Date of this Version
White paper, Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, College of Education and Human Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln (May 2019), 15 pp.
Background on Early Childhood Coaching in Nebraska
Coaches have become an integral component of supporting teachers and adults working with young children and families nationally (Schachter, 2015). In the state of Nebraska, early childhood (EC) coaching has increasingly become important for this type of work (Jayaraman, Knoche, Marvin, & Bainter, 2014). Indeed, multiple initiatives within the state utilize coaches as a mechanism for supporting change in adult learners that leads to positive outcomes for young children and families. In general, coaching is a unique form of professional development that is relationship-based, whereby coaches work one-on-one or in small groups with adult learners to improve knowledge, skills, and dispositions (Aikens & Akers, 2011). Coaching can take place in adults’ immediate context and tends to be ongoing rather than a single, one-time training (Joyce & Showers, 1980; Rush & Shelden, 2005). As such, coaching has the potential to provide high-quality learning experiences for adults to support high-quality experiences in EC. Based on this growing use of coaching across the state, key stakeholders have collaborated to develop mechanisms that support coach training and development. Since this collaborative work began in 2009–10, a semiannual coach training was developed to provide foundational coaching skills and competencies relevant for all coaching initiatives, such as developing relationships and facilitating coaching conversations. The collaborative group also came to understand that coaches needed ongoing support and initiated the offering of regular “booster” sessions to support coaches’ professional development once they are in the field and actively serving coachees. In efforts to better understand who was coaching and perceptions of the training coaches received, stakeholders conducted an initial survey in 2014 (Jayaraman et al. 2014). Results of this survey (n = 35) revealed that coaches liked the work of coaching and, in particular, coaches commented that they enjoyed building relationships with coachees and observing positive changes. Although these coaches were generally positive about the training they received, myriad challenges were also reported, particularly with regards to the coaching process and their own training and professional development needs.
Since the 2014 study, coaching in various EC initiatives has grown across the state. In 2018, the Nebraska Early Childhood Coach Collaboration team was interested in reassessing the process of coaching in Nebraska. This included understanding who is doing the work of coaching, what constitutes the coaching process, how coaches perceive their work, and how coaches were prepared to do their work. Thus, a new survey was created to understand more about coaching in the state of Nebraska. It contained a variety of questions consisting of both fixed-choice and open-response comments. Data collection was led by Dr. Schachter from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and was reviewed by the Institutional Review Board. Participants were invited by email to complete an online survey that took approximately 20 minutes to complete. The survey was emailed to key stakeholders in the Spring of 2018 with requests that the survey be forwarded to anyone doing the work of EC coaching in Nebraska. In total, 101 individuals completed the survey. Importantly, all participants self-identified as a “coach.” Participants were able to enter into a raffle to win one of five iPad minis. Survey responses were analyzed descriptively. Next, we present our findings regarding who are the coaches, what is the content of coaching, how coaches perceive their work, how coaches know that coaching is working, and how coaches were prepared. We conclude with recommendations for advancing the work of coaching in the state of Nebraska.