Principal Leadership and the Implementation of a District Instructional Coaching Framework

Boland, Maureen, Administration and Supervision - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Eddy Spicer, David, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The use of instructional coaches as a tool to strengthen teacher practices and increase student achievement is expanding in school districts throughout the nation, and the work of school principals is critical to its successful implementation (Borman, Feger & Kawakami, 2006; Coggins, Stoddard & Cutler, 2003; Knight, 2006; Neufeld & Roper, 2003). My capstone project focused on the influence of principal sensemaking and leadership on the implementation of a district-defined instructional coaching model.

The purpose of this study was to look closely at the district’s decade’s old instructional coaching framework and to investigate how that framework was interpreted and then implemented in a small geographic area of the school system. The problem of practice explored through my research was the perception of a lack of consistent implementation of the coaching model by school principals.

The study took part in two phases from April 2016 - June 2016. Phase one involved electronic surveys that were made available to principals, coaches, and teachers in eight schools in the sub-district chosen for the study. The results of the surveys were analyzed and three school sites were selected for further research. In phase two, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the principals, instructional coaches, and three teachers at each of the case study schools.

Findings from the study highlighted the importance of the role of the principal in shaping coaching practices in schools. The key decisions made by the principals in the study were shaped by their own backgrounds and beliefs. These decisions prioritized the coaches’ time, determined the instructional content of the coaching model, allocated time for coaching practices, and shaped their relationship with the instructional coach.

My research indicated that despite there being a “district coaching framework,” coaching practices were varied across school settings. Commonalities included individual and group coaching practices, but differences included the time devoted to each and the level of transparency and the confidentiality upheld between coaches and administrators.

As a result of these discrepancies in implementation and the level of principal sensemaking that influenced implementation, the following recommendations were made. 1) Principals should be given the option to shape the coaching framework as needed in each of their schools. 2) The district should have a flexible time allocation for coaching practices in the coaching model. 3) The district should support principals in creating a communication plan to effectively share coaching objectives and outcomes with staff members. 4) The district should support principals with the implementation of successful coaching models by providing on-site school support and opportunities to gather to discuss the coaching program. 5) The district should work with principals to develop a tool that will help evaluate the coaching programs in their schools. 6) The district should embark on a regular cycle of program evaluation for the instructional coaching program.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
instructional coaching, sensemaking, professional development, leadership
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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