By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The approaching end-of-school year is always fraught with anxiety for the entire school community. Students worry about promotion and graduation; administrators worry about school profiles; teachers worry about whether their students “know” enough to score well on standardized tests; and coaches worry about whether they made a difference in teaching and learning by working with their teaching colleagues.

These things worry all of us but we need to put things into perspective. When we only worry about the evaluation part (how has one measured against others) and not worry about practice (how can I talk to my colleagues to make changes where needed), feedback takes a nosedive. And, frankly, without feedback and ongoing conversations about practice and student learning, no evaluation will be meaningful… required, yes; helpful, no.

We talk a great deal about giving formative assessments to students. After all, we want to help them grow so we don’t want the assessment to be the autopsy… after the work is completed; we want to give support in ways that will make a difference as the students are doing the work.

The same is true with teachers.

As coaches, we don’t want to give advice and claim that’s feedback. We want and need to work with teachers to discuss their goals and how they want to accomplish them. We want to engage in a long term relationship that results in ongoing conversations about teaching and learning, not about “how I did today.” We want to engage in conversation and talk about practice in specific, descriptive, timely, and non-judgmental ways. Remember, grades for performance are not feedback. Helping teachers identify areas of strength and how to make changes where needed is feedback.


In what ways do you solicit feedback about your own practice? How do you offer feedback to others?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

“Our business is about technology, yes. But it’s also about operations and customer relationships” so says Michael Dell.  This is an interesting quote and makes me again think about technology coaches and their role supporting teaching and learning.

What is a “technology” coach and how does that differ from an instructional coach? Are there really just “technology” coaches who do not work with their teaching colleagues about implementing effective instructional practices?

While I don’t intend to step on anyone’s toes, here’s what I think… if someone is skilled in the business of technology, e.g., how to use the technology, then I think that person is a technician, someone skilled in knowing how a piece of technology is used. If someone talks about instruction and how a technology tool can help accomplish the goals of that instruction, that person is an instructional coach, not a technician. After all, a technician is “a person employed to look after technical equipment.” Many offices hire technicians to maintain computers in their offices. Would you call that technician a coach?

One of the ways to change the mindset of our teaching colleagues is to call coaches, “instructional coaches” and not specify anyone as a “technology” coach even though helping someone understand how to use a computer may be one of the coach’s responsibilities. As a coach, I may help you decide which technology tool may be appropriate to achieve the instructional goals but the conversation needs to be around what instructional goals have been identified. The instructional goals drive the conversation, not the tools that might be appropriate to use. The coaching part is recognized as the coach and teacher collaborate and plan in the “before” conversation, decide on the data to collect in the “during” visit, and engage in non-evaluative dialogue in the feedback or “after” session. The coaching does not come from helping a colleague “plug” in a computer but rather engaging in conversations that lead to changes in practice. Everyone should be called an instructional coach when the role is to engage in confidential, non-evaluative conversations with staff members helping them implement effective instructional practices.


What do you think about coaches being called instructional coaches rather than technology coaches?