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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Cristine Smith

Second Advisor

Bjorn Nordtveit

Third Advisor

Daniel Gerber

Subject Categories

Education | International and Comparative Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development


Limited research exists that explores instructional coaching as a component of teacher professional development in low-income, developing countries. In response to this gap in the literature, I used an intrinsic case study design to explore the experiences and learning of a cohort of coaches supporting primary school teachers in a whole school development/ early grade reading initiative in Sierra Leone. Using an adaptation of Valsiner’s (1997) Zone Theory as a conceptual framework and analytical lens, I explored coaches’ perspectives of their knowledge and beliefs; coaching actions and experiences; constraints within their context; and professional learning and support needs. By examining these aspects, I hoped to identify possibilities for improving their preparation and support to maximize coaches’ learning and ability to enact their roles more effectively.

Findings of this study suggest that newly hired coaches in Sierra Leone required a significant amount of responsive and focused on-going professional development to enable conceptual shifts in their beliefs and understanding of child-centered pedagogy, foundational skills and strategies for literacy instruction, and working with adults as learners. Coaches learned through a combination of 1) formal professional learning opportunities provided by the program on an on-going basis, and 2) informal on-the-job learning with support from others. Important positive influences on their learning included: competency-driven content; routine training; opportunities for peer collaboration both in training and on-the job; tools, models and frameworks; resources and materials; and feedback from their manager.

Though coaches perceived shifts in their learning and increasingly became confident in their abilities over time, findings of this study exposed the various systemic constraints coaches confront in their work, which minimized coaches’ sustained contact time with teachers. Irregular attendance and movement of unsalaried teachers were most significant, thus limiting any potential for coaching to have an impact on teacher change.

Overall findings from this intrinsic case study provide insight into the professional experiences, growth and needs of a specific cohort of coaches. I conclude the study with recommendations for strengthening programming to better prepare and support newly hired coaches working in similar initiatives in this context.