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Determining the Best Fit

Determining the Best Fit

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will learn about the steps involved in helping determine the best fit between a coaching model and the context or setting in which it will be employed.

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe, and in today's video lesson, we'll cover the topic of determining that best fit. As we learn about this topic, we'll work towards one main learning objective, and we'll answer the following question throughout this video lesson to help guide our learning.

What are the steps involved in helping determine the best fit between a coaching model and the context or setting in which it will be employed? When considering a coaching model for your school, it's extremely important to consider many diverse elements. We want to make sure that we are determining the model that best fits the teachers and faculty of that environment. The coaching model that is chosen needs to meet the needs of every single teacher and the goals of the school. Therefore, it must be a model that has some flexibility. There is a process of determining the best fit that we should follow. Here are the steps in that process of determining the best fit.

Step one is to determine what needs are. To do this, we should organize an assessment of needs for instruction. Student achievement data can be used maybe to brainstorm needs for this purpose. Step two is to ask what are our goals. What must be accomplished to increase levels of achievement in our students? It's important to look at existing school and district goals, as well as more specific goals for the classroom individually and various grade levels. As we create these goals, we should consider how measurable each goal is. How will we measure progress toward each of these goals? Step three is to ask what skills do our teachers need to be refining? What knowledge do our teachers need at this time? And as we think about these questions, we need to go back to our goals in step two and ensure that we are considering skills and knowledge that will help teachers meet these goals we have set for student learning. Step four is to look at all the possibilities for coaching, the similarities and differences between models, as well as the advantages and disadvantages for each of these models for the specific goals that we have set. The final step, step five, is to choose a model or possibly multiple models that not only address the goals for student learning that have been set, but also models that are aligned with the needs of teachers that will be using them. As coaching relationships develop and needs change for different situations, it's likely that the best fit will move between models as needed. Some of these models are instructional and some are facilitative. It's important to determine which is needed at the time that coaching occurs. Let's take a look at an example scenario, and we'll walk through each of these five steps and the process for determining the best fit for coaching.

Step one, what are the needs? Here we'll say in this example that they are to increase test scores. Step two, what are the goals for student learning? Our goals for this particular case are higher levels of student engagement and motivation. Step three, what do the teachers need? The teachers need support. They need ideas, and they need observations and feedback. Step four, what are the available coaching models? Mentoring new teachers, peer coaching, cognitive coaching, and subject specific coaching are models that we'll take a look at here. For this particular situation, we'll say that we have a group of teachers that do have some experience teaching, and therefore mentoring new teachers isn't the best model necessarily. We're going to need some additional support and help through this process, as well as teachers that have some different expertise in different areas.

So peer coaching is the model that will choose here, and that's step five. In peer coaching, we're looking to build relationships, and most teachers have worked over two years at this school. We're not necessarily focusing on one specific content area, so we can rule out subject specific coaching and cognitive coaching as well. Let's talk about some scenarios for instructional coaching models. The four models we'll walk through are mentoring new teachers, peer coaching, cognitive coaching, and subject specific coaching. I'll review some of the important elements of each model, and then we'll discuss when this model might be used. What type of teacher would this model the best for?

The first model of coaching we'll explore is mentoring new teachers. Remember this is a model that can be used for novice teachers. The teachers are paired with an experienced teacher, and this teacher mentors them. This model is an excellent coaching model to use when you have teachers that are new to teaching or teachers that are maybe new to your school, or the school system. It's also important to remember that this model focuses on a particular setting, maybe how field trips are planned at your school. Some novice teachers may feel like they still need a bit more to be confident, and therefore a more widespread approach might be needed on top of this type of coaching model.

Let's move on to peer coaching. This is when two teachers are paired together. Generally, we use this model to apply professional development to the classroom setting, and it's a very collaborative model in nature. It's helpful to have teachers paired that are similar in their teaching styles, but you do want each teacher to have their own strength and expertise. For example, maybe one teacher might be strong the integration of technology. The other might be an expert in various classroom management strategies. So it's helpful for teachers to have some experience in teaching, as teachers get the most out of this model when each pair has a strong area of expertise; and we do get this as we teach more.

In cognitive coaching, the teacher and coach are reflective, and they communicate through the coaching partnership. Teacher and coach plan, observe, and reflect through three different conversations. The best fit for this model is a teacher that has extensive teaching experience and teachers that are very reflected in nature. In this coaching model, the coach and teachers work together to communicate and reflect, and then the teacher works in a self-directed manner using the ideas that the coach and teacher explored. This means that teachers need to be adequately able to explore and try instructional strategies on their own independently.

Let's review subject specific coaching. This is when standards are used as a guide to focus on one target area specifically. The ideal candidate for this type of coaching is a teacher who feels very strongly about focusing on one content area. If a teacher is changing grade levels or content areas, but they'll be teaching, this model might be a choice as well. Regardless of the type of model, it's essential to take a look at the culture of your school and the teachers within to find the correct match for coaching models. It's also very important to revisit and re-evaluate the effectiveness of choices in coaching models to ensure that what's being done, as far as coaching, continues to be the best for everyone and for individual teachers specifically.

Let's take a look at an example of how school culture impacts best fit. If your school has many new teachers, this might mean that there's a lack of initial trust, and it might take more time to build relationships and that skill base and the knowledge needed to utilize some of the coaching models like peer coaching or cognitive coaching or even subject specific coaching. If your school, on the other hand, has a group of teachers that are very established and have established professional learning communities together, this might mean that your school culture has more trust and a peer coaching model might be very efficient and comfortable for this group of teachers to use.

Let's talk a little about what we learned today. We looked at the following question. What are the steps involved in helping determine the best fit between a coaching model and the context or setting in which it will be employed? In today's video lesson, I walked you through each of the four models of instructional coaching that we've been focusing on this unit-- mentoring new teachers, peer coaching, cognitive coaching, and subject specific teaching. We took a look at what makes each of these models a good fit for specific schools and teachers and who the ideal teacher for each of these models is. We also looked at the process of how to choose the most effective model for coaching, as well as an example of the process of determining the best fit.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect for a moment. What might the challenges be in finding the best fit for instructional coaching models? Consider a school environment that you've been a part of. What coaching models might be the best fit for that scenario?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson, determining the best fit. I hope you found value in this video lesson and the ideas that were presented. And I hope you're able to apply these ideas and these resources to your own instruction and coaching. Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be super helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description, so you can easily target the resources you want.

Notes on “Determining the Best Fit ”


(00:00- 00:26) Introduction/Objectives

(00:27- 02:37) What is the Process for Determining the Best Fit? 

(02:38- 03:54) Example of Process for Determining the Best Fit 

(03:55- 04:13) Ideal Situations for Instructional Coaching

(04:14- 04:53) Ideal Situations:  Mentoring New Teachers

(04:54 – 05:35) Ideal Situations: Peer Coaching

(05:36- 06:14) Ideal Situations: Cognitive Coaching

(06:15- 06:36) Ideal Situations: Subject-Specific Coaching

(06:37- 07:40) School Culture and Best Fit

(07:41- 08:22) Recap 

(08:23- 09:11) Reflection

Additional Resources

Principal as Instructional Leader: Designing a Coaching Program That Fits

This article walks the principal through designing an instructional coaching model to meet the unique needs of the school.

Four Conditions Essential for Instructional Coaching to Work

This Edutopia article provides practical advice to ensure that instructional coaching will be met with success in the school.