Understanding the Role of Professional Networks in K-12 Instructional Coaches’ Growth and Development
Instructional coaching is one of the most impactful forms of professional development that results in improved teacher instruction and student achievement in a K-12 setting (Kraft et al., 2018), yet little consensus exists on how to best support coaches. Lakota Local Schools has a team of 17 instructional coaches, known as Team Inspire, who support educators across the entire district with both curriculum and technology integration. Due to COVID-19, Team Inspire was not afforded as many opportunities to formally gather as an entire team to focus on their own professional development related to coaching teachers. Faced with feelings of isolation and the need to better understand how to support their coaches, Lakota formed a professional network of coaches across the state of Ohio called the Ohio Coach Network (OCN). A total of 28 coaches across eight districts joined the OCN; nine of them were Lakota coaches. Lakota was interested in learning more about the benefits of participation in the OCN for their coaches. This mixed-methods study collected seven sources of data from Lakota’s coaches: a pre- and post-survey of network participants, a survey of non-network participants, a focus group with participants, an interview with the network facilitator, and coding of the meeting slides and Slack channel. Lakota’s coaches found the network to be a valuable source of professional development that met all seven key components of HQPD cited across the literature. When compared to previous professional development provided in the past two years, coaches favored the network, and in particular the cross-district coach-to-coach collaboration. Furthermore, the OCN contributed to 100% of participants’ learning as a coach, and 80% of participants’ confidence as a coach. The most popular suggestion for improvement to the OCN was to have additional districts join. Finally, there were two primary areas of professional development needed to further support coaches. First, coaches need more training on the technology tools and programs used by teachers. Second, building principals need support in understanding the role of coaches in the district and how to best support them.