In this #coachbetter episode, Kim talks with Ellen and Bruce Eisenberg, founders of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching. As founders of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching Ellen and Bruce come with a wealth of experience in building sustainable instructional coaching programs in schools around the world.  On this call they are talking about the research behind instructional coaching, how to collect data to measure your impact, the enabling conditions that make coaching work and the systems and structures that need to be in place to make coaching sustainable. This episode is full of big-picture thinking about what it takes to make coaching successful and sustainable in schools. If you are curious about the systems and structures that make coaching successful, this episode is for you.

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The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching is a 501(c)3 designed to help teachers effectively implement instructional practices through an instructional coaching and mentoring framework. Our focus is to prepare and support instructional coaches who provide ongoing and consistent job-embedded professional learning and development for teachers by building their instructional practice and pedagogical skills. Independent research has validated the efficacy of the program and the impact of instructional coaching on teachers, their instructional practice, student engagement, and student learning.

Please tell us about your experience as coaches and school leaders in implementing coaching programs – where did you start, how did you get to where you are today, and what did you learn along the way?

We have been involved in education for over 90 years. While we always did a little bit of coaching, before it was called “coaching”. We didn’t get involved formally until 1999, in a large school district. Bruce went to Johns Hopkins University and brought back the model. Part of that was an instructional coaching model, our first introduction to a formal coaching model.

In 2000 started working with Johns Hopkins, got our training, in 2005, moved into a public-private partnership with the PA Dept of Ed and Annenberg Foundation, evolved to PIIC, evolved into TPIIC.

We were lucky back in 2005 to have a large grant from the Annenberg Foundation, which provided money to support what we were doing – for 3 years – 2005 – 2008. We have spent 55 million dollars to spend helping teachers be better at what they do.

We’ve worked with teachers in S Africa, Bermuda, Argentina, VT, NH, we’ve worked all over the place.

It’s within a multi-tiered system: students supported by teachers, teachers supported by coaches, coaches supported by mentors. Taught them what it sounds like and feels like. 

Change doesn’t happen instantaneously, it happens over time.

Professional learning is not done to someone, PD will succeed when it becomes a practice, when it becomes professional learning.

I know you’ve done lots of research, along with your own experience, on the impact of coaching, what does the research say? Heads of School often ask about the return on investment for hiring coaches, what would you tell them?

Our leadership team was Bruce & two researchers. We wanted to make sure we were going in the right direction that we could gather the data. Data is your friend, it’s not a monster, gather the data and see what you can learn from that.

One researcher was very strong in quantitative, one in qualitative. We wanted to see what measures they wanted to use and how. They were with us every step of the way, they came into our office and we worked on what they were doing, what did they see, and what did they hear.

Quantitative research is very difficult, controlling variables is very difficult. We didn’t do too many randomized studies. Lots of qualitative studies, from teachers, coaches, students’ point of view.

Our research

92% of teachers reported that they were coached

90% were coached 1:1

85% said they changed their practice, 99% reported a positive impact on student behavior, 98% on student learning

More teachers became involved in professional learning, once they had been coached

Small group is great to start with, but it doesn’t make the same kind of impact as coaching 1:1

Cumulative over time

One elementary school had 3 years of just one coach, scores went up, but students went from class to class, they expected a consistent teacher behavior, it was a way of educating students on a different way of learning. It was not just the coach, teacher, and students learning but everyone was a member of the community of practice of learning.

Process & Content: focused on not just the content, but what it looks like, sounds like, feels like

Advocated for working 1:1 and small groups and identifying strong practices they had and practices that needed more support. The goals came from the staff, not being told what they had to do.

Developing a culture of coaching is about talking about practices and defining goals from teacher input. You’re not changing the culture of a school when you’re focusing on a curriculum program.

Focus on the process: so there’s consistency in the way we work: 

  • What does it look like?
  • What does communication look like, what does question look like & why do we use questioning as our currency?
  • What literacy concepts are important for practice?
  • What kind of data are you going to collect in the classroom?
  • Student work, student responses
  • How do we reflect upon this, what’s our thinking: verbal, written
  • Reflection must happen for growth to occur.

How did you help teachers collect classroom data?

Standardized data is one piece of data, that only gives you a snapshot in time, how does the student feel on the day they took the test. But every single day there are formative assessment pieces that every teacher should regularly and consistently think about, implement and collect. Keep that separate from classroom data.

Data is only good if you’re going to analyze it and use it. You can have data you want to collect, and data you actually collect. You have to decide what you’re going to collect and how you’re going to use it. 

