Learning to Navigate Problems of Coaching Practice: A Study of Instructional Coach Development
Michelson, Joanna L
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This qualitative case study explores middle school instructional coach learning from problems of practice in a reforming, mid-sized, diverse school district over the course of one school year. Drawing on sociocultural learning theory, specifically the idea of learning as guided participation in culturally valued activities, this study investigates what mediated coach learning in the context of problems of practice. Using a framework built from Rogoff's (1995) notion of guided participation, I explore how coaches came to find, understand, and handle problems of practice as they coached teachers. Findings suggest that focal coaches navigated problems of prompting data-based instructional practice and reflection and problems of prompting instructional change. This study offers increased nuance to the field regarding the problematic nature of coaching. Findings suggest that problems of practice do constitute powerful sites of learning for coaches. Findings also suggest that coach learning in the context of problems is mediated by a combination of their own current and past experiences and values, as well as formal guidance from professional development for coaches. The study furthermore illuminates the kinds of interactions in professional development for coaches that supported coach learning from problems, like modeling and guided work with tools. This research suggests that district leaders may find that investing in particular kinds of frequent, differentiated professional development for coaches will help this group of mid-level leaders to develop practices needed to address problems in their work. Implications for district leaders and others concerned with leader development are also considered, as well as conceptual implications regarding the process of learning to coach.
- Education - Seattle 
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