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January 2020

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What are the evidence-based practices connected to instructional coaching?


Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding the evidence-based practices connected to instructional coaching. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Desimone, L. M. & Pak, K. (2017). Instructional coaching as high-quality professional development. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 3-12. Retrieved from
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    From the abstract: “In response to policy initiatives calling for the implementation of evidence-based classroom practice, instructional coaches are frequently utilized as providers of professional development (PD). Despite the demand for instructional coaches, there is little empirical evidence that coaching improves teacher practice. We address this limitation by conceptualizing instructional coaching within a research-based framework for PD consisting of 5 key features synthesized from cross-sectional studies, longitudinal studies, and literature reviews of experimental and quasi-experimental studies: content focus, active learning, sustained duration, coherence, and collective participation. When examining understanding instructional coaching through the lens of the 5 empirically predictive elements of effective PD, the model presents itself as a powerful tool for improving teacher knowledge, skills, and practice. It is imperative that future researchers define the next set of questions to further refine the understanding of coaching and how it can and should be executed to leverage professional learning.”
  2. Gibbons, L. K. & Cobb, P. (2017). Focusing on teacher learning opportunities to identify potentially productive coaching activities. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(4), 411-425. Retrieved from
    From the abstract: “Instructional improvement initiatives in many districts include instructional coaching as a primary form of job-embedded support for teachers. However, the coaching literature provides little guidance about what activities coaches should engage in with teachers to improve instruction. When researchers do propose activities, they rarely justify why those activities might support teacher learning. Drawing on the preservice and inservice teacher education literatures, we present a conceptual analysis of learning activities that have the potential to support mathematics and science teachers to improve practice. We argue that our analysis can inform research on mathematics and science coaching, coaching policies, and the design of professional learning for coaches.”
  3. Glover, T. A., Reddy, L. A., Kurz, A., & Elliott, S. N. (2019). Use of an online platform to facilitate and investigate data-driven instructional coaching. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 44(2), 95-103. Retrieved from:
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    From the abstract: “This article presents theoretical and empirical support for a data-driven instructional coaching approach and emerging evidence for the contributions of an online platform in operationalizing, assessing, and facilitating the implementation of key coaching actions for both research and practice. The contributions of an online platform in guiding the implementation and investigation of key coaching actions (i.e., modeling, facilitation of practice, and feedback) throughout a five-phase coaching sequence are presented. The article outlines initial research to demonstrate the utility of the online platform for advancing an understanding of how coaching actions predict teacher and student outcomes. This research suggests that there are predictive relationships between coaching actions and the fidelity of implementation of teacher interventions, reductions in instructional gaps, and student achievement. The implications of this work for advancing coaching practices and future empirical investigations are described.”
  4. Gray, J. A. (2018). Leadership coaching and mentoring: A research-based model for stronger partnerships. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 13(12). Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “This conceptual article proposes a research-based model for leadership preparation programs to more effectively prepare, support, and sustain new school leaders in the field and profession. This study offers a new construct, which combines the concepts of early field experiences, experiential learning, leadership-focused coaching, and mentoring support, with university faculty and school district leaders and mentors working collaboratively to support novice leaders. University faculty would provide leadership-focused coaching while prospective leaders are completing coursework and later once they are placed in school leadership positions. Further, school districts would provide mentoring support by experienced instructional leaders.”
  5. Hammond, L. & Moore, W. M. (2018). Teachers taking up explicit instruction: The impact of a professional development and directive instructional coaching model. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 43(7), 110-133. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “In this study we measured the impact of a professional development model that included directive coaching on the instructional practices of Western Australian primary school teachers taking up explicit instruction. We developed and validated protocols that enabled us to measure teachers' fidelity to the salient elements of explicit instruction and interviewed participants about the impact of the coaching program on student learning, their feelings of self-efficacy and attitudes to being coached. Numerical scores to indicate teachers' demonstration of explicit instruction lesson design and delivery components changed positively over the five observed lessons and directive coaching had a positive impact on teachers' competence and confidence. The elements of the coaching process that the teachers found valuable were the coach's positive tone, the detailed written feedback, and the specificity, directness and limited number of the suggestions. Implications for schools with reform-based agendas wanting to change teachers' instructional practices through instructional coaching are discussed.”
  6. Hemmeter, M. L., Hardy, J. K., Schnitz, A. G., Adams, J. M., & Kinder, K. A. (2015). Effects of training and coaching with performance feedback on teachers’ use of "Pyramid Model" practices. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 35(3), 144-156. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Training and coaching with performance feedback has been effective for supporting teachers to use evidence-based instructional practices. However, coaching with performance feedback has primarily been used to support teachers to use discrete skills, and there has been little evidence of maintenance and generalization. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a professional development intervention on teachers' implementation of practices related to the "Pyramid Model for Promoting Social- Emotional Competence in Young Children," as well as the extent to which teachers generalized and maintained those practices. A multiple probe design across sets of "Pyramid Model" practices replicated across three teachers was used in this study. All teachers acquired the practices and maintained the practices after coaching ended. There was some evidence of generalization for all three teachers. The effects of teacher implementation on classroom-wide incidences of challenging behavior were mixed. Teachers all rated the coaching positively.”
