A Blueprint For Coaching Success - IRIS Connect & WalkThrus

Posted by Rico Patzer - Last updated on March 6, 2024

IMG_1888“By combining IRIS Connect with Teaching WalkThrus, we’ve created a synergy between the two which form the cornerstones to our approach to PD. It has provided colleagues at every level within the school with this shared language and understanding of ways to improve teaching, and given teachers the power to do that through quality instructional coaching.”

- Matt Maynes, Lapal Primary School, Hales Valley Trust


Hales Valley Trust has been using IRIS Connect and WalkThrus for several years across their schools and seen great success (read their case study here). With the recent announcement of WalkThrus now being fully integrated into the IRIS Connect platform, we dug a bit deeper into their powerful PD approach to give other schools in our community a possible blueprint for implