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Ask A REL Response

April 2019


What research has been conducted on the effect of literacy and math coaches in high school?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on the effect of literacy and math coaches in the high school. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effect of literacy and math coaches in high school. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Brown, S., Harrell, S., Browning, S. (2017). Models of influence on mathematics instructional coaches. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25(5), 566-588.
    From the abstract: "In our study, we examine the factors influencing the implementation of a mathematics coaching initiative at four high schools including the assets an instructional coach brings to the position and the challenges unique to each school. In our case study we include data collected in individual interviews with instructional coaches, focus groups with Algebra I teams, and coaching logs. Four models of coaching behavior emerged from the data collected in the study: coach as facilitator, coach as mediator, coach as dictator, and coach as victim. No role was associated exclusively with any particular instructional coach. However, which role the coach assumed hinged on one or more factors: the coach's leadership style, the context in which the coach served, and the dynamics of the situation."
  2. Davis, M. H., McPartland, J. M., Pryseski, C., & Kim, E. (2018). The effects of coaching on English teachers' reading instruction practices and adolescent students' reading comprehension. Literacy Research and Instruction, 57(3), 255-275.
    From the abstract: "Although the use of literacy coaches is becoming more common, few research studies have shown positive effects of coaching on teacher practices and student achievement. In the current study, a cluster randomized design was used to evaluate usefulness of coaches for teachers of struggling high school students. High schools were randomly assigned across three experimental conditions: professional development workshops, workshops with written lesson materials, and workshops with lesson materials and coaching. Participants in this three-year study included 130 ninth-grade teachers and 3,160 ninth grade students. Recommended literacy practices included teacher modeling, student team discussions, and self-selected reading. Findings indicated that coaching improved teachers' use and quality of recommended literacy practices and increased student reading achievement over the period of a year."
  3. Di Domenico, P. M., Elish-Piper, L., Manderino, M., & L'Allier, S. K. (2018). Coaching to support disciplinary literacy instruction: navigating complexity and challenges for sustained teacher change. Literacy Research and Instruction, 57(2), 81-99.
    From the abstract: "This study investigated how a high school literacy coach provided coaching to support teachers' understanding and implementation of disciplinary literacy instruction. With a focus on collaborations between the literacy coach and teachers in the disciplines of social studies, math, and English, this article presents three case studies that illustrate how the coach and teachers designed instruction within and beyond the district's curricular frameworks. Findings suggest when the coach situated herself as a collaborator, rather than an expert, and positioned the teacher as the disciplinary expert, the coach and teacher were able to foreground the discipline and plan meaningful disciplinary literacy instruction. The use of open-ended questions, think-alouds, and an examination of instructional tasks from students' perspectives enabled the teachers to strengthen their disciplinary literacy instruction."
  4. Gross, P.A. (2012). Challenges of literacy coaching in high school. Educational Forum, 76(2),201-215.
    From the abstract: "This qualitative case study examined a state-run, foundation-funded initiative to introduce literacy coaching in a medium-sized urban high school district over a period of two years. Data analyses revealed the complex development and multiple understandings of the process of literacy coaching on the secondary level. The role of the coaches depended on the communication and clarity of their job description, administrative support, the expertise of coaches, and the fit with local school culture. (Contains 1 table.)"
  5. Reichenberg, J. S. (2018). A model of joint action for literacy coaching: The intersection of consonance and dissonance with responsive and directive approaches. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 671, 109-130.
    From the abstract: "This 7-month multiple case study investigated the nature of mediation through literacy coaching, a reflective framework, and video of classroom instruction and its impact on the development of four secondary-level teachers of English language learners. The participants and researcher/coach participated in a cycle of collaborative planning, enacting and videotaping lessons, and video reflection. Individual coaching sessions with video utilized a seven-step reflective framework. Data included coaching transcripts, classroom field notes, video, and interviews. Findings showed that the teachers and researcher/coach engaged in seven different joint actions: revoicing, building, reconceptualizing, disagreeing, suggesting, asking dissonant questions, and asking questions to develop understanding. Each of these actions was classified on one axis as responsive or directive and on another axis as consonant or dissonant. The intersection of the axes created quadrants representing categories of joint action that were present during coaching sessions and classroom visits: responsive/consonant, responsive/dissonant, directive/dissonant, and directive/consonant. Joint actions led to changes in teachers' thinking and practices, indicating that a theoretical model accounting for responsiveness, directiveness, consonance, and dissonance may be useful to analyze coaching interactions. Coaches and teachers could use the model to analyze their interactions and support their own development."
  6. Wilder, P. (2014). Coaching heavy as a disciplinary outsider: Negotiating disciplinary literacy for adolescents. High School Journal, 97(3), 159-179.
    From the abstract: "Instructional coaching runs the risk of being abandoned by policy makers and secondary schools if efficacy expectations related to adolescent literacy are not met (Knight, 2010; Walpole & McKenna, 2008). Research into coaching has examined the roles of coaches (Borman & Fenger, 2006; Smith, 2007) as well as the stances employed during collaborations (Costa & Garmston, 2002; Deussen et al., 2007; Ippolito, 2010), but insufficient research has explored how secondary coaches attempt to impact adolescent literacy in unfamiliar disciplines and the ways instructional coaches use coaching practices to negotiate disciplinary tensions. This paper is part of a larger qualitative study aimed at investigating the "heavy coaching" (Killion, 2009; 2010) discourse and practices employed by coaches at three different secondary schools as they attempted to improve the disciplinary literacy of students. In this paper, I present the case study of Eric, a former high school English teacher, as he worked with a high school algebra teacher, Jackie, over the course of a semester. While Eric attempted to coach heavy, the disciplinary tensions prompted him to employ situated coaching practices. Findings from this study suggest a disciplinary outsider status may be ameliorated."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • math and literacy coaches, high school, student achievement,
  • effect of secondary literacy and math coaches
  • secondary instructional coaches, school improvement

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its 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.