Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Maureen Neumann


In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept K-12 public schools across the United States and placed much of the world abruptly into a period of prolonged crisis. As schools switched to remote learning and then later returned on-site amid rigid safety protocols, teachers everywhere needed to learn new skills and adapt their practices immediately in response. Instructional coaches, as providers of job-embedded professional development for teachers, offered a distinctive and important perspective on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in schools. Employing a hermeneutic phenomenological approach and Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems model integrated with van Manen’s (1997) lifeworld reflections, the purpose of this qualitative study was to describe and interpret the experiences of instructional coaches as they worked supporting teachers in K-12 public schools in the Vermont throughout the first year of the COVID-19 crisis. The aim was to identify essential themes to determine what if any, commonalities across participants and unique perspectives could be documented and interpreted. Contextual factors that hindered and supported the work of coaches in their work facilitating coaching cycles with teachers during a time of unique and unprecedented crisis in schools were explored. Interviews with nine instructional coaches were analyzed to develop a composite narrative of what it meant to be a coach working in schools during this time of crisis. Additionally, a counternarrative was developed. The results of this study revealed the mutable nature of the role of instructional coaches in schools. Additional responsibilities and diminished teacher interest drew coaches away from their deep coaching work, like facilitating coaching cycles. Yet, if they had a clear understanding of their role as instructional coach, they were able to do some in depth coaching under the most trying of circumstances – like plants finding purchase to grow in cracks among rocks. Recommendations are made for school, district, and state leaders looking to strengthen their coaching programs.



Number of Pages

207 p.

Available for download on Friday, December 13, 2024