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Coaching and mentoring advice

Coaching and mentoring conversations that have a deliberate aim require a solid foundation. Here, Professor Kathryn Moyle, Research Director at the Australian Council for Educational Research, discusses some of the steps to successfully implement the process.

Be focused

The main focus of coaching and mentoring conversations for school improvement is to build the competency and capability of teachers, so that they can take steps towards achieving the school's strategic vision and priorities in the curriculum, teaching and learning, and assessment, and can effectively make judgments about students’ progress and outcomes.

Open-ended questions can be used to structure the conversations. These questions should require the teacher to undertake some personal reflection, and can be similar to the following:

  • What are your students learning?

  • How are you doing?

  • How do you know?

  • What are your criteria for success?

  • How can you improve?

  • Where do you go for help?

  • What professional learning do you think you require?

Lay the foundations

First, make sure you have the following in place:

  • Commitment by the school leadership to use coaching or mentoring strategies to build the capacity of the school staff;

  • The completion of an accredited coaching or mentoring training program by the principal and the leadership team;

  • Collegiality among the staff and between members of the leadership team and teachers;

  • Clear pedagogy and student assessment expectations that are communicated by teachers with students and by the leadership team with teachers;

  • The school community has a shared understanding of the priorities for school improvement;

  • There is an expectation among the school staff that they practice a culture of continuous improvement and risk-taking based on a cycle of conversations, classroom observations, constructive feedback, and planning and implementing strategies that aim to directly make a difference to classroom practices in line with the priorities identified for school improvement.

Use data

The use of data to inform the achievements and future direction of coaching and mentoring conversations contributes to shared understandings of the outcomes to be achieved by the implementation of specific strategies.
The purposes for using school-based data include:

  • To be able to track individual students’ progress over time;

  • To improve the quality of instruction in each class across the school, in order to align to the school’s vision for improvement;

  • To determine both individual students' achievements and each student’s progress;

  • To understand where the school stands in regards to planned improvements;

  • To provide a basis for ongoing coaching and mentoring conversations between the principal, leadership team and teachers.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.