Tyler Jennings, Lower School Dean of Teaching and Learning

Research is conclusive that the most important factor in children’s learning is the quality of their teachers (Burroughs et al., 2019), and increasingly, substantial bodies of research demonstrate that the most effective professional development is instructional coaching (Garet et al., 2016; Gregory, 2017).

What is instructional coaching? It’s a job-embedded type of professional development in which a trained coach works one-on-one with a teacher over time to plan and teach lessons and assess student learning.

It is not surprising that this type of professional development has been proven to be more effective than others (such as workshops and conferences) (Garet, 2001; TNTP, 2015): It’s the only one that enables the professional developer to deeply know the teacher and students, work with them amidst the action of teaching and learning, and support them consistently.

For the past 20 years, many public school districts have invested intensively in coaching (Galey, 2016). Interestingly, the independent school world has not responded to the research in the same way. It is still fairly rare to find a role focused solely on teacher development in elementary divisions and even more so in secondary ones. Historically, independent schools have created organizational cultures that live up to their name: employees, including teachers, have expected a great deal of independence. But is that what’s best for our students? In Milton’s Lower School, by investing in coaching, we are investing in the power of learning together.

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