What is Instructional Coaching?

Chalking the Line | Master's Degree in Teacher Leadership | 6 MIN READ

instructional coach

Teachers take students on a journey from struggling with a skill to mastering it on a frequent basis. With their success, students gain confidence and self-esteem. The teacher, in turn, experiences the satisfaction of seeing the impact of effective teaching. The cycle repeats itself as more students succeed on behalf of the motivated teachers. But where does the motivation within the teacher come from? How do we ensure that teachers are continuously staying on top of the latest techniques, methods and curriculum to continue the cycle? More schools are turning to instructional coaches as the answer.

An instructional coach acts as a mentor, working with teachers to improve their effectiveness so they can raise the achievement level of their students. They leverage their classroom experience along with their textbook knowledge to pass on guidance to the next generation of teachers.

What Does an Instructional Coach Do?

The main goal of an instructional coach is to enhance the quality of teachers’ lessons and practices in ways that lead to improved student achievement. Instructional coaches guide teachers to greater effectiveness through a variety of methods, including:

  • Observing and evaluating instructional methods and materials
  • Developing and implementing teaching strategies and curriculum
  • Modeling teaching techniques
  • Motivating and encouraging teachers
  • Providing feedback
  • Monitoring student achievement
  • Providing teacher training and development sessions

An instructional coach learns to think on their feet and rely on their creativity as they adapt their coaching methods to specific teachers and situations. They will collaborate with students, teachers, and administrators to identify problems and find solutions. They will also keep abreast of current and best practices in teaching by regularly participating in professional development activities and learning opportunities. Schools are increasingly turning to instructional coaches to improve teacher effectiveness and student success.

Research shows that instructional coaching influences the practices of teachers through relationship building, self-reflection and goal setting, data analysis and progress monitoring, and individualized professional development and professional learning (Frazier, 2019). As a result, demand is growing for instructional coaches, especially as we come out of the pandemic when schools are focused on closing the academic gaps due to years of student learning loss. At the same time, teachers need professional learning that supports accountability demands from the pandemic and empowers them to be active participants in their own learning and growth (Puntin, 2023). The intentional use of instructional coaching with novice teachers has been shown to increase self-efficacy and the differentiation of instructional coaching with veteran teachers has shown to increase the value of the coaching process for this subgroup (Walsh, Ginger & Akhavan, 2020).

Skills Necessary for Instructional Coaches

Instructional coaches must earn a teacher’s trust in order to create an environment in which positive change can take place. To succeed, they need a strong set of skills, including:

  • Interpersonal and communication
  • Analytical and technological
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Goal setting
  • Time management

Instructional coaches work cooperatively with teachers and administrators to develop teaching strategies, lesson plans, and opportunities for co-teaching. They might also model strategies and lessons, giving teachers the opportunity to see how the new approaches can be implemented. They will reflect on the effectiveness of their instruction, as well as on the teachers’ responses to their recommendations, and be creative in making adjustments when necessary.

A commitment to lifelong learning is essential to successful coaching. Both mentor and mentee will benefit from the knowledge of best practices, current research, technological advancements, and curriculum design. Furthermore, The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% growth in the instructional coaching profession through 2031 and has calculated the median salary to be $63,740.

Requirements to Become an Instructional Coach

The best first step you can take toward becoming an instructional coach is to earn a master’s degree. In most states and schools a master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction, or leadership is required for you to be employed as an instructional coach.

A master’s degree in leadership provides you in-depth knowledge of curriculum, best practices, teaching strategies, and coaching techniques, as well as a set of skills that will serve you throughout your career.

Typical requirements for entering a master’s degree in leadership program include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in education or a related field
  • Several years of teaching experience in a PK-12 setting
  • Knowledge of practices in instruction, curriculum development, and assessment


Some states and schools require an instructional coach to hold a teaching or education administrator license. It is important to review your state’s requirements as you begin your journey to becoming an instructional coach.

Exploring Your Leadership Potential

At Elmhurst University, the Master of Education in Teacher Leadership (MTL) degree and the Teacher Leader Endorsement (TLE) program prepare you to become an instructional coach and leader who encourages high achievement from teachers and their students.

Students in the MTL degree program complete twelve courses in assessment, collaboration, school culture, professional development, leadership, advocacy, and research. The M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership program is designed for licensed teachers who want to move into leadership roles such as:

  • Instructional coach
  • Curriculum specialist
  • Mentor teacher
  • Department chair or team leader
  • Content specialist

For students who have already earned a master’s degree, Elmhurst’s Teacher Leader Endorsement program can be applied to their license and open up new opportunities, including instructional coaching. Teachers without a master’s degree can complete the Teacher Leader Endorsement while completing the MTL.

Improve Educational Outcomes as an Instructional Coach

As an instructional coach with a master’s degree, you will be a sought-after leader and agent of change in the educational arena. You’ll be working with individual teachers and impacting the achievement level of multiple students.

Take the first step to becoming an instructional coach by requesting information about Elmhurst University below.

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Frazier, M. D. (2019). A partnership approach: The influence of instructional coaching on the teaching practices of elementary school teachers. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 80(8-A)(E), ProQuest Information & Learning.

Putin, B. E. (2023). Influences of instructional coaching on middle school math teachers: A case study. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 84(1-A), ProQuest Information & Learning.

Walsh, N. R., Ginger, K., & Akhavan, N. (2020). Benefits of instructional coaching for teacher efficacy: A mixed methods study with PreK-6 teachers in California. Issues in Educational Research, 30 (3), pp. 1143-1161.

Posted August 15, 2023

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