Blog Post

Building Capacity in CS Ed through Coaching, Part 2

In part one of this blog series,  I discussed the many benefits of CS coaching. Now, I'd like to explore what a coaching cycle looks like. A typical coaching cycle often includes Reflecting/Goal Setting, Planning, Implementing, Reflecting/Goal Refinement. Here is an overview of a typical coaching cycle from the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit: “Most coaching relationships begin the cycle by reflecting on teachers’ strengths, areas for growth, and setting goals, before entering the planning and implementing stages. The cycle often includes opportunities for teachers to co-plan, rehearse, co-teach, and debrief with their coaches so that they can accomplish their goals. Throughout the cycle, teachers and coaches focus on the actions and evidence of student learning.” This graphic from the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit provides a helpful visual for understanding how this cycle might work:

Graphic of CSTA coaching toolkit coaching cycle


Reflecting and Goal Setting

During the reflecting and goal-setting stage, the coach can guide and support the classroom teacher in using tools like the CSTA Self-Assessment Checklist to reflect on their current levels of confidence with each of the CS Teacher Standards (CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit). Another approach to reflecting and goal setting is to “surface the state of affairs” in the classroom or school by learning about current or ongoing challenges, strengths, and goals (Aguilar, 2020). Then the coach can support the classroom teacher in setting a specific goal based on the results of the checklist and/or conversation and the teacher's priorities for the first coaching cycle. The teacher and coach also can talk about professional development opportunities related to the goal and work together to find resources related to the goal to be reviewed together during the planning stage.

Resources for goal setting/reflecting:

● Discuss results from the CSTA Self-Assessment Checklist (via CSTA)

● Use the CSTA Roadmap for Professional Learning to discuss skill progression and set goals, and to identify potential opportunities for PD related to potential goals (via CSTA)

● Consider different types of goal-setting structures, such as:


The planning stage is often composed of collaborative conversation between the coach and classroom teacher in order to co-plan instructional approaches and strategies related to the teacher's goal for a specific upcoming lesson. This includes talking through the different parts of the lesson, identifying strategies or approaches to implement at different parts of the lesson and identifying student outcomes and opportunities for assessment, as well as evidence or student artifacts to determine success (CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit). This stage can also include guided conversations about current or ongoing challenges, strengths, or goals (as identified in the first step), in order to help the classroom teacher to unpack and explore root causes and underlying mental models that maybe be contributing/supporting, as well as how these impact students, communities and the educator (Aguilar, 2020).

During the planning stage, the coach may remind the classroom teacher that they are not being evaluated by the coach, but rather supported in their work toward accomplishing their goal. Another note to consider is that the word observation may sound too much like the formal evaluation process many educators go through with their administration, so coaches may instead choose to use terms like classroom visits to describe the implementation stage (credit to Don Yonak, CS coach with Chicago Public Schools for this suggestion).

Some Sample Planning / Before Teaching Coaching Prompts (remember: Teacher talk > Coach talk)

● How have things been going? What would you like to focus on today?

● What have you already covered?

● What is going well, and what are students struggling with?

  • Break down barriers – how might we reduce barriers in this lesson?

● Talk through the lesson - practice the CS activity

● How can I support you?

  • Offers: Model, co-teach, observe, resources, etc.

● Schedule a next meeting

The planning stage may also include just-in-time professional development where the coach shares resources and/or examples related to the instructional approach or goal. The coach may model a strategy, and the coach and classroom teacher can review the look-for tool in order to determine what success for the teacher and student might look like in this lesson. The planning step may include one or more conversations to help outline what is needed to successfully, confidently, and equitably implement the teaching approaches and/or strategies for the upcoming lesson.

