There is a new study out that suggests that teachers benefit from coaching that has an early and frequent focus on Instructional Support. Bob Pianta and his colleagues looked at teachers in MyTeachingPartner (MTP) Coaching and tried to untangle the effects of different components of the program.
(As a reminder, MTP Coaching consists of a series of 2-week cycles in which a teacher records herself teaching and sends it to her coach. The coach selects three short clips to highlight target dimensions, and the teacher is asked to respond to “prompts” about each clip. The teacher and coach then meet to discuss the responses and plan for the next cycle. Teachers also have access to the CLASS Video Library and are encouraged to watch videos between meeting with their coach. Learn more here.)
To summarize what the researchers found:
In other words, teachers that responded to more Instructional Support prompts made greater gains across Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support. Pretty interesting!
This is actually making us rethink how we advise coaches. We typically recommend establishing a solid relationship with teachers by starting with Emotional Support dimensions, and moving to Instructional Support once the relationship is strong. In light of this new research, we’ve had good internal discussions about the pros and cons of moving teachers to focus on Instructional Support earlier in the process, and I can’t say we’ve resolved it yet. Maybe it needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the teacher, the relationship, and the comfort level of the coach. But my colleague, Sheri Crump, said that these findings are in line with her own experience as a director and coach. She emailed me this:
When I was involved in the Early Reading First grants during my Head Start years, we informally observed the positive influences to Emotional Support, and Classroom Organization, even though our coaching efforts focused heavily on improving instructional strategies and child outcomes. We were convinced that we needed to move beyond the old stand-by of focusing on social-emotional issues first before we could even consider academic interventions. Instead, our mantra became that "we need to focus on both!" When children became empowered with new, exciting learning opportunities that really made a difference, the fall-out included a closer relationship with their teachers, and a reduction in major behavior issues. The children had higher language skills, and an increased interest in exploring the classroom.”
How does this research accord with your experiences? Is it “developmentally inappropriate” to start teachers with a focus on Instructional Support?
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
CLASS allows us to quantify the quality of teacher-child interactions—and that is a powerful thing. But improving child outcomes takes more than just data collection; it’s what you do with the data that really matters.
Here are 4 things you should know about using data to improve student outcomes.
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.