What is Teacher Coaching?

I could have been a great teacher. I taught elementary Spanish for two years in rural Mississippi. In those two years, my principal set foot in my classroom exactly once: to make sure there was nothing blocking the fire exits before a building inspection.

I struggled through my first year, and most days I left school with a sinking feeling that my students hadn’t learned anything, and that I had no idea what to do about that. Feeling ineffective day in and day out with no feedback from my principal and no clear path for growth was the main driver of my decision to leave the classroom after two years.

My story is not unique, and thankfully the tide is changing. More and more, schools and districts are implementing teacher coaching systems in their schools, so let’s get down to it: what is teacher coaching?


Teacher coaching is just what it sounds like: the process of observing the practice of a teacher and coaching him / her to better outcomes through feedback, reflection, goal-setting, and practice.

While the details vary from school to school, characteristics of effective teacher coaching systems include:


  • Frequent classroom observation, typically conducted by an instructional leader or master teacher
  • Post-observation feedback conversation held within 48 hours
  • Identification of 1 targeted area for instructional growth and a related “action step” (or “key lever”) to help a teacher improve
  • Co-planning and practicing ways the teacher can implement the action step
  • Follow up observation to assess the effectiveness of action step implementation


There are teacher coaching standouts in districts and charter schools alike.

Our partners, Uncommon Schools and YES Prep pioneered systems similar to the bullets above, and their models are now used by both traditional public and charter schools nationally.

Denver Public School’s LEAP program is innovating around how to keep talented teacher leaders in the classroom, allowing master teachers to divide their days into teaching blocks and coaching blocks, during which they observe and provide feedback to other teachers.

We want to hear from you! How does your school do teacher coaching? In your opinion, what organizations are doing teacher coaching well? Add your thoughts in the comments below.