Muddy waters: The micropolitics of instructional coaches’ work in evaluation

Sarah Galey-Horn, Sarah L. Woulfin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Instructional coaching has emerged as a popular policy lever for improvement efforts in an era of teacher evaluation. In this environment, coaches often face conflicting demands between their educative duties to develop teachers and their reform-oriented responsibilities to implement district policy. Coaches can wield facets of teacher evaluation to promote coherent instructional improvement. Drawing on interview data from 41 coaches across five educational systems, we apply the micropolitics perspective to examine coaches’ work as they navigate the intersection of teacher evaluation and instructional improvement. Our findings elucidate two major micropolitical strategies: convergence and divergence. In particular, coaches frequently converged their work with evaluation around goal setting and observation feedback, facilitating teachers’ and administrators’ understanding of the evaluation system and instructional reform. Conversely, coaches tended to separate issues of teachers’ formal ratings from their coaching. Our analysis reveals details on coaches’ political role and illuminates benefits and limitations of coaches’ involvement in evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Education
Early online date12 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2021


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