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Advancing student learning with shorter, more frequent coaching sessions

By Cody Whitesell

At Mission Grammar School each week, every lead teacher receives, at minimum,  a 15-minute instructional observation and a corresponding 30-minute coaching conversation. Teachers and students are reaping the rewards. 

This coaching structure is a small investment with big benefits. Lead teachers will receive 27 hours of one-on-one development over the course of the year. Yet leaders are only dedicating about 4% of their time each week per lead teacher to provide this support. 

It’s not just about the amount of time being spent developing teachers: it’s also about the quality of the time. Leaders follow a six-step protocol, similar to the one found in Leverage Leadership, to check in with teachers about: 

  • Implementing feedback
  • Asking probing questions based on the week’s observation
  • Reviewing student work from the observed lesson
  • Collaborating with the teacher to name and practice next steps

And, yes, that happens in 30 minutes. 

How are teachers benefiting? The frequent, routine observations and coaching conversations position teachers to know what to expect throughout the support cycle. The continuity offered by this repeated structure also allows leaders to build their relationships with teachers.

Reflection informs instructional decisions. Teachers are consistently reflecting on feedback and making adjustments in response to students’ needs. Recently, teachers have brought student data into the coaching conversations to draw conclusions about where students are excelling and where they need additional support. 

Teacher support is great. But if it doesn’t translate into student success, it’s a waste. At Mission Grammar School, students are benefiting. Both MAP and ANet assessment results show strong learning happening in classes. And, equally important, if you walk through the school, you’ll frequently see students enthusiastically engaging in and persevering through challenging, standards-aligned material. 

Cody is an ANet coach in Eastern Massachusetts. 

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