Supporting Equitable Instruction with PD+Coaching

This post builds upon my last posts in which I talk about the importance of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) and how to design ambitious instruction for your school or district that honors the HQIM.


To make sure that all students are receiving strong, standards-aligned instruction with HQIM aligned to those standards, we need to provide all teachers with professional development and in-class coaching grounded in the instructional strategies and materials.[15]

The best professional development is short (generally no longer than 2 hours) and adheres to the principles of andragogy – the method and practice of teaching adult learners. As such, when we provide teachers with professional development, teachers are only pulled away from their students for a minimal amount of time. And during that time, the professional development is relevant to the adults, honors their existing experience, and allows the teachers to actively craft the flow of the professional development.

Ideally, professional development outside the classroom is paired with in-class demonstrations and coaching to ensure an implementation of the ambitious instruction envisioned by the school or district.

It has long been recognized that mathematics-specific instructional coaching leads directly to improved math instruction in the classroom and to increased student achievement.[16],[17]  It is critical for teachers (in all stages of their career) to co-participate in teaching practices with instructional coaches[18] and enacting the coaching cycle: lesson planning, observing instruction, debriefing the lesson.[19]

Instructional coaching…

  • Increases reflective practice of teachers[20]
  • Promotes positive cultural change[21]
  • Increases the use of data to inform practice[22]
  • Promotes accountability for implementing new teaching practices[23]
  • Fosters a collaborative culture for leading improvement efforts[24]

Instructional coaches, provide teachers with essential job-embedded, in-class support to help teachers grow in their knowledge of content and of pedagogy. Teachers extend their understanding of mathematical knowledge and of instructional strategies to assess student thinking and to develop effective lessons for all students in their classrooms.[25] 

It is recommended that for every one session of professional development a teacher receives, the teacher also receives 2 – 3 sessions of instructional coaching. This additional coaching – which includes in-class demonstrations and co-teaching – increases the likelihood of the teacher incorporating the new instructional skills into their classroom repertoire.[26]

A typical sequence of this PD+Coaching cycle might look like this…

Let me brag about the MCOE Math Team for a moment:

Our math team does a great job of doing everything I’ve talked about in this post. Also, the MCOE Math Team is located within the communities that we serve as opposed to support providers who are often flown in from anywhere in the country. Because of our close proximity, we are able to maintain close relationships with the teachers we serve. Our coaching also includes making ourselves available to teachers through Zooms, texting, or phone calls to support teachers as needed. This is the type of coaching no outside service could ever consider offering.