In-class coaching helps prepare teachers to become master Direct Instruction (DI) teachers. It is intended to improve teachers’ mastery of DI techniques at the same time that it builds teachers’ confidence in their abilities to effect positive changes in student performance. Coaching involves observing teachers instructing groups, providing specific feedback on what was observed, demonstrating parts of lessons and modeling entire lessons.
Two levels of consultants from the National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI) provide the bulk of coaching the first year of implementation: an Implementation Manager (IM), who comes on site between two and four days a month (depending on the size of the school) and a Project Director (PD), a senior DI expert who comes on site less frequently. Both consultants participate in the weekly phone conference calls. Teachers who participate in the NIFDI coaches training series assume coaching duties in subsequent years.
The NIFDI coaching visits are non-evaluative. The focus is on student performance and student behavior. Coaching visits are designed to provide useful feedback to teachers and the building coordinator about what’s working well for students and what needs improvement. NIFDI consultants reinforce what’s working well and ask staff to change only those teaching behaviors that make a difference with children. The orientation of the coaching visits is that learning problems should be solved jointly between NIFDI and the school.
By its very nature, the coaching process has the potential to be disruptive to the classroom. NIFDI strives to minimize interruptions and thereby maintain the flow of teaching as much as possible. Before entering the classroom for the first time, NIFDI consultants meet with teachers to explain the coaching process. When possible, the process is also explained to the students. After each visit, NIFDI consultants provide written feedback on what they observe and what they recommend. Common problems that NIFDI consultants observe become the focus of in-service training sessions.
IMPORTANT: Preservice and in-service training sessions provide teachers with critical skills needed to implement DI in the classroom, but training and practice cannot completely simulate the classroom experience. Students can make a wide variety of responses to instruction. Every classroom situation is different, and every instructional group is unique. Only through several years of regular, on-going, in-class coaching can teachers learn how to respond effectively to the full range of student behaviors.