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Problematizing Instructional Coaching for Early Grade Reading: An Open Space Deep-Dive on Issues of Sustaining it at Scale in Low-Resource Contexts

Wed, March 8, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Atlanta, 1, Georgia 11 (South Tower)

Session Submission Type: Group Panel

Description of Session

The international evidence base strongly suggests that instructional coaching is one of the most important interventions for improving teacher practice, and in turn, early grade reading outcomes. In particular, providing individual coaching has been shown to be critical for getting teachers to implement new techniques and use new materials with fidelity. High frequency of coaching has also been found to be critical for teachers to have the consistent support and follow-up necessary to correctly use these materials and techniques in their classrooms.
Stemming from this evidence base, donors such as USAID have begun to require coaching to support early grade reading, with visits usually once every 10 days to two weeks. To date, most USAID-supported interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa have facilitated this coaching practice through models dependent wholly dependent on project resources and people outside the education system. This model has shown to be difficult to scale up and particularly difficult to integrate into government-run systems independent of project support.
The purpose of this panel is to grapple with questions that arise – from government officials and project staff – when trying to scale-up and institutionalize coaching. These include: Who will be the coach in the long-run? What to do when existing education system actors who are otherwise well-positioned to be a coach a) are too few to cover the number of teachers requiring visits , b) have too many other demands on their time, c) do not have the means or money for transport to schools, and/or d) do not have the necessary background or qualifications? Reading is only one subject among other curricular reforms; could/should coaches support other subjects as well? What happens when school directors or other school leadership serve as coaches? How can a project support the initiation of a coaching model designed to be both effective and sustainable in the long-run? Who coaches the coach? Could teacher learning circles take the place of coaching in places where coaches are not forthcoming? What are the formal and informal incentives and institutions working for and against the scale-up of instructional coaching for reading, and how can external aid help countries with limited resources integrate coaching in their education systems?
This panel will start with an introductory presentation to launch the conversation, addressing the issues raised above using case study data from the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere. The session will then proceed with participant-led discussions using Open Space to allow our CIES community of practice to dig deeper into the key coaching questions that matter most to all participants present for the session. This is in keeping with CIES 2017’s invitation for panel sessions using “new and different forms of presentation and audience engagement / interaction.” It also aims to address the theme of (in)equality in content and process – including with regard to how CIES panels are normally run and who normally creates the “evidence base.” Representatives of ministries of education are particularly encouraged to participate.

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