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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Preparing Coaches for the Job

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


November 10, 2014

In continuing to reflect on considerations for successful implementation of coaching programs in schools, two more findings serve leaders in selection and preparation of coaches.

Finding 2. Being a good teacher does not necessarily translate into success as a coach. We know that there are identified best practices in classrooms that contribute to student success. However, those practices are not necessarily the ones that best serve coaches of adults. Adult learners have unique qualities. Coaching a colleague requires a different skill set than teaching children. Working with adults requires a different relationship that is not necessarily part of every master teacher’s knowledge base.

Candidates for coaching positions should be able to demonstrate success in promoting growth in other adults in a one-to-one and group basis. Careful screening for experience, skill, and knowledge of working with adults is critical. Experience presenting at conferences or in-services is inadequate. Often leadership of teams, PLCs, or departments is a better indicator of preparation for working with adults. Values and beliefs that are congruent with coaching are another consideration. The person who sees himself as the most expert teacher in the school may be challenged by serving as a neutral party supporting others in constructivist learning and inquiry.

Finding 3. Training of coaches is essential. In working with novice coaches,

many are eager to serve, but are unclear about how to do the job. Coming from a very structured day in the classroom to an unstructured day with many options for how to work can be daunting for new coaches. Successful implementation is dependent on creating a vision and supporting coaches in the skills required to fulfill the vision (Wong and Nicotera, 2003).

Each system needs to define the training needs based on the job description and the skill level of personnel placed in the positions. A common set of expectations for coaching positions should be shared, and coaches and principals must be held accountable for implementing those expectations. While there are many models of coaching in the field of education, it is our belief that Cognitive CoachingSM has the richest research base with over 20 years of documentation supporting its outcomes (Edwards, 2014). Our model offers skills to coaches that can be utilized in multiple settings for assisting teachers in becoming self-directed. It also provides maps for coaches to use in assisting teachers in planning, reflecting, problem-resolving, and calibrating. Without such an explicit and rich model, many coaches revert to giving advice and evaluating, strategies that have been shown to be counter-productive to development and growth (Sanford, 1995). Training must not be an orientation or a one-shot effort. It should be planned for short and long-term impact.

What selection processes and criteria ensure success for your coaches?

How does ongoing training and a focused model increase fidelity to the purposes of the coaching role?


Edwards, J. (2015). Cognitive coaching: A synthesis of the research. Highlands Ranch, CO: Thinking Collaborative.

Sanford, C. (1995). Myths of organizational effectiveness at work. Battle Ground, WA: Springhill.

Wong, K. & Nicotera, A. (2003). Enhancing teacher quality: Peer coaching as a professional development strategy. A preliminary synthesis of the literature.

Publication Series No. 5. Philadelphia, PA: Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory.

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