What’s important in this classroom? What do I want to know about my students? What do I want to know about their work and how they’re performing? As a coach, what do I need to know from the teacher to look for? You can only get to that point when you talk to the teacher, and discuss what’s important in this classroom. What are my goals in the classroom? What do I want students to know and be able to do? How do I know when I’ve achieved those goals? If I haven’t achieved them, what’s my plan?

3 steps to data collection

  • Figure out what I want to collect
  • Collect it (Prepare the class to measure the data)
  • Look at it & reflect on it

Eg: Student engagement: we hear about this all the time. What does this look like? We can measure it, and give you the raw data.

The raw data can inform what we should do together to help the kids.

The teacher has to trust you enough to just try it.

BDA (Before, During, After) Model: 

Needs Assessment

Before the before: as a coach, get my own ducks in order, figure out what I want to do

Before: In a “before conversation the teacher and the coach talk about the goals, in that conversation they co-construct a data tool, sets the tone for the work together, also plan when we’re going to discuss and debrief what I saw, set the roles (what the coach and teacher each do), so you know going into it, what’s important, helping teachers narrow down the goals

Questioning is the currency of coaching: it’s all about the questions you ask to help them determine what they need to focus on.

During: classroom visit (don’t use the word observation)

After: reflection. The after should never be on the same day that you do the visit.

Try switching your language from “a great or horrible lesson” to “effective or ineffective” – we change practice by looking at the data that we agreed to. Remove evaluative language from the conversation.

We have to change the way we think about professional development. Transforming data into practice is how you transform it into professional learning. We have to transform our thinking about professional development to learning. Once we shift our thinking we can bring in the data.

Learning is social, a coach’s job is to bring teachers together to collaborate. Those conversations are what lead to other things.

Mini PD: 20 min sessions, all day long so teachers can float in

Kids who are in classroom where teachers are highly coached, attendance increased 10%

4 quadrants

  • Working 1:1 and small groups
  • High leverage instructional practice
  • Collecting data & analyzing it
  • Reflective practice


Are you working on building a coaching culture in your school setting?

To make coaching both sustainable and successful, you need clarity, consistency, and community. 

Unfortunately, most schools are missing at least one! Is yours?

Use the Thrive Model to find out!

Developed after working with hundreds of coaches and leaders in international schools around the world, the Thrive Model incorporates both the macro view of a coaching program, and the micro view of a coaches practice, to bring together the three essential elements to make coaching both sustainable and successful.

Explore all of our resources about the Thrive Model at

SHOW NOTES continued…

External Research on coaching

Connect to classroom visits by admin: Instructional Rounds, Richard L Moore, Elizabeth City (3 books) – led to group instructional visits, instead of admin doing rounds, instructional coaches do it with sets of teachers

Articles: Learning Forward, Jim Knight, Linda Darling Hammond (expert in PD)

Instructional coaching is a viable teacher PD model that is personalized learning

2018: Craft, Blazar: review of educational research 

Resource Guide

Suggest networking opportunities where you call and talk about problems of practice in small groups

Focus on: How coaching changes the school’s culture

Coaches who walk around and gather facts based on the school improvement plan – ask teachers what they think, if teachers give me the same feedback, that’s my plan of action, go to the admin and say “I did a needs assessment, and I’d like to address it through XYZ” Ask admin to walk around the building and see if you notice evidence that what I’m doing is making an impact in our school

Teaching administrators what instructional coaching is

If we don’t help teachers know what effective practice looks like, we’re doing a disservice to our schools.

You have to build awareness of an instructional coaching program, and what instructional coaches do

Thinking about instructional coaching from a systemic level, what makes coaching work? When schools are looking to build a robust instructional coaching program that is sustainable, what structures need to be in place? Thinking about systemic structures along with some of the more day-to-day practical things.

Enabling conditions help you transform what a school looks like:

  • How did they come to think that instructional coaching was something they wanted to do? What is it they think they know?
  • Presenting and facilitating conversations about instructional coaching models (not about the coach specifically)
    • Is there a trusting environment
    • Is there a desire to change
    • Shared vision, shared goals, shared expectations
    • Clearly rolled out in the very beginning to everyone, and in the mid-year as a reflective piece, and at the end of the year, this is what we said we were going to do (where are we on achieving our goals)
    • School leaders needs to know how adult learning is different from adolescent learning
    • Effective PD vs Ineffective PD: a list of goals is not professional learning
  • Effective transparent conversations
    • Everyone on the leadership team has to have a shared vision
  • Defining the role of the coach
    • Communicate this across the school
    • Collaboration across teams
    • Non-evaluative
  • Teachers need voice, choice, equity, praxis
  • Intentional & Deliberate planning and development
  • Training for coaches (annually)

An administrator who states that being evaluative is the administrator’s job, not the coach’s job goes a long way. No confusion.

