Deliberate Practice: Coaching the Marzano Model—Just Do It!

If your school is in the Deliberate Practice phase of implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model, coaching cycles are a great fit.

Ideally, but Really…

Ideally, we would love to have enough instructional coaches in our schools with dedicated time to assist all teachers. Realistically, if a district is fortunate enough to have designated coaches at all, their time and schedules are stretched thin, and the coaches must try to serve as many teachers as they possibly can.

We know the power of instructional coaching. Typically, when new skills or strategies are presented in a professional development session, only about ten percent of teachers will implement new skills or strategies – if there is no follow-up.  That rate jumps up to 95%, however, when professional development is followed by job-embedded instructional coaching.  (Cornett and Knight, 2008)

Coaching Cycles
Coaching cycles are a structured, effective way to reach and teach many teachers while making good use of the coach’s time. These cycles provide a means to transfer strategies learned in a PD session into classroom practice, and they are a great fit for teachers working on the Deliberate Practice phase of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation model.

Just Do It!
To begin a coaching cycle, the person in the role of instructional coach initiates a group which typically involves four to six teachers. Members could be a grade level team, a department, or a group of teachers focusing their practice on the same element. Here is a typical schedule for a 6-week coaching cycle:

Week 1: The Group’s Start-Up Meeting (one hour)
The group meets. The coach leads a PD session focusing on a specific teaching strategy from Domain 1
—for example, Element 17:  Examining Similarities and Differences. The group may read, view videos, or discuss the nuances of using a strategy—in this case it could be “Classification” activities. The coach models an activity using the strategy and the teachers talk about upcoming instructional opportunities to use this in their classrooms. The coach gives the group a charge – to plan a lesson using the strategy within the next unit—and schedules an individual follow-up appointment with each teacher for the following week.

Weeks 2 & 3: One-on-One Coaching (30 minutes per teacher)
During this meeting, the coach and each teacher talk specifically about the upcoming content and pinpoint a lesson to be focused on a classification strategy.

Weeks 4 & 5: Classroom Practice (30-45 minutes per teacher)
The coach visits each classroom to co-teach and/or observe the classification activity.

Week 6: Group Summary Meeting (one hour)
The whole group meets once again, bringing student work from their classification activities. They debrief the experience, and determine the impact of the strategy on student results. They reflect on areas of strength and weakness and evaluate the effectiveness of the classification activity for their students.

Then What?
The coach moves on to another Coaching Cycle group, and the teachers continue to meet on their own, repeating the strategy with new content, and eventually acting as peer coaches and mentors for each other as they study and practice additional strategies in a focused way.

The Benefits
Coaching cycles make realistic demands on the valuable time of the teacher, while using the expertise of the coach efficiently and effectively. This structure promotes the exchange of ideas and strategies by providing opportunities for teachers to share student work results, give and receive feedback, and learn together in a fun, sustainable way.  It contributes to that culture of professionalism and collegiality that we need and want in our schools.

How about you?
What have been your experiences working with an instructional coach, or as a coach?  What structures have you found that work—or didn’t work— in your school?  Share your ideas with us!

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