The Role of Coaching in Primary School Teachers’ Improved Practice
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In New Zealand schools, effective teacher practice is identified as a critical component in ensuring that students achieve their potential (Ministry of Education, 2007). An increasingly popular approach school leaders use to improve teacher practice is the use of coaching to encourage teachers to reflect and refine areas of their professional practice. Although the use of coaching can create efficient systems for improving the practice and pedagogy of teachers, the purpose of this research is to explore, critically examine and understand how coaching achieves improved primary school teachers’ practices. Furthermore, this research is concerned with understanding and examining the ways educational leaders use coaching to influence and improve teachers’ practice. It also seeks to identify and understand primary school teachers perspectives as to how coaching has benefitted their practice. Four research questions that guided this study were: • How do educational leaders resource coaching? • How do educational leaders give coaching the best chance of working? • In what ways do teachers perceive that coaching has affected their teaching practice? • What are the perceived enablers and barriers to effective coaching? A qualitative approach was utilised for this study. Eight educators (principals, deputy principals and teachers) from two Auckland primary schools similar to my own participated in semi-structured interviews. Using an interpretive approach, the findings of this research were analysed. This research is important because it highlighted the actions school leaders can take to improve the likelihood of coaching having the desired effect for improving teacher practice. The data revealed three major themes i) the tangible factors that affect coaching; ii) coaching as a strategic function designed to achieve transformational change for an organisation; and iii) the interpersonal behaviours that result in coaching having an impact on teacher practice. A number of recommendations arose from this research, in particular the need for school leaders to understand the multiple factors impacting on effective coaching environments that are required for coaching to have the desired effect of improving teacher practice. Coaching models can support the compliance driven accountability measures of a school’s strategic initiatives when leaders include teachers in the decision making processes. When coaching practices are appropriately resourced throughout all professional interactions and engagements, coaching models can support the practices of reflection, productive dialogue and teacher improvement.