  7. Ledford, J. R., Zimmerman, K. N., Harbin, E. R., & Ward, S. E. (2018). Improving the use of evidence-based instructional practices for paraprofessionals. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 33(4), 206-216. Retrieved from:
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    From the abstract: “Coaching has been shown to improve the use of evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs), but relatively few studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of coaching for adults belonging to minority groups and paraprofessionals in public elementary school settings. In this study, a multiple probe design across participants was used to assess the effectiveness of coaching and the provision of feedback on the use of prompting procedures and associated practices for three adults supporting three young students with autism in a self-contained elementary school setting. Results showed improved use of target practices and increased student engagement. More research is needed regarding the training and coaching of teaching teams and the use of evidence-based coaching and feedback practices to assist paraprofessionals in implementing EBIPs with small groups of students and in a variety of educational settings.”
  8. Stefaniak, J. E. (2017). The role of coaching within the context of instructional design. TechTrends: Linking research and practice to improve learning, 61(1), 26-31. Retrieved from:
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    From the abstract: “Upon entry into the instructional design workforce, there is a need for instructional designers to continue to hone their craft and skill development. Often times novice instructional designers are paired with experts during the onboarding process. Coaching is utilized to provide novices and those less experienced with the necessary support they need to enhance their skillset. This article explores the use of coaching in the professional development of instructional designers. Specific attention is given to theoretical approaches, models, and contexts related to coaching.”
  9. Sutherland, K. S., Conroy, M. A., Vo, A., & Ladwig, C. (2015). Implementation integrity of practice-based coaching: Preliminary results from the BEST in CLASS efficacy trial. School Mental Health, 7(1), 21-33. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “The purpose of this article is to describe the practice-based coaching model used in BEST in CLASS, a Tier-2 classroom-based intervention comprised of evidence-based instructional practices designed to prevent and ameliorate the chronic problem behaviors of young children at risk for the development of emotional/behavioral disorders. Following a description of the model, data from year two of an ongoing 4-year randomized control trial are presented that describe (a) the amount (i.e., dosage) of coaching teachers received during BEST in CLASS implementation, (b) the integrity with which coaches implemented the BEST in CLASS coaching model, and (c) subsequent teacher implementation of the BEST in CLASS strategies. Forty-eight (23 BEST in CLASS; 25 comparison) teachers and ten coaches participated in this descriptive study. Data indicate that following coaches' observations, teachers received approximately 30 min of practice-based coaching during coaching meetings each week of implementation, and integrity data indicate that coaches implemented the critical coaching skills during the coaching meetings with integrity. Adherence data indicate that teachers in the treatment group increased their extensiveness of the use of BEST in CLASS practices at both posttreatment and 1-month follow-up compared to comparison teachers; competence data indicated that teachers in the treatment group increased the quality of delivery of practices at post-treatment compared to comparison teachers. Implications of these findings for both future research and practice-based coaching implementation are discussed.”
  10. Thomas, E. E., Bell, D. L., Spelman, M., & Briody, J. (2015). The growth of instructional coaching partner conversations in a PreK-3rd grade teacher professional development experience. Journal of Adult Education, 44(2), 1-6. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Instructional coaching that supports teachers' with revising teaching practices is not understood. This study sought to understand the impact of the instructional coaching experience by recording coaching conversations/interactions with teachers. The purpose was to determine if the type of coaching conversations changed overtime during three defined time periods within a 3-year project. A quantitative design was conducted using a sample size of 5 faith-based elementary schools. Data was collected using the Instructional Coaching Scale by Woodruff. The results revealed that instructional coaching conversations/ interactions changed towards a more interactive style and teachers became more involved in the coaching experience.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • Edutopia:
    From the website: “Learn about how teachers can effectively support other teachers in professional development, sharing best practices, and improving instruction.”
  • Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northeast & Islands:
    From the website: “REL Northeast & Islands searched and reviewed studies to identify instructional coaching programs, components, and practices that are associated with student academic outcomes in reading/English language arts (ELA). This document is intended to support schools and districts in understanding the research and evidence that exists related to reading/ELA instructional coaching.”


Search Strings. Instructional coaching practices OR best instructional coaching OR instructional coaching evidence OR best practices instructional coaching OR instructional coaching best practices OR instructional coaching training OR evidence based instructional coaching OR instructional coaching professional development

Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)
  • Commercial search engines (e.g., Google)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Resources

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to correlational designs, descriptive analyses, mixed methods and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.

REL Mid-Atlantic serves the education needs of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

This Ask A REL was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0006 by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic administered by Mathematica Policy Research. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.