Coaching: Professional Development and Its Relation to Changes in Student–Teacher Interactions in Preschools



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High quality teacher professional development is an important component of supporting teachers and improving the quality of student–teacher interactions. These student–teacher interactions act as an important source of development for children in terms of academic and social-emotional skills (Curby et al., 2013). Teacher coaching is considered to be a form of professional development which is embedded in the classroom, long-term, teacher-directed, and focused on teacher learning (Teemant, Wink, & Tyra, 2011). During teacher coaching, teachers’ instruction is observed by coaches, administrators, instructional leaders, or peers, and feedback is provided (Joyce & Showers, 1982; Kraft, Blazar, & Hogan, 2018). In comparison to workshop-style trainings, teacher-coaching has been found to be a more effective method in providing teachers with classroom knowledge and skills (McRel Staff, 1984-1985). Coaching positively impacts teachers by providing teachers with resources and opportunities to share experiences while developing perspectives of student learning and understanding (Akhavan, Tracz, Brown-Welty, & Hauser, 2011). With the guidance and support of coaches, teachers can adopt and incorporate new teaching strategies into their instruction (Knight, 2004), which can result in improved student outcomes (Guiney, 2001). The purpose of this study was to further understand the mechanisms involved in the teacher–coaching process and explore how coaching relates to changes in student–teacher interactions. To do so, we obtained data from a public charter preschool network in an urban mid-Atlantic city. Within this preschool network, teachers were placed into different professional development groups at the beginning of the school year based on the lead teachers’ experience with the curriculum and previous Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008) scores. Student–teacher interactions were observed in fifty-seven classrooms twice a year using the CLASS measurement tool. Coaching sessions were recorded with the duration and discussion focus of each meeting. This study found that professional development groups did not explain changes in student–teacher interaction scores. Moreover, this study found that during teacher–coach meetings, classroom organization was the most frequently discussed domain in relation to student–teacher interactions. These discussions were predictive of changes in classroom organization; however, this was not the case for emotional support or instructional support.