TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap RETIRED

Building an Effective Coaching System


To provide guidance regarding the creation of a state or district-wide coaching system to support implementation of evidence-based practices for inclusive education for all students with disabilities, explicitly including those with significant cognitive disabilities. 

Coaching for implementation is essential to bridge the gap between professional learning activities and teacher/administrator practice. Creating an infrastructure for coaching is critical to systems change for inclusive education. Coaching is a key driver in an organization’s professional development plan. As shared in Professional Development for Inclusive Education, coaching is a key component of a professional development (PD) plan for maximizing the transfer of knowledge and skills to practice. It is central for building capacity in a system which leads to change in outcomes for students. 

Building an Effective Coaching System for Inclusive Education

The intended outcome of a coaching system is to select, develop and support effective inclusive education coaches. In addition, it is very important for building and sustaining an inclusive system that content coaches (such as literacy coaches, math coaches, intervention coaches) have in-depth knowledge about their content area as well as how to instruct the content in inclusive systems. Inclusion coaches need an in-depth knowledge of inclusive systems and ways to teach a variety of students across multiple content areas. Both inclusive education coaches and content coaches need the knowledge to understand systems change and how to effectively support adult learning. Coaches, regardless of their specific title and duties, need to collaborate as a whole team that builds organizational capacity and does not see inclusive education as a separate, unrelated initiative or the sole role of one department.

Developing a robust coaching system for supporting teaching and learning in an inclusive manner within the context of general education is an important step for launching and sustaining effective coaching whether at the state, district, or school levels. The Guiding Questions and resources provided below support that effort.

Guiding Questions

  1. What is the professional development plan that links coaching to the larger priorities and strategic plan for building an inclusive education ? 
  2. What is the organizational plan PDF (State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices, 2015) for identifying, hiring, developing and supporting coaches that support inclusive education, including:
    • Are there current coaching systems in place that can be leveraged to ensure a commitment to coaching for inclusive education?
    • Developing a job description that specifically ensures a focus/commitment to coaching for inclusive education.
  3. What knowledge and skills do the coaches need to support implementation of inclusive education systems and instruction?
  4. What knowledge and skills do the coaches need to coach teachers and instructional teams effectively in inclusive practices?
  5. What types of professional development activities will be made available to new coaches to develop their skills? 

What types of professional development activities will be made available to new coaches to develop their skills? 

Components of Coaching

Descriptions/ “Look fors”


Observation of coachee

  • Implements evidence-based practices (EPB) for inclusive education

  • Participates in collaborative planning meetings

  • Uses data effectively 

  • Uses relationship-building strategies

  • Demonstrates knowledge of adult learning strategies

Every coaching cycle


  • EBP for inclusive education
  • Planning and facilitating collaborative learning 
  • Data collection and data-based decision-making
  • Relationship-building strategies
  • Adult learning strategies

Based on need  

(for example, when coachee  is unfamiliar with  practice or uses practice incorrectly, or a situation arises where there is new practice needed)

Performance  Feedback

Presenting formal or informal data about the coachee’s use of specific EBPs for inclusive education

Characteristics of effective feedback:  

  • Specific and timely

  • Related to both strengths and needs

  • Goal focused

  • Builds capacity rather than providing “the answers”

  • Respectful and empathetic--focused on behaviors not the person  

Delivery methods 

  • Share verbal, written, graphical or video data 

  • Presented during pre–post observation conferences

Every coaching cycle

Relationship Building Strategies

Using specific skills and strategies to build and maintain a positive relationship in the coaching dyad or team

Factors :  

  •  Interpersonal skills 
  • Collaboration  
  • Expertise  
  • Conveying that coaching is non-evaluative  

Examples of positive relationship building strategies:  

  • Empathic listening, focused on other person’s viewpoint
  • Restating and summarizing information and feelings conveyed by the teacher, ensuring clarity
  • Conveying and sharing experiences and expertise in inclusive practices and content when asked for and based upon listening and seeking to understand first
  • Identifying and working toward coachees’ goals and needs 

Every coaching cycle

Effective Coaching

Evidence-based coaching means ensuring fidelity to the key components of effective coaching for staff regardless of their role (for example, teachers, administrators, grade level teams) or the different contexts where coaching happens (for example, general education classrooms, team meetings). The key components generalize across specific situations and should be evident regardless of the context. The coaching process includes: 

  • a pre-meeting to identify focus areas,

  • observation in practice, 

  • collecting data to inform the follow-up feedback and reflection, and 

  • goals that are data-based.

Guiding Questions

  1. Which particular evidence-based practices for inclusive education described in the PD activities will be coached?
  2. How will the effectiveness of the coaches be monitored to assure fidelity to implementing evidence-based coaching practices?
  3. How will observational data be collected by the coaches to inform the ongoing professional development plan and achieve the intended outcomes?
  4. How will action plans reflection and feedback
    • Reflection and Performance Feedback for Individuals: Coach Feedback
    • Coaching Action Plan for Individuals
    • Collaborating Instructional Teams: Coach Feedback
    • Coaching Action Plans for Teams
  5. How will the Coaching Service Delivery Plan provide staff with support as well as gradually fade support?

Example of Tiered Level of Coaching Supports for Inclusive Teams

In this district example, the coaching priority focused on integrating High Leverage Practices (HLP) during all instruction in all classrooms. The coaching focused both on grade level, general education-special education teams as well as individual teachers, as needed. District coaches also coached school-based coaches so they could support teachers and teams in their schools.

Coaching Support Level

What Each Tier of Coaching Includes

Ongoing Coaching Support

  • Focus on adapting HLPs to meet the needs of the school/classroom
  • Daily use of HLP with coach and team support
  • District coach taking a participant role while the school team leads the coaching session
  • Building and using feedback and communication loops that flow easily between the external district coaches and school team
  • Professional development support (traditional and job- embedded)

Low Level Coaching Support

  • Move from coach-supported to peer supported conversations (including peer coaching)

  • Monthly prompting email from district coach around focus areas

  • Monthly in-person observation with performance feedback, reinforcement about 1-2 HLPs

  • Monthly data videoconference for team self-reflection and personal evaluation of team performance

Medium Level Coaching Support

  • Identify opportunities to use and practice using skills accurately and fluently within daily classroom instruction
  • Biweekly email prompts from district coach around focus areas
  • Biweekly in-person observation with performance feedback, reinforcement around 1-2 HLPs
  • Data call on off weeks for team self-reflection and data analysis
  • Providing more opportunities for independent practice (with feedback and support)

High Level Coaching Support

  • Make sure that professional development/training has occurred with fidelity and re-teaching, as needed

  • Support use of HLP in role plays and daily classroom instruction

  • Weekly email prompts from coach around focus areas

  • Weekly in-person observation with performance feedback, reinforcement around one to two HLPs 

  • Providing high levels of modeling, co-leading, and independent practice