Experienced Early Childhood (EC) coaches whose interactions with teachers were recorded across a period of two years showed a range of coaching behaviors that were consistent with those that have been established as key practices in the existing literature. Analyses of these conversations revealed six predominant themes in the work and beliefs of experienced EC coaches. Having a clear and intentional focus, building upon previously trained strategies, and systematically documenting each session were raised by the EC coaches as being key principles of their practice. —Akane Yoshida
One-to-One Coaching and Coaching Behaviors
One-to-one coaching has become established as a key form of professional development for Early Childhood (EC) teachers in recent years, and yet “little is known about what EC coach qualities and competencies are important for successful implementation of EC coaching practices.” Certain key practices, such as establishing a positive relationship with the mentee, joint planning, making direct connections to observations, and maintaining coaching relationships for longer than 6 months are positively correlated with increased implementation of learned content and skill transfer; however, there is little consensus on minimum experience or education requirements for an effective EC coach.
In this study, the Thompson, Marvin, and Knoche analyzed a series of coaching conversations between two EC coaches and their teacher mentees that took place over a period of two years while considering the 12 behaviors for EC coaching conversations (ECCC) originally defined by Knoche and Bainter (2012):1
- establishes/re-establishes a relationship with the teacher;
- Encourages the teacher to share observations and priorities;
- encourages connections to previous conversation/session;
- invites collaboration for topics of conversation;
- introduces new topics for conversation;
- verbally acknowledges or affirms teacher’s feelings, behaviors, and input;
- shares specific observations or information;
- shares observations, information, or suggestions based on inference/opinion, in response to teacher’s question/request;
- invites input/reflection using questions to promote comparison/analysis;
- clarifies intent using yes/no questions;
- uses feedback in response to teachers input/questions/responses; and
- promotes joint planning by using questions, comments, or clarifying statements.
The two EC coaches who participated in the study were recruited from a sample of four such professionals who were already enrolled in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) research study on the effects of parent-teacher partnerships on early childhood outcomes over a number of years. These EC coaches were specifically chosen due to their relationship with their teacher mentees as an additional aim of this study was to fill the gap in the prevailing research base by exploring whether there are any differences in the approach that EC coaches take at the beginning of a new coaching relationship as opposed to once the relationship is well established.
Individual interviews were conducted with each coach to gain their perspectives on the benefits of coaching relationships, their level of previous training, and a description of their duties. A series of 24 audio recordings of coaching conversations—12 for each coach—were reviewed and coded in order to “capture collective evidence of varied coaching topics and behaviors over time” and to establish a rate-per-minute occurrence for the 12 behaviors for ECCC listed above.
The coaches reflected on two years of coaching a mentee, and six themes of practice emerged: advancing relationships, using key coaching behaviors, use of a structured coaching approach, using trained strategies/practices, using documentation, and coaching benefits/outcomes.
Each coach used all 12 of the ECCC behaviors each with varying rates. Verbally acknowledging or affirming the teacher’s feelings, behaviors, and input occurred every 3 - 5 minutes, whereas behaviors around sharing observation and requesting input happened about every 10 minutes.
When comparing the beginning of the relationship to an established relationship, nine of the 12 coaching behaviors were used at similar rates, and three behaviors (verbally acknowledging or affirming teacher’s feelings, behaviors and input, promoting joint planning, and clarifying intent) increased as the relationship developed. Thompson et al. suggest that these findings be taken into account for professional development programs and coursework for coaches.
Thompson, P. J., Marvin, C. A., & Knoche, L. L. (2021). Practices and Reflections of Experienced, Expert Early Childhood Coaches. Infants & Young Children, 34(4), 337-355.
Summary by: Akane Yoshida — Akane believes in the MARIO Approach because it puts student agency at the heart of the learning and goal-setting process. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.
- Knoche, L., & Bainter, S. (2012). Early childhood coaching conversation codes. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, University of Nebraska Lincoln.