Coaching may feel like a buzzword, a catch-all phrase used to describe help provided to individuals or groups. It is often interchanged with words like mentoring, technical assistance and consulting. But what is it and why is it important to early childhood education (ECE) systems throughout the commonwealth?

Coaching is a unique form of development in which a “coach promotes the learner’s ability to reflect on his or her actions as a means to determine the effectiveness of action or practice and develop a plan for refinement and use of the action in immediate and future situations” (Rush & Sheldon, 2004).

The Differences in Approach

Technical Assistance The Coach Approach
Provides information, advice, and training Supports the person in dealing with a challenge
Used when teaching a best practice or explaining a  policy Used when asking a question with more than one possible answer
Very important and crucial in the roles and a key part of what is done Focuses on the growth and development of the person
The consultant drives the process and provides   technical expertise The person being supported drives this in partnership with the coach


Coaching values the knowledge, skills and desired goals of the ECE professional and supports them in moving towards sustainable change. Skills in the classroom can have a positive impact on child outcomes, program quality and family connections. The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is committed to supporting professional development opportunities, based on the latest research regarding adult learning and practice development.

Coaching Is…

  • Collaborative
  • Relationship Based
  • Focused on the growth and development of the coachee
  • Asking powerful questions in service to the coachee
  • Focusing on the present
  • Strengths-based

Coaching Is Not…

  • Feeding the coach’s ego
  • Solving the issue for the coachee
  • Asking just any question
  • Therapy
  • Training
  • Mentoring
  • Technical assistance

For more information regarding coaching, please contact Rasheeda Coston at or Barb Willier at