The First Impression of a Digital Instructional Coach

As an educator I find myself saying “In our jobs, we are never bored”. I mean this as a complement to the profession; it doesn’t matter if I am in a room full of young students, college students, or adult learners, I am never bored and plan on keeping it that way.

Often the cost of this mindset comes in the form of overwhelmed educators who mean well and do not know where to begin when they look at the changes they want to make to the instruction they are providing each day. Add in the extensive needs of students, the chaos of the world we live in and the impact this has on our students and classrooms leads educators to feel overwhelmed.

Many schools and districts are looking to the Instructional Coach to support educators and ease the pressures of the classroom and daily reality. “A Peer Coach is a teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer’s efforts to actively engage students in 21st-century learning activities. Coaches help colleagues improve teaching and learning by assisting them to develop the necessary lesson-design skills and instructional and technology integration strategies needed to prepare their students for college and careers”(Foltos, 2013, pp. 18). How these coaches begin the relationship can be a ticket to the success of the classroom teacher application; first impressions really do matter.

Often times coaches are put in schools where the needs are so dire that school leaders do not know where to begin. I would argue that good coaching needs to happen in all school settings to set the tone and value the partnerships that are anchored in the intent of student growth and success. Digital literacy coaching is connected to this mindset. Throwing laptops and technology at a problem is not going to solve the problem and magically create 21st-century leaders and creators out of today’s students. Coaching needs to be anchored in a common pedagogical practice to support learning through practice and alignment to a set of goals; coaching is learning for the educator.

I have had the pleasure of coaching educators for several years. As a peer coach, I worked with teachers to anchor learning objectives, course practice, and assessment in a standards-based curriculum to grow students and the school as a whole.  I learned early on that in order for theses relationships to work I had to take time to anticipate what the student and the school leadership was expecting out of the partnership. The most successful coaching relationships in my experience have always been one with trust as a foundation; first impressions really do matter.
Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 10.08.17 PM

(Hyman, 2013) illustrates how a coach can actively anticipate what the teacher is going to need. In order to support the educator the Instructional Coach must always move the mindset within the following:

Patience: With students, the teacher, the technology, and the curriculum. In short, a coach must look at what is going on in the educators’ world and be willing to make suggestions without judging. This supports the research behind peer coaching to be free of evaluation to maintain peer relationships and trust.

Observation: As humans, we experience our worlds through our lens. The does not turn off when we enter the workplace. It is important for a coach to understand that they are not there to judge a peer but rather support the inquiry needed to get to the goal. “Effective coaches try to emphasize inquiry over advocacy in their coaching work. In other words, they rely on questioning strategies rather than advocating for any particular solution to the issues facing their peers” (Foltos, 2013, pp. 18). The questions coaches can anticipate the peer needing answered should come from observation.

Awareness: I would argue that one cannot anticipate the needs of others if they are not aware of the environment the peer lives in. This mindset extends to the 21st-century skills and technologies graduates will need to master in order to demonstrate success in a rapidly changing world. Park of the trust a peer puts into a coach is to stay relevant and offer a perspective with the same goal in mind.

With digital coaching, we cannot look at the tools as shiny new toys that are to be played with for only a little bit of time before the user gets bored and moves on to something new or more tried and true. Digital coaches must observe the learning environment, while being aware of the realities and patiently allow for the peer to come to a conclusion about how a tool can support learning for students in the educational setting. The tools, apps, and websites are always going to change, but the pedagogy should consistently support the learning of the students who are living and will be working in the present.

Once a peer coaching relationship has been established it is important to plan out the discourse to maximize the growth and keep all parties on track. The Coaching Plan is driven by a SMART Goal but often the coaching needs to take other factors into account.

“The GROW Model is a coaching framework used in conversations, meetings and everyday leadership to unlock potential and possibilities. GROW was first published by our co-founder Sir John Whitmore in 1992. It has become the world’s most popular coaching model for problem-solving, goal setting and performance improvement”(GROW Model | Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Coaching Model Framework – Performance Consultants,” 2019a; Hyman, 2013).

Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 11.18.19 PM

The realities of today’s educators are often times desperate realities. In order to grow the peer coaching relationship needs to focus on a specific goal, the realities of the environment, the realistic options, and most importantly what the individual is willing to commit towards. The GROW Model supports  ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership as it “Contribute(s) to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels” (ISTE-C 1.b), while implementing “strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” (ISTE-C 1.d).

Now the fun can begin, with the intentions of all parties clear, the real learning and growing can start to happen. The coach and peer can explore the models of digital instructional integration, together they can discuss the current state of the learning environment, the standard and assessment realities, what they hope to see from the students while learning together, and how to utilize pedagogy like the SAMR, TPACK and The Four A’s. With the clarity of the intent, the coach can start anticipating the needs of the peer and create a positive lasting impression that will lead to first impressions that really do matter with other peers in the educational setting.


AVID CENTER. (n.d.). AVID’s Digital Learning Framework. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

GROW Model | Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Coaching Model Framework – Performance Consultants. (2019a, October 11). Retrieved October 11, 2019, from
Hyman, A. (2013, April 25). the-art-of-technology-anticipation [Blog post]. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Hyman, A. (2013, April 25). the-art-of-technology-anticipation [Blog post]. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

ISTE | ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

Koehler, M. (2012, September 12). TPACK.ORG. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

ProTips. (n.d.). SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

Yourcoach. (n.d.). S.M.A.R.T. goal setting | SMART | Coaching tools | YourCoach Gent. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from


Comments are closed.