Why We Need Teacher Coaches

Why We Need Teacher Coaches

Tim DohrerTim Dohrer

Teacher leaders who have started coaching their peers are poised to transform the educational landscape, Northwestern University’s Tim Dohrer told the Huffington Post.

In a Skype interview with host Rod Berger, Dohrer explained how the changing nature of teacher evaluations has sparked a resurgence in the coaching model, and why this can benefit the next generation of educators.

“Teachers are facing more and more assessments at the state and local levels, and principals have less time to coach and train,” said Dohrer, director of the Master of Science in Education (MSED) program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. “Teachers are stepping into the gap as coaches.”

To support teachers who want to coach, the School of Education and Social Policy’s Educational Coaching Network offers an intensive yearlong instructional coaching training program with Jim Knight; the first session begins in October.

In addition, the Master’s of Science in Education program holds an Instructional Coaching Certificate program during the summer as part of its Advanced Study in Education program.

Coaching can be effective because teachers have comon bonds and this can promote greater honesty, Dohrer said. But for the model to work, it’s important to clarify roles and build relationships.

“Coaches should be a ‘critical friend’ and come to the relationship with positive feedback and support,” Dohrer said. “At the same time, they need to be direct, and perhaps model the behavior they want to see.”

In addition, schools of education need to focus on how teachers learn because the process is different for adults than it is for children. “We have to recognize the difference between 9-, 14- and 35-year-old learners, and between a new teacher and a veteran,” said Dohrer, a former high school principal.

In the interview, Dohrer also talked about the importance of using video to help improve how teachers learn, and what schools can do to help teachers become effective coaches.

Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy uses two video-based systems that allow students to annotate and comment on video, said Miriam Sherin, professor of learning sciences and associate dean for teacher education, whose research has guided the program.

Students also record themselves; teachers then share the video with peers in “video clubs” to help understand what’s happening in classrooms.

Many teacher leaders interested in coaching say they don’t want to permanently leave the classroom; instead, they want to step out for a year or two to improve their coaching skills and then return.

“Time, money, professional learning opportunities, and school climate are all levers that need to be addressed if administrators and school boards want this to work,” Dohrer said.

“We have to shift to a model that is collegial and interactive,” he said. “We should have a free flow of teachers going back and forth between classrooms, mentoring and helping others in a coaching capacity. Both teachers and administrators would find their jobs much easier.”

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 8/24/17