December 12, 2017

Primetime for Coaching: Improving Instructional Coaching in Early Childhood Education

By Bonnie O'Keefe

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A growing number of early childhood education (ECE) programs are using coaching to support teachers’ professional development and improve the quality of early childhood instruction. Educators work one-on-one with their coaches towards specific, individualized teaching goals, focusing on skills and knowledge they can put into practice in their classrooms.

Research and practice show that coaching, when implemented well, can have positive impacts on educator professional development, student outcomes, instructional leadership, and organizational systems. As a result, more state and federal policies – notably the 2016 Head Start Performance Standards – encourage or require coaching.

There are still many unknown factors and variables behind coaching’s effects, and results can vary substantially. Moreover, many evidence-based models are cost-intensive or difficult to implement at scale. This creates a challenge for programs and policymakers seeking to use coaching to improve early childhood teaching and learning.

Primetime for Coaching: Improving Instructional Coaching in Early Childhood Education seeks to help policymakers and practitioners alike make informed decisions about coaching programs and policies. This report dives deep into the research, policies, and practices around coaching in early childhood today, and uncovers successes, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. Coaching is still evolving, and ECE practitioners and policymakers should understand different trends, goals, and frameworks for coaching so they can make informed choices. This publication:

  • Explains what coaching is and identifies the complex design choices involved in implementing coaching in early childhood settings;
  • Summarizes the growing body of research around coaching, and identifies key gaps and future directions for research;
  • Tracks and analyzes policy trends around coaching in Head Start, state pre-K programs, and state quality rating and improvement systems; and
  • Profiles several diverse coaching approaches and models from the field, to lift up lessons from coaching in practice.

Leaders and decision-makers at different levels of the early childhood sector must think carefully and creatively about how more early childhood educators can access coaching experiences that will effectively advance their instructional practices and allow them to better serve their students. The paper concludes with recommendations for early childhood program leaders, state and federal policymakers, researchers, and philanthropic organizations.

Download the full report here or read it in the viewer below. 

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