Research School Network: Making the Most of Instructional Coaching John Hern with the first of a series on how to make the most of instructional coaching

Making the Most of Instructional Coaching

John Hern with the first of a series on how to make the most of instructional coaching

by Bradford Research School
on the

Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.

What an exciting time to be a teacher! Neuroscience is illuminating insights into attention, memory and motivation (See Daisy Holland-Selby’s recent blog), while social sciences help us to apply routines both in and out of classrooms (see James Dyke’s recent blog). Completing a veritable Triforce of research-informed practice is research showing ways that teacher coaching can improve the academic success of our students. Some of us have been lucky in our careers to have found ourselves working in schools steeped in a culture of deliberate practice. Imagine turning that practice up to eleven by coupling it to regular, personalised, honest and constructive feedback? This, my education blog reading friends, is instructional coaching.

Over the last 18 months many of us, including myself, have been given the privilege of coaching new teachers as they grow and improve through the Department for Education’s new Early Career Framework (ECF). My appreciation for the research evidence underpinning the creation of the ECF was met with apprehension about how much I had to learn about both the ECF and coaching my mentee. If you’re like me, then direct and practical instructional coaching is new. I can’t have been the only mentor to have felt lost to start with. 

Fortunately, Ambition Institute are training our coaches and providing their Steplab platform from which we run our incremental coaching. I’ve found Ambition Institute’s website to be a useful place to start for an introduction to instructional coaching: What is Instructional Coaching? Followed by their fantastic report on Incremental Coaching in Schools. Or their 12 page summary of the report.

It is exciting that more experienced teachers, including myself, might also soon be given the opportunity to participate in instructional coaching professional development. Cycles of observation and feedback is an experience surely every teacher has been subjected to, however how often does this process have the professional growth of the subject at its heart? Instructional coaching fosters hope that we can all improve and secure better outcomes for our students. Decades of studies have reported findings which have lead us to where we are today with instructional coaching. Meta-analysis studies, such as Kraft et al., show measurable, robust and positive outcomes following instructional coaching.

As I’ve started to learn about coaching I’ve begun to realise just how much more there is to learn. It has stimulated questions I’d love to dig deeper into;

  • Can coaching someone outside of your subject discipline be effective?
  • Should leaders direct instructional coaching towards a whole-school focus, a particular group of teachers or an individual’s needs?
  • Can coaching be effective if you’re being coached by your line manager?
  • If we assume instructional coaching works, can we deduce which aspects or factors in coaching offer the greatest leverage in particular contexts?

I look forward to sharing my journey with you as I coach, learn more about coaching and maybe even be coached myself! If you have any coaching questions of your own, we’d love to hear from you at @BradResearchSch.


Kraft, M.A., Blazar, D. and Hogan, D., 2018. The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of educational research, 88(4), pp.547 – 588.

John Hern teaches at Dixons McMillan Academy. He is also an Evidence Lead for Dixons Academies Trust, focusing on the evidence around coaching.

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