Resources for planning:

Review and select strategies from the "Co-Planning" big idea from the Cornell Tech CS Coaching Cards (via Cornell Tech)

● Review the CSTA Instructional Practice Evidence Guide (Look-for-Tool) to understand which student and teacher actions could be used as evidence of progress towards proficiency in each standard area (via CSTA) ● Review the Questions for 'Planning (Before Teaching)' section of the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit

● Use the Roadmap for Professional Learning to discuss skill progression and to identify potential opportunities for PD related to potential goals (via CSTA)

● Review and discuss the CS Teaching Competencies and Planning Tool (via The Friday Institute)

● Review the CSTA K-12 CS Standards Progression to identify opportunities for differentiation


During the implementation stage, the teacher teaches the designated lesson or completes an action related to the goal. During this time, the coach may take on a variety of roles, depending on what was planned and agreed upon with the teacher during the planning stage. The coach might watch the activity live or asynchronously via recording to collect evidence/data/feedback (using the look-for tool), co-teach with the teacher, model a strategy, or a combination of all three (CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit). The coach will not take over the lesson, but rather partner with the teacher to provide agreed-upon supports related to the classroom teacher's goal.

The CSTA CS Coaching Toollkit mentions an important note about the implementation stage and classroom visits: “Coaches should not expect to see all, or even the majority of, the actions listed in the look-for tool at any given time. Rather, they can be used collectively as a framework to define indicators of quality teaching and learning. They can also be used modularly to isolate specific areas of focus, based on teachers’ individualized development goals."

Resources for implementation:

Review and select strategies for coaches from the "Classroom Implementation" big idea from the Cornell Tech CS Coaching Cards (via Cornell Tech)

● Review the Questions for 'Implementation (During Teaching)' section of the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit

● Data collection/note-taking tools

Tools for remote coaching:


The reflection step includes the coach asking questions and listening to the teacher's reflections of the lesson, sharing data and feedback, using evidence to determine together if the goal was met, and deciding on a next step, refining the goal, or setting a new goal for the next coaching cycle. This excerpt from the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit illustrates the reflection step further: “[Teachers and coaches] make connections, question assumptions and habits, analyze evidence of student practice, and identify answers to challenges. Much of this happens through strategic questioning. Coaches help the teacher ground reflections in evidence and stay focused on solutions and actions within the teacher’s control rather than excuses or problems. Together, they discover new insights and unlock new ways of thinking and teaching. This reflection often sets the focus for the next planning stage. As the cycle continues, this stage may also merge with the planning stage for the next iteration” (CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit).

Resources for reflection/goal revision:

Review and select strategies for coaches from the "Reflection & Feedback" big idea from the Cornell Tech CS Coaching Cards (via Cornell Tech)

● Ask questions to facilitate the reflection process

● Use the Roadmap for Professional Learning to discuss skill progression and to identify potential opportunities for PD related to potential goals (via CSTA)

For more details related to each stage, please see the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit.

Are you ready to get started with CS coaching?

How do we prepare coaches? Coaches can prepare by reflecting on their professional strengths and areas of growth; familiarize themselves with the CSTA Standards for CS Teachers, learning about the structure and steps within the coaching cycle; practice goal setting and the lesson review and reflection process through questioning and listening strategies; connecting regularly with other CS coaches; and digging into coaching resources, both CS and non-CS specific, such as the CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit, Cornell Tech CS Coaching Toolkit, and Coaching for Equity by Elena Aguilar.

How do we prepare classroom teachers? Teachers can prepare by reflecting on how they feel about sharing their teaching practice with a coach, what they might need in order to feel respected and able to openly trust/share. Teachers can also familiarize themselves with the coaching cycle and Standards for CS Teachers. They should have a growth mindset about their teaching practice and consider when they will dedicate time to meeting with their coach.

CSTA CS Coaching Toolkit

Cornell Tech CS Coaching Toolkit & Cards

Coaching Teachers of ECS Report - Chicago Public Schools

Culturally Responsive Sustaining Framework - Constellations

Coaching for Equity in CS - Code Savvy and NCCSE

Connect with other CS Coaches! Use the CS for All Teachers community groups as a way to connect with other CS Coaches and Educators. Do you have additional ideas, resources, or questions related to CS coaching? Feel free to respond to this post or email me at

CS for All Teachers Community Ambassador Andrea Wilson Vazquez is the Director of Educator Training and School Partnerships with the nonprofit Code Savvy in Minneapolis, MN. She is also a CSTA CSforELs Teacher Leader and Facilitator and an online facilitator and course designer for the University of Texas at Austin’s Strategies for Effective and Inclusive Computer Science Teaching (SciPs) course.