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The Coaching Cycle: Before, During, and After

By Ellen Eisenberg
 | Mar 18, 2015

In this era of accountability, fiscal challenges, and demands for highly qualified teachers, school communities need to be creative, innovative, and resourceful. Every child deserves a high-quality education, and every teacher deserves resources to accomplish that goal—no argument there! But that’s not the challenge. The challenge is establishing and sustaining an environment that provides opportunities to improve student learning and build teacher capacity.

One way teachers receive ongoing support is through instructional coaching. With instructional coaches helping teachers implement effective instructional practices, teachers are more likely to collaborate and try new things that are not in their repertoire of instructional delivery.

Instructional coaching is intended to reinforce teachers’ and administrators’ practices in ways that support schools, so instruction is rigorous, delivery is effective, and assessment is appropriate for student learning to improve. Instructional coaching influences what students learn, increases student engagement, builds teacher capacity, and helps students and teachers become more successful learners.

One of the ways for coaches to support effective instructional practice and the ongoing collective problem solving and collaboration that promotes quality instruction is to adopt a three-pronged approach. We call it the Before, During, and After (BDA) cycle of consultation. This sounds like it takes considerable time to implement a cycle; however, a coach and a teacher must consider how these conversations help identify areas of strength and areas of need as an overall teacher professional development model. Where else could a teacher and a coach work together, plan together, rehearse the content delivery structures, and then debrief about what worked well in the classroom? That’s a win–win situation for the students, teachers, and coaches!

So what does that look like?

In the planning, or “before” session, the coach and the teacher co-construct what the goals are and on which elements the teacher would like the coach to focus. They also schedule a time for debriefing, which should occur after they both have a chance to reflect on the visit. The “during” is where the coach and the teacher see the elements discussed in the first session. It is the content for the debriefing session. In the “after” session, the coach and the teacher reflect on the goals they co-constructed. Were the goals met? If not, what practices need to be strengthened to accomplish those goals? What could the teacher have done differently in order to achieve those goals?

Following the BDA cycle of coaching and consultation on a regular basis provides ample opportunities for coaches and teachers to work together to unpack a variety of statewide initiatives that require teachers to redefine what they teach and rethink how they do it. The cycle enhances the opportunity for teachers to coplan, rehearse, coteach, and then debrief with their coaches so that they can accomplish their goals.

The single most important quality of a coach is the ability to build strong, collaborative relationships. No one knows everything about content even in one’s own area of certification. No one knows every strategy or instructional technique that promises to improve student outcomes. No one knows all there is to know about his or her students or schoolwide community. What a coach knows, however, is the power of collaboration and the tremendous influence collective problem solving has to improve the ongoing teaching and learning that must be present in order for students, teachers, administrators, and schools to be successful and help prepare our students for society. Coaches following a pattern for supporting teachers through the BDA cycle of consultation provide a framework that helps define purpose, practice, and persistence.

Ellen Eisenberg is the executive director of the PA Institute for Instructional Coaching in Narberth, PA, and a former head of English for Philadelphia Schools.


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