7 Steps to Facilitate Effective One-to-One Support for Teachers

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A primary school in Kampala. Uganda. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank A primary school in Kampala. Uganda. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank

We know from research, practice, and even personal experience that teachers who receive high-quality, ongoing support teach more effectively. Specifically, 1-1 coaching, with the help of high-quality pedagogical leaders (i.e., coach, principal, or anyone qualified to support teachers) who consistently conduct individualized support sessions with teachers, has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve teaching.

But what does this coaching support look like in practice?

While each coaching relationship is different and will depend on individual and contextual factors, there are specific actions pedagogical leaders can take during 1-1 coaching sessions that have been shown to facilitate teacher learning and behavior change. Our new Implementing Effective 1-1 Support technical guidance note synthesizes such evidence from around the world to provide explicit guidance on how pedagogical leaders can provide effective 1-1 support to teachers. This note details what a high-quality coaching cycle entails, building on our Structuring Effective 1-1 Support technical guidance note that details how policymakers can design effective 1-1 support systems for teachers.

What is the Coaching Cycle?Relationship building

This cycle offers a step-by-step blueprint for what should happen each time a pedagogical leader meets with a teacher. This blueprint provides a map for how pedagogical leaders can provide high-quality support to teachers that is tailored, practical, focused, and ongoing. But putting the cycle in action across diverse settings can be hard, so here we draw from our recent note to answer a few burning questions about how Pedagogical leaders can facilitate effective 1-1 support:

Relationship Building. How can pedagogical leaders break the ice and build rapport? A trusting coaching relationship rooted in shared goals, open communication, and clear expectations is critical. How this 1-1 relationship is established initially matters. When meeting teachers for the first time, pedagogical leaders can generate a genuine connection by learning more about the teacher and local school community. Moreover, pedagogical leaders can also  clarify expectations by explaining that they are there to support, not inspect teachers, emphasizing that their job is to be the teacher’s champion and help them grow.

Step 0: Prepare. How should pedagogical leaders prepare for each 1-1 session? Pedagogical leaders should come to each session having reviewed what was discussed in the last visit, including, teacher goals and 1-2 areas on which to focus during the 1-1 session. But pedagogical leaders also should prepare to be ready to adapt if teachers’ needs have changed since the previous visit. Being responsive can strengthen rapport and help teachers see the 1-1 support as relevant to their needs and priorities, further motivating learning and growth.

Step 1: Check-in. How should pedagogical leaders’ check-in with teachers before conducting 1-1 sessions? Pedagogical leaders should take a few moments before each 1-1 session to check-in with teachers, asking general questions and aligning on the 1-1 session plans. The check-in allows pedagogical leaders and teachers to align on expectations and plans explicitly. This check-in with teachers can be done via SMS or phone the day before the 1-1 session.

Step 2: Observe. How can pedagogical leaders conduct quality classroom observations? Focusing observations on a few specific areas of classroom practice, instead of trying to comment on every aspect of a lesson, can help keep the 1-1 session focused, tailored, and practical. Moreover, pedagogical leaders can use a validated observation tool (like Teach). Lastly, before observing, pedagogical leaders should share and discuss the observation tool with teachers to set clear expectations of effective teaching and answer any questions the teacher may have.

Step 3: Reflect. How can pedagogical leaders facilitate meaningful reflection? Reflecting for learning and growth is a process and skill that takes practice. To support teachers’ reflective capacities and opportunities for growth, pedagogical leaders can use guiding questions, observation notes, videos of classroom practice, and debriefing templates that help teachers to first describe, then evaluate, and analyze their classroom teaching experiences and next steps. Pedagogical leaders also can help teachers to ‘slow down’ and spend time examining any surprises or unexpected events from teachers’ classroom experiences, which often offers opportunities for new insight and approaches to teaching.

Step 4: Feedback. How can Pedagogical leaders deliver feedback effectively? In order for feedback to be effective, Pedagogical leaders should discuss feedback as soon as possible after the observation, ensure feedback focuses on areas for improvement instead of areas of criticism, and justify feedback with examples from the observed lesson. Instead of telling teachers what to do, pedagogical leaders should strive to help teachers understand the desired practice, contrast with their current practice, and identify ways to close any gaps between the two. Thinking of feedback as a dialogue can ensure teachers benefit from discussing and internalizing feedback through constructive conversation.

Step 5: Practice. How can pedagogical leaders practice deliberately with teachers while slowly shifting the responsibility to teachers? Pedagogical leaders can utilize “deliberate practice,” which is a high quality, intentional, and scaffolded form of practice in which teachers are supported by a pedagogical leader to build expertise over time. Deliberate practice includes: (a) focusing on one or two skills to avoid overwhelming teachers and to slowly build teachers’ capabilities step-by-step; (b) breaking down complex behaviors into clear steps and then modelling these steps for teachers; (c) creating practice activities that are targeted to the teacher’s current capability and scaffolded so that the teacher is challenged, but not overwhelmed by something new.

Step 6: Set Goals. How can pedagogical leaders support teachers to achieve their goals? Supporting teachers to clearly detail how they intend to achieve their goals increases the likelihood of success. Pedagogical leaders can do this with two simple steps: plan when and how teachers will implement the goal. For example, instead of simply setting a goal such as “check for understanding more,” the pedagogical leader can help the teacher (a) identify specific situations when the teacher should check for understanding and (b) determine how to respond to such situations.

The specifics of How pedagogical leaders facilitate 1-1 support is critical to quality coaching. Ensuring pedagogical leaders have the time and resources for quality coaching is an investment in learning for teachers and students alike. Policymakers therefore need to give pedagogical leaders sufficient training and time to support teachers deliberately and deeply, like in Punjab, Pakistan, which is providing high-quality, 1-1 support at scale. The World Bank’s Coach team has undergone a rigorous process to develop the Implementing Effective 1-1 Support technical guidance note, including reviewing research literature and consulting with expert researchers and practitioners. We are now sharing the note for public consultation, to ensure that we incorporate a broad range of perspectives and voices and make these resources most useful for policymakers and other stakeholders.

Please reach out to us at coach@worldbank.org to share your feedback by November 31, 2021 and stay tuned for more opportunities to engage with our work.


Tracy Wilichowski

Analyst, Education Global Practice

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