Cultivating the emotional intelligence of instructional coaches

Megan Tschannen-Moran, College of William and Mary
Carol B. Carter

Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore whether the emotional intelligence (EI) of instructional coaches could be improved with training, as well as how instructional coaches perceived the relevance of EI to their success as coaches. Design/methodology/approach - This mixed-method study was conducted in two phases. The quantitative phase examined pre- and post-test EI scores of 90 instructional coaches who completed a 20-hour coach training intervention designed to improve the coaching skills of educators working with teachers to improve their instruction. Of the nine instructional coaches interviewed for the qualitative phase, four had increased their EI scores while five had decreased. The study took place primarily in the USA, with two participants in the survey portion from countries outside the USA. Findings - Statistically significant increases for EI were found in the full sample. Among the 44 instructional coaches who enrolled on the training course voluntarily, there were significant improvements in total EI, both the interpersonal and interpersonal composites, and all five subscales (i.e. self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills). The mean EI scored for the 46 coaches who were required to take the training did not increase. The themes that emerged from the interviews were increased awareness, improved listening, enhanced empathy, a focus on strengths, and the role of EI in success as instructional coaches. Research limitations/implications - Future research might examine the duration, intensity, and format of training that successfully increases EI scores. For example, comparing face-to-face formats with distance formats, such as the one used in this study, might yield interesting findings. This study would have been strengthened by the inclusion of a control group that received no training. Practical implications - Both quantitative and qualitative analyses provided evidence that EI can be improved through training; thus, such training could be incorporated into initial preparation and ongoing professional development for educators. The differential outcomes for those who volunteered for the training as opposed to those who were required to take the training as part of their jobs highlights the important of the adult learning principle of choice. Thus, the element of choice should be taken into consideration in planning professional development. Originality/value - The use of instructional coaches is an important form of professional development, designed to bring about improved teacher practices. This study provides both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the value of coach training, including statistically significant gains on a validated measure of EI. This study makes an important contribution because prior research on the question of whether EI can be taught has been largely anecdotal.