Coaching is messy and coaches have to be vulnerable, teachers have to be vulnerable.

Consciousness ladder

Instructional coaches are learners just like everyone else. We’re all in it together, we’re all practitioners. Coaches may know more about adult learning, while the teacher knows about their subject area. Together we’re working, together we’re learning. I don’t know all the answers, but I can give you great questions.

What are the structures that make coaching sustainable?

Be realistic about what coaching can do.

Sustainability from an individual coach POV

As a coach I can offer: intensive, strategic, or independent support, constant assessment of what teachers need. Build sustainability over time by partnering up “buddies” from previous coaching cohorts. Talking with someone opens up the mind and gives you creative ways to improve your craft.

Progression of sustainability

  • small group, 
  • small group + 1:1, 
  • teachers offering their own PL with support from the coach. 

When you build sustainability into the job, you’re not leaving a job, you’re changing how that job functions.

Instructional learning visits: coach and 2 teachers, preferably 3 teachers who have been coached and want to see each other how they work in their classrooms. We’ve talked about it, but we’ve never seen it.

Organization of the school: what happens daily in the school, is there release time for teachers, is there a time when a teacher could share a classroom, reorganize so they can see each other, they have to plan together to see it.

Curriculum: focus visits on what we’ve been focusing on

Instructional practices: what do we have in common, what have we learned that could be beneficial in a setting

Research: what data did you gather than we can talk about in reflective practice

Learning in a smaller group of teachers who have been coached, and the coach always is there

An instructional coach is a full time position.

Systemic Structure of the School

  • Coaching schedule that the school can structurally make sure is there – daily. Admin has to offer dedicated time for coaches to work with colleagues – coaching time sacred – if you “find time” as opposed to “make time”, it’s not going to work (not before or after school)
    • Logistics: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly
  • Scheduling of coaches as a full-time position – when scheduling is being done, if class size is very small, choose to double up so there’s space for the coaching position. If coaches have to teach, open up the classroom so they are demonstrating consistently & regularly
    • Time, Resources, Opportunities: don’t give me other responsibilities, testing coordinator, 5th chaperone on any trip, data crunching for the whole school
  • Structurally the admin has to understand how coaching works – policies that make it clear that coaching is not evaluative. Not overstepping boundaries.
  • Coach needs a mentor: where do I have someone to help me be better at my work as coach (If I hire a coach, that coach has a mentor, and that mentor is paid)
  • Admin and coaches have to make time for an update: what’s going on (not teacher performance)
  • Visibility: offerings from the coach to interact with teachers daily, admin making space for this, coach provides feedback to admin about patterns (non-evaluative), coaches should be on the calendar for professional learning, which requires planning

Feedback is timely and specific, but not on the same day

Ready to Learn More about Successful Coaching Systems and Structures?

If you’re ready to dig deeper into developing or refining a coaching program – or if you’re new to instructional coaching and you’re curious about getting started, join us for one of our courses for coaches!

To learn more about these options, we have three FREE workshops to share with you today.

For New or Aspiring Coaches

If you’re just getting started as a coach, and you want to be successful in your early years, watch our New to Coaching Workshop, which highlights the key mindset and skill set shifts you’ll need when moving from the classroom to a coaching role. The workshop will also tell you all about our online course, Getting Started as a Coach. This course is specifically designed for classroom teachers who are moving into a coaching role so you’re prepared for the transition. It’s focused on exactly the skillset & mindset shifts you need to so you can be successful in your first years as an instructional coach. 

For Experienced Coaches

If you’re already a coach & you want to think about being more intentional & strategic in your practice, watch our workshop on the Thrive Model for Coaching Success which will help you evaluate your program and your practice to see where you may have room to grow. You’ll walk away with a clear picture of exactly what you need to focus on to build a thriving coaching culture – and help you decide if our year-long mentorship and certification program, The Coach, is right for you, right now. This program is designed for current coaches who are focused on building a coaching culture through intentional and strategic coaching work at all levels – with teachers and school leaders.

For Coaches Ready to Lead

For experienced coaches ready to look at the bigger picture of the school to see what might be supporting or hindering the sustainability of the coaching program, and you want to make sure your school has all of the systems and structures in place, watch our workshop: Scaling Your Impact as an Instructional Coach. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of what’s needed to make coaching sustainable for you as an individual coach and for your school. When you’re ready to put that learning into action, join us in our online course for coaches ready to lead: Coaches as Leaders and put it all into practice – with support from Kim and our global cohort! This course is designed for experienced coaches, ready to lead.

You can find all the workshops on our coachbetter website at

Wherever you are in your coaching journey, we can support you!

For All Coaches

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