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Five Reasons Coaches are Essential in Schools

By Kim Cofino
Five Reasons Coaches are Essential in Schools

Does your school have instructional coaches? Or are you working to build an instructional coaching program? Most schools hire coaches because they believe instructional coaching will improve student learning. While this is true in many situations it’s not the only reason to hire coaches. When coaching is done right, coaches can do so much more than “just” improve student learning.

If your school is just getting started, or maybe you’re wondering about why so many schools are investing in coaches, you’ll learn why instructional coaches are an extremely valuable (and unique) position in a school community. And if you don’t have an instructional coaching program yet, you might want to consider beginning the planning process! 

This article highlights key conversations about the power and potential of instructional coaching from the #coachbetter podcast that I host.

Before sharing the list, it’s important to highlight two things:

1. In this context instructional coaching means: a formal or informal process that:

  • is non-evaluative and confidential (and not tied to appraisal).
  • starts with teacher goals and is invitational for teachers to access.
  • involves a cycle, structure, or system of self-reflection.
  • operates close to the classroom, with observation, co-teaching, or modeling as a central part of the experience.

2: For this kind of environment to thrive there are specific structures that need to be in place in your school. That’s why I designed the Thrive Model for Instructional Coaching Success based on decades of work as a coach, with clients around the world, and expert guests on the #coachbetter podcast. To find out more about what you need to make coaching successful, find all of my free resources here:

Thrive Model (Photo source: Kim Cofino, Eduro Learning. 2022)

Here are the five reasons that instructional coaches are essential in schools that go beyond the benefit to student learning!

1. Their Unique Viewpoint

One of the most powerful things about instructional coaches is that they are often strategically placed in the school to be able to see both the micro (individual classroom and teacher) viewpoint as well as the macro (division or school wide). Instructional coaches are often hired to work across a division or a whole school, but the focus of their work likely begins with individual teachers and can later scale up to teams and groups.

The key here is that instructional coaches are one of the only (if not the only) non-evaluative positions in a school with this view. When you have instructional coaches on staff, they can contribute effectively and insightfully to the strategic planning and goal setting process and then have an equally powerful impact directly in classrooms. 

Deputy Head of School at Dresden International School in Germany, Beth Dressler notes that “coaches come in with a bird’s eye view of the school and have a relationship with the teacher, so they can sometimes see things the teachers can’t see” (Cofino 2019). Coaches can take whole school goals and connect and translate them to an individual level, customized based on what exactly is happening in that teacher’s classroom. 

Instructional coaches have the time and the skillset to take the big picture and apply it at the classroom level, as well as provide insight into the individual teacher or department practice in school or division wide planning.

2:  Their Expertise in Learning 

Instructional coaches are experts in both pedagogy and andragogy; they know how to teach children and adults. As much as we can apply classroom instructional strategies when working with adults, there are key factors to consider about adult learning that make instructional coaches especially unique in schools.

Instructional coaches may also have subject area expertise, but their superpower is expertise in instructional strategies, and their ability to support teachers in all subject areas and grade levels. They understand how adults learn so they can support them in bringing high impact pedagogical strategies to each classroom.

Liz Cho, Principal of Teaching and Learning at Korea International School notes, “If we really value teaching and learning, and the research that goes along with learning sciences, it’s tough work for one person to do. So, in order for teachers to be practitioners that reflect on their practice, a coaching program is essential (Cofino 2020).” Teaching is a complex role. Providing job-embedded support gives teachers the opportunity to be reflective about their practice with a non-evaluative colleague whose role is to help them reach their goals.

Instructional coaches know how to make professional learning relevant and appropriate for all educators, allowing school professional goals to be tailored to every teacher and team on site. This provides ongoing opportunities for personalized learning for teachers, in a way that can be hard to develop without coaches in your community.

3: Their Impact on Culture

Instructional Coaches are supremely skilled at making teachers feel valued, seen, and respected, and can have a huge positive impact on school culture.

Through deep listening, respecting, and valuing teachers' experience and expertise, instructional coaches help teachers recognize their strengths and make professional growth feel like an “intellectual spa.” Instructional coaching, when implemented and supported successfully, can help create a growth mindset culture.

For school leaders, who are incredibly busy, instructional coaches offer the depth of support, in actual classroom settings, that can truly change practice and help teachers feel supported and valued. In a recent conversation Kaitlyn Pettenga, middle school Assistant Principal at International School Panama mentioned: 

“Our coach is critical for culture building, teacher professional learning. It’s a safe space for teacher growth because they’re non-evaluative. I would love to be coaching our teachers on a regular basis, but I have so many other competing expectations, which means I can’t commit to being in classrooms as much as I would like. I love that we have a coach, she’s part of our core leadership team. She makes sure that direct teacher support is happening every day. Teachers love her because she’s not evaluative.” (Personal communication Nov 11, 2022).

