Blocker Education

Cultivate a Culture of Appreciative Inquiry through Coaching School Principals

Inquiry-based coaching conversations are a powerful practice for principals and other instructional leaders. Rooted in appreciative inquiry, school leaders at all levels can help teachers examine their instructional practices and reasoning behind student performance outcomes.

This type of instructional coaching can have a profound effect on adult learning, and it is essential for principals and other instructional leaders who want to maximize the impact of their coaching conversations. In this blog, you will learn the benefits of using inquiry-based coaching practices to Cultivate a Culture of Inquiry in your school.

What is inquiry-based coaching and how can it help school leaders?

Inquiry-based coaching is a coaching practice that focuses on guiding principals and instructional leaders to leverage powerful questions and aims to help educators explore the depths of their understanding behind student learning. It encourages them to reflect critically and arrive at data-informed decisions. This approach promotes greater dialogue while allowing leaders to gain deeper insights into teacher’s understanding and practices that influence student achievement.

Through this type of appreciative inquiry, instructional leaders are empowered to develop a culture of inquiry and problem-solving skills to gain a greater capacity for empathizing with their teachers and staff. By becoming better practitioners, principals and school leaders can help foster an environment of learning for all those under their charge, making inquiry-based coaching an invaluable tool.

Inquiry-based coaching, principals, teachers

What are the benefits of inquiry-based coaching for school leaders?

For school leaders, the goal of inquiry-based coaching is to help cultivate a culture of inquiry in which instructional leaders, teachers, and staff are encouraged to reflect, ask powerful questions, and explore evidence-informed interventions to address student learning needs. It also enables educators to gain new insights into their teaching practices that can improve student outcomes. 

Through this type of instructional coaching, principals and school leaders can demonstrate better problem solving skills and become more effective communicators and facilitators of instructionally-centered solutions.  The implications of inquiry-based coaching on the school’s culture are that it encourages self-reflection and helps facilitate open dialogue between district administrators, principals, other school leaders, instructional coaches, and teachers. 

These conversations allow instructional leaders to provide valuable feedback on the teacher’s professional practice while encouraging them to think critically about their own practice. Ultimately, the effective use of inquiry-based coaching helps principals and instructional leaders cultivate an environment that supports sustained teacher growth and positive student outcomes.

How can you use inquiry-based coaching practices in your conversations with educators?

Instructional conversations embedded in inquiry-based coaching practices are an incredibly valuable tool for any school leader. Utilizing appreciative inquiry, active listening, and data-informed feedback, inquiry-based coaching allows principals and school leaders the opportunity to understand the individual needs of their teachers and staff while also scaling the impact effective dialogue can have on professional learning communities.

As the principal, it is important to be clear about what you hope to accomplish through inquiry-based coaching conversations. Initial questions to help prepare for a coaching conversation include:

  • What specific problem of practice are you hoping to solve with the coaching conversation?
  • What student centered outcomes are you hoping for with the coaching conversation?
  • What relevant school level data can be analyzed to address the problem of practice?

By incorporating a comprehensive strategy into the fabric of your school culture, you are providing educators with greater awareness of their day to day mindset and behaviors that lead to achieving overall school improvement goals.

What are some benefits of inquiry-based coaching for both instructional coaches and school leaders?

Some of the benefits of inquiry-based coaching include the ability to facilitate job-embedded professional learning among educators and staff in an engaging and meaningful way.

Through inquiry-based coaching, principals and school leaders can:

  • Foster deeper, collective understanding
  • Tap into teacher’s strengths and areas of growth
  • Analyze data to adjust instruction for better student outcomes
  • Encourage educators to take ownership of their own professional learning

Instructional leaders are able to use inquiry-based coaching to promote changes in teacher professional practices that may guide them toward positive outcomes and greater self-awareness. Professional learning in inquiry-based coaching practices can help school and district leaders leverage effective dialogue to create an inclusive learning environment that benefits all students.

How can you get started with inquiry-based coaching?

Blocker Education delivers high-quality professional development and training to educators at all levels to assist them in addressing the unique demands of their school.

Implementing comprehensive and effective school improvement practices can be difficult for school and district leaders. Blocker Education delivers professional development and training to K-12 school leaders in order to facilitate continuous school improvement. To learn more, please visit our website for additional professional learning opportunities.



Coaching School Principals. (n.d.). In Coaching School Principals.

Copland, M. A. (2003, December). Leadership of Inquiry: Building and Sustaining Capacity for School Improvement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 25(4), 375–395.

Huff, J., Preston, C., & Goldring, E. (2013, June 6). Implementation of a Coaching Program for School Principals. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 41(4), 504–526.

Lochmiller, C. R. (2018, March). Coaching Principals for the Complexity of School Reform. Journal of School Leadership, 28(2), 144–172.



Scroll to Top