. The notion of ‘assess and move on, regardless of whether or not students got it’ is thankfully becoming a thing of the past. This shift has implications for coaches just as it does for the teachers with whom they work. With a clear goal for student learning and carefully planned instruction based on ongoing formative assessment, students are given the support and tools they need to achieve the desired learning outcome. But sometimes despite our best efforts, there are a few kids who don’t get there.

Measuring the impact of coaching through post assessment enables the coach and teacher to identify those students (hopefully very few) who did not meet the goal, and then plan for ongoing support even after the coaching cycle is over. Sometimes the school may have a system for intervention in place, or it may be a matter of the teacher and coach creating a plan for how the teacher will use small group or one-on-one instructional time to give the extra help needed. Even though the coaching cycle is over and the class is going to move on to something new, it is important to identify and plan follow up for those students who still need a bit more instruction before they can meet the goal. We are also careful to set up systems to continue monitoring these students through formative assessments…this way we make sure that they are moving towards mastery of the standards well past the end of the coaching cycle.

In Closing

Measuring the impact of coaching provides us with multiple pieces of evidence to weigh and balance in determining what is and isn’t working so we can continually improve our coaching practice. It allows us to know that our collaboration with teachers has made a difference for them and for their students. Measuring the impact of coaching creates a space for reflection and for closure of the coaching cycle, and perhaps best of all provides us with lots of great new learning to celebrate.

© Diane Sweeney Consulting, all rights reserved.

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