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Getting A Foot in the Door Examining Content-Focused Coaches’ Strategies for Gaining Access to Classrooms

Coaches are called upon to provide productive, job-embedded professional development for teachers, but their capacity to do so hinges on gaining access to classrooms. Teachers typically have autonomy over whether, when, and for what they give coaches access to their practice, because, although coaches are viewed as instructional leaders, they lack positional authority over teachers. How coaches navigate the political task of gaining access to classrooms has yet to be systematically explored. Drawing on interviews with 28 content-focused (mathematics, literacy, and technology) coaches in one school district, this study examines the nature of micropolitical strategies coaches reported using to gain entry to work with teachers in classrooms. We identified 41 individual access-granting strategies that coaches leveraged and clustered them into six broad categories: relational strategies, structural strategies, direct offers, indirect strategies, cloaked coaching strategies, and pitching in strategies. Implications for school districts and research are discussed.