Coaches provide job-embedded professional learning that values and respects educators, those with extensive experience, and those that are just starting out. Recognizing the expertise that educators bring to the classroom and supporting them in meeting their next goal develops a growth mindset that builds a community of learners.

4: Their Influential Leadership

Due to their unique viewpoint, instructional coaches are in a position to support and influence both teachers and school leaders. They have the skill set that enables them to empower both teachers and leaders to grow. Coaches are experts at seeing the potential in everyone, and have the ability to cultivate excellence in practice with anyone they work with.

Many school leaders are familiar with the concept of executive coaching, and instructional coaches can provide the same type of support for teachers. Providing the time for teachers to “think aloud” about ideas and potential challenges in their classroom, and then having a coach to support the processing, reflection, and next steps. 

With their unique viewpoint instructional coaches can see the connections between teacher and leadership growth. They have the potential to strategically influence the development of school wide professional learning. As John D’Arcy, then Deputy Head of School at Western Academy of Beijing, points out, “effective coaches are experts at finding the sweet spot between understanding the school’s strategic goals and teachers’ enthusiasm and energy” (Cofino 2019). Instructional coaches are able to make the connection between the big picture macro and the day-to-day micro views, which is what truly creates a shift in practice and culture.

5: Their Ability to Build Capacity

With their macro lens, instructional coaches have the potential to connect teachers to each other beyond departments, grade levels, and divisions. When coaches can see the ways that teachers in different divisions and subject areas can support each other, they can intentionally work towards building capacity among teachers, thereby spreading the potential work of coaching far beyond the exclusive work of coaches.

When instructional coaches intentionally build these cross curricular or divisional connections, they are expanding the potential for professional growth far beyond the work that one individual coach can do. When schools are working to create a growth minded community, where teachers feel empowered to take risks and try new things, the connections between teachers can spread professional learning between individual departments and teams.

Director of Teaching and Learning at the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, Jen Ricks says, “The time to sit down and think about what you’re doing, to have those reflective conversations, is so important. It needs to be normalized in schools. Teachers should want a coach” (Cofino 2022). Developing a culture of growth and development goes far beyond supporting one individual teacher in one classroom, normalizing self-reflection and purposeful practice shifts professional attention on growth rather than perfection.

Maximize Your Coaching Program

When implemented well, an instructional coaching program can do much more than just improve student learning. A coaching culture cultivates a sense of belonging and a focus on ongoing professional growth that is both sustainable and responsive to school-based needs, leading to improved learning for all stakeholders.

Building and supporting instructional coaching is an investment but the rewards are well worth the effort. To ensure that you’re starting from a solid foundation, explore the free resources about the Thrive Model. Developed after working with hundreds of coaches and leaders in international schools around the world, the Thrive Model incorporates both the macro view of a coaching program, and the micro view of a coaches practice, to bring together the three essential elements to make coaching both sustainable and successful. Find all the resources here

If you currently have an instructional coaching program in your school, or you’re just starting to build one, keep these five factors in mind for ways that you can truly maximize the impact your coaches can have. Instructional coaches are influential leaders and can tap into those strengths to support whole school goals and strategic planning in ways that are truly unique to that position. 



Cofino, K. (Host). (2019, June 12). Instructional Coaching as an Intellectual Spa with Niki Dinsdale (39). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. 

Cofino, K. (Host). (2022, Sept 21). Building a Coaching Program with Jen Ricks (172). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning.

Cofino, K. (Host).  (2019, July 10). Coaches as Learning Partners with Beth Dressler(43). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. 

Cofino, K. (Host). (2020, May 20). A School Leader's Perspective on Instructional Coaching with Liz Cho (82). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning.

Cofino, K. (Host). (2019, May 2019). Creating an Empowered Community of Learners with John D’Arcy (37). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. 



Kim Cofino has been an educator in international schools since August 2000. Having lived and worked in Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan, Kim has had a variety of roles in international schools, including (her favorite) instructional coach. Now based in Bangkok, Thailand, Kim is the Co-founder and CEO of Eduro Learning, which offers online customized professional development in a community-driven environment, including COETAILWomen Who Lead, and The Coach Certificate & Mentorship programs. Kim is co-author of Your Connected Classroom: A Practical Guide for Teachers, as well as co-host of the #coachbetter podcast and YouTube series. Find out more about Kim at

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