CPD research argues case for ‘incremental coaching’

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The power of a professional development technique known as “incremental coaching” to improve the effectiveness of teaching has been spelt out in a new report.

Incremental coaching is based on an approach to observation and follow-up conversations advocated in Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo.

Combining short observations and “action-based” conversations, incremental coaching takes a “one step at a time” approach to developing teachers.

Published on Friday (June 9) by leadership development charity Ambition School Leadership, the research summary is based on the work of six case study schools and reports a positive impact on pupils.

The report states: “Incremental coaching is a regular, frequent and on-going cycle of short observations and action-based follow-up conversations to help teachers develop specific aspects of practice. One-to-one coaching is tailored to each teacher’s needs.”

The report suggests that example topics for these short observations might be timing lessons better, ending lessons calmly, or techniques to engage all pupils in class discussions.

The approach differs to more widely used professional coaching or mentoring techniques. Incremental coaching is based around minimal intervals between observation and follow-up and, crucially, there is timetabled time for coaches and coachees.

Each teacher gets one-to-one incremental coaching tailored to their own and their pupils’ needs.

The dialogue uses a mix of review, praise, feedback, reflection, modelling, planning and goal-setting. It is not part of performance management and it focuses on one action step at a time until this has been embedded into practice.

In the six case study schools, the coaches were often senior leaders or department/subject leaders within schools and both the coaches and coachees reported positive results.

The report states: “Schools can readily give examples of how incremental coaching has helped transform teachers’ practice within months. Asked if they would value career-long incremental coaching, most agreed. They would also recommend it to others. Almost 80 per cent said that incremental coaching remains beneficial, even for expert teachers.”

The report focuses on why schools might consider the approach as part of their CPD and how they can introduce the method, either starting with NQTs and building up, running a pilot or a whole-school introduction.

Key to a successful introduction of incremental coaching, the report adds, is carefully matched coaching pairs, well-trained coaches, and coaching champions within the school.

CEO of Ambition School Leadership, James Toop, said: “The most important job for school leaders is to support high-quality teaching. Our new report explains how incremental coaching can be an effective way to develop teaching quality, share practice between departments and instil a culture of constant improvement.

“Initiatives like incremental coaching is one example of the ways that leaders in the schools we work with are improving the outcomes of their pupils, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

For more information on the approach and to download the research summary, visit http://www.ambitionschoolleadership.org.uk/increme...

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