By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

As a coach, it is important to recognize that coaching is situational and differentiated. While the BDA cycle of consultation is critical for transparency, transformation, and talking about instructional practice, not every teacher needs all three “prongs” of the BDA cycle of consultation each time they meet with the coach. The three “pronged” approach, however, should be followed at least a few times per quarter with each teacher.

The BDA cycle is a conversation between a coach and teacher to collaborate and communicate about their work together. It is an agreement for working together as partners. A new teacher may need more support than an experienced teacher or an experienced teacher may want more support because s/he is teaching new content. Either way, the coach and teacher must collaborate and decide the kind of support needed: intensive support means working multiple times with the same person; strategic support means working with teachers on a variety of specific instructional practices; and independent support means that the coach and teacher may work together less often because the needs can be met with less frequent time together.

The starting point for the process is the “B” or before conversation. Here the coach and teacher co-plan and discuss the goals for the class and how those goals will be achieved. The coach is a good listener here, asking probing or clarifying questions without giving an unsolicited opinion. The object is to ask the questions that encourage the teacher to think about why these goals are important and if the instructional delivery and resources identified will help the teacher meet the needs of the students. The teacher and coach co-construct the plan to collect evidence that reflect the agreed upon goals and they schedule a date to discuss that classroom visit giving themselves time to process the actual classroom visitation.

The during or “D” part of the cycle is where the action takes place. The coach may visit and collect the agreed upon data, may model a segment of the lesson, or may co-teach with the teacher. Regardless of the activity, the coach and teacher need this visit so they can reflect in, on, and about classroom practice. This is where the coach and teacher can “see” if what they wanted to do was accomplished.

The after or “A” part of the cycle is critical for transformation. This is the time where the coach and teacher are reflective and give timely, specific, descriptive, and non-judgmental feedback to determine what worked well and what practice needs additional support.

No matter how often coaches and teachers work together, following the BDA cycle of consultation is critical for ongoing communication and collective problem solving to take place.


Which phase of the BDA cycle is the most comfortable for your colleagues? Why do you think this is so?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The following question surfaced during one-on-one conversations with several coaches, some of whom coach and teach during the day and some of whom are full time coaches. Either way, they wanted to know how to engage teachers in a full BDA (before, during, and after) cycle of consultation so that they benefit from the ongoing collaboration. Here are some of my thoughts:

As a coach, you must build awareness and help others understand your role and the BDA process. They need to see the connections among the 3-pronged approach to school wide improvement which starts at the level that makes the most impact: the classroom. Usually, teachers want to co-plan with their coach (B) and set the tone for the class lesson. It’s the “D” and the “A” that may be challenging.

Coaches need to understand why teachers may be reluctant to invite them into their classrooms. Most teachers think that visitors in classrooms are there to observe. That’s where instructional coaching visits differ from administrative observations. Instructional coaches visit classrooms and work with teachers on a set of predetermined “look fors.”

In the planning or before session, “B,” the coach and teacher co-construct what the goals are and on which elements the teacher would like the coach to focus. They also schedule a time for debriefing which should occur after they both have a chance to reflect on the visit. The during, “D,” is where the coach and teacher see the elements discussed in the “B.” It is the “content” for the debriefing session. In the after session, “A,” the coach and teacher reflect on the goals and debrief about what was effective and what needs to be supported differently.

If the coach cannot see how the “B” goals are met, the “A” is not helpful. The reflections that must occur in the “A” cannot happen if no “D” takes place.

In my experience, teachers who are uncomfortable in the “D” do not understand that a coach’s role is non-evaluative and it is the very place to “rehearse” and “practice” a variety of instructional techniques with an opportunity for reflection and feedback in a no-risk environment. In my next two blogs, I’ll talk more about the BDA cycle and suggest some steps to encourage participation in the full BDA cycle of consultation by building awareness and comfort in the process.


How do you invite your colleagues to participate in the full BDA cycle?