Coaching as a Key Component in Teachers’ Professional Development

Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings

By Chrishana M. Lloyd, Emily L. Modlin

Head Start CARES (Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social Skill Promotion) is a large-scale, national research demonstration that was designed to test the effects of a one-year program aimed at improving pre-kindergarteners’ social and emotional readiness for school. To facilitate the delivery of the program, teachers attended training workshops and worked with coaches throughout the school year.

This report focuses on the planning and implementation of the coaching component in the Head Start CARES demonstration. Beginning with an overview of coaching as a model of professional development generally and the demonstration’s coaching model in particular, the report then offers practical lessons learned about coaching social-emotional curricula in a large and complex early childhood education system.

Geared toward early childhood education administrators and practitioners who are interested in adopting or modifying a coaching model, the lessons learned address the selection of the coaching model; coach hiring and training; coaching processes; coach support and supervision; and program management, data, and quality assurance.

Key Findings

  • When selecting a coaching model, administrators need to carefully consider the variety of models that are available and choose the model that best suits their particular context.

  • Communication about the coaching model and the coaching goals and objectives should include everyone who is involved in the coaching process.

  • Successful coaches exhibited a combination of skills in three important areas: knowledge of the program, general coaching and consultation skills, and knowledge of and experience in early childhood development and/or teaching.

  • Successful implementation of the coaching model necessitates taking sufficient time to locate skilled coaches, providing support in multiple areas, and training coaches in advance of their work with teachers.

  • Teachers need time and privacy in order to reflect on implementation processes with coaches.

  • Incorporating coaching into day-to-day practices requires flexibility and is necessary for implementation success.

  • Site-level administrators must be actively engaged in supporting and supervising coaching as well as general implementation processes.

  • Building an infrastructure that allows for continuous quality assurance and monitoring of the coaching model is essential for high-quality program management.

These lessons constitute a first step toward defining a set of core principles regarding coaching implementation in early childhood education settings. More in-depth findings on coaching, professional development, and the study more generally will be offered in forthcoming reports.

Lloyd, Chrishana M. and Emily Modlin. 2012. Coaching as a Key Component in Teachers’ Professional Development. New York: MDRC.