Effective Coaching in 21st Century Schools

This quarter, as part of my journey through Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program, we are investigating ISTE coaching standards. For this blog post I will be focusing my research on ISTE coaching standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth.

ISTE-C-Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

  1. Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the ISTE Student and Educator standards

My Research Question:

What does effective coaching look like in 21st century schools?


While in my MEd program, I have gotten a lot of attention within my school as someone teachers can come to for any technological help. As able as I am to answer questions and provide assistance, I find myself constantly asking what should my approach to these moments look like each time. My question helps me reflect on what effective coaching looks like in schools like mine where new technology and 21st century skills are now being implemented into the curriculum. What does this mean for the teachers who have never used these technologies or programs before and to the coaches like me who are trying to help support them during this change?

Defining Effective Coaching

Being in the field of education I hear the word “effective” quite often related to student learning, learning environments, assessments, and so on. I believe that as human beings we strive to make our time worthwhile and discover ways to make student achievement as successful as possible. By doing this we research new ideas, new lessons, and new ways to keep students engaged and to keep the material relevant to the world around them. Time is constantly moving forward, and technology has made a huge impacts in the way students are learning in the 21st century. Some teachers are more accepting of this change then others, but essentially we all still want the same thing, student achievement. As a coach, it is our duty to help both those who are accepting change, as well as those who are reluctant to it. To do this we have to remind ourselves what it truly means to be “effective”. Is being effective essentially to be as efficient as possible or is there more to it?

One of my favorite reads this season has been “The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation” written by Elena Aguilar. In chapter 3 of the book, Aguilar introduces “beliefs” that help a coach become more effective. (Aguilar, pg 67) We all have beliefs in something or someone that keeps us going in our most difficult moments and Aguilar describes these beliefs as “strongly held opinions that drive our actions.” (Aguilar, Pg 69-70) She emphasizes the need to reflect on your beliefs and remember those times that you thought you couldn’t do something, but now you can. (Aguilar, Pg 69) Beliefs can always be changed similar to the way we change our instruction based on our students needs. As a coach we seek to help teachers uncover their beliefs and discover how these beliefs help drive their instruction in the classroom. However, as a coach we must first formulate our own coaching beliefs and determine what core values are important to us as individuals. (Aguilar, Pg 83-84) Some examples of beliefs Aguilar provides as a coach are(Aguilar, Pg 78-81):

  • Meet people where they are.
  • There is no coaching without trust.
  • Be here now.
  • Transformation takes time.
  • The journey is the destination.

Rules of Instructional Coaching

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching in the time period we are in, but with the amount of things teachers are asked to do in a single day, as well as implementing technology into our lessons, I go home exhausted and wondering what I could have done better. This makes professional development opportunities so important to educators because they are taking their valuable free time to learn more on how to handle their classroom routines, integrate technology, and so much more. As a teacher, I am always looking for hands-on professional development opportunities. While I am now moving into a new role as a coach, I try to keep in mind the areas in which I needed support and the professional development opportunities that helped build me into the educator I am today. I remind myself of what will be most beneficial to educators I am coaching and try to put myself in their shoes to determine what would be the best professional development opportunity for them to be successful.

While researching effective instructional coaching I found an info-graphic that caught my eye due to its description to “keep coaching relevant, interesting, and even fun!”. I felt this list of rules had everything I was looking for, it provided me with hands-on experiences as well as important suggestions as a new instructional coach. A few of my favorite rules they included were (Holz, 2018):

  1. Expect resistance
  2. Staying up to date
  3. Encourage collaboration
  4. Focus on the teaching, not the teachers
  5. Align with the school’s mission

Teacher Toolbox: 21st Century Skills

Something that is important to highlight in regards to coaching is what it means to transition teachers and classrooms into the 21st century. It is important that educators can see the benefits of a variety of resources when thinking about how to implement new technologies into their classroom. Things like creating online presentations and recordings, posters, digital portfolios and even digital worksheets and quizzes are just a few of the many things currently available at their disposal. (Educatorstechnology, 2016) Providing teachers with several ideas they can use and places they can find them is quintessential when coaching them about 21st century classrooms. Its the range of small tech tools to large technological projects that not only makes the addition of technology effectively easier, but more flexible for the individual teachers and their classroom. Below I have displayed an info-graphic that provides both coaches and teachers a variety of digital skills that are now relevant in 21st century classrooms.

Real Life Example

After researching my question I felt like I learned quite a bit on how to be an effective coach and the steps I need to take to be ready for my new role. I still felt a need to see firsthand what effective instructional coaching would look like on a district level. Luckily for me, I found a great video by Edutopia that helped me see a day in the life of an Instructional Coach. This video is great for those who are just beginning their coaching journey as well as for those who are going to begin working with an instructional coach at your school.


Aguilar, Elena. (2013). The Art of Coaching, Effective Strategies for School Transformation. San Francisco, CA. Jossy-Bass.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. (December 30, 2016). 9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/12/9-fundamental-digital-skills-for-21st.html

Edutopia (Youtube). (September 18, 2015). Instructional Coaching: Seeding District-Wide Innovation. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0IrZ5jrvCo

Holz, Susannah. (April 17, 2018). 12 Rules of effective Instructional Technology Coaching [INFOGRAPHIC]. Retrieved from https://blog.neolms.com/12-rules-of-effective-instructional-technology-coaching/

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