Instructional Leadership & Coaching - Challenge Map
Challenge Map

Professional Learning & Support

Instructional Leadership & Coaching

The Challenge

Teachers need support in their everyday work with students, but some principals and school-level leaders do not have the time, skills, or relevant experience to provide high-quality instructional support. In these cases, schools are challenged to identify effective instructional leaders and models of embedded support. Instructional coaching is a research-based solution that is growing in popularity because it provides a personalized, situated, and sustained way for teachers to learn and practice instructional strategies alongside expert educators. Yet, barriers such as budgeting, staffing, scheduling, and a lack of clear models/best practices make it challenging to effectively implement. Districts are also wondering if it is best to invest in scaling coaching, including by adopting technology for professional coaching, or to find other ways to address the challenge of instructional leadership.

Challenge Stats


School leaders responded this challenge is widespread


Respondents reported their schools or districts have made progress on this challenge

Ideas from the Field

  • Districts are using a variety of approaches based on local school culture and needs to support teachers. In some cases this is embedded coaching, and in some cases this is a “coaching blitz”, in which as many as six coaches are deployed to one school that is particularly struggling.
  • Another common theme among districts is continuing to push the principal as the instructional leader for the school, and ensuring that the principal has training and skills to set the tone for effective instruction in each school.

In the Words of District Staff

We pushed our principals to become instructional leaders. We wanted them to lead the building-level PLCs and the professional development that was going on in their building. For a lot of them, this was scary stuff, because that's not their level of expertise. They weren't comfortable with it. Some had left the classroom years ago, so this was really a shift in paradigm for them.

“Higher ed institutes are pumping out the same educators they've done for years. As they enter our systems, how do we transform their skills so they are more literate about integrating tech? I think there's a lack of coaching to support this cause...There's a person that can teach you a few things on how to integrate the technology, but there's a big difference between someone teaching it to you in a one-hour staff meeting and a coach who is embedded into how you design things structurally in your classroom.”

“Probably the biggest challenges are making sure that we have the right quality of person doing the instructional coaching, and then working to find the time in the school day where that collaboration can occur. ”


Instruction & Teacher Learning topic page - From Digital Promise, an introduction and key findings from the research on instruction and teacher learning, including links to additional resources.

Technology Coaching Micro-Credentials - From Digital Promise, this stack of Micro-Credentials provides educators with competency-based recognition for the technology coaching skills.

Dynamic Learning Project - Digital Promise launched the Dynamic Learning Project with the goal to increase educational equity and powerful use of technology through instructional coaching.

Moving from Compliance to Agency What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work - From Learning Forward, this report posits that to transform professional learning to better support educators, education leaders will need to pay greater attention to the importance of teacher agency.

The Teacher's Quest for Progress - From the Christensen Institute, this report describes how school leaders can motivate instructional innovation.

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