A new study suggests that giving teachers individualized coaching based on videos of their instruction can help them become more effective in the classroom. Professional coaches—rather than district or school staff—gave teachers feedback after observing these videos. Coaches provided feedback in highly structured “cycles” that involved selecting short video clips from a teacher’s recorded lesson, providing written feedback to help the teacher reflect on the clips, and holding a videoconference with the teacher to discuss the feedback.
This study sheds new light on how much coaching is needed to improve teachers’ effectiveness. The research team tested two versions of coaching over a single school year—one provided five cycles of coaching, and another provided eight.
Key findings from the project, conducted for the Institute of Education Sciences, include the following:
- Five cycles of video-based coaching for teachers improved student achievement in English language arts by an amount equivalent to three percentile points on state assessments or about two additional months of learning on average. Students taught by teachers who received five cycles of coaching had higher test scores in English language arts than students taught by teachers who did not receive the coaching. Although the differences in math scores were similar in size, the study could not definitively conclude that the coaching improved math achievement.
- Eight cycles of coaching were not effective, perhaps due to time constraints. Students whose teachers received eight cycles of coaching had math and English language arts test scores similar to those of students whose teachers did not receive the coaching. The eight-cycle group had less time between coaching cycles than the five-cycle group did. This may have reduced the amount of time teachers had during each cycle to work on the practices being addressed, potentially limiting the coaching’s effects.
- Coaching affected the type of feedback teachers received. Compared with their peers who did not receive coaching, teachers who did receive coaching were more likely to report receiving feedback that focused on specific teaching practices and gave them a chance to observe and reflect on their teaching. However, the study did not detect improvements in teachers’ practices.
“Improving teachers’ effectiveness is key to boosting student achievement,” noted Jeffrey Max, a principal researcher at Mathematica. “Our study suggests individualized, video-based coaching is a cost-effective way to help students by supporting their teachers.”
Researchers on this study randomly divided 107 elementary schools into three groups: one that received five cycles of coaching, one that received eight cycles, and one that continued its usual strategies for supporting teachers. The study compared teachers’ experiences and students’ achievement across the three groups to determine the effectiveness of the two versions of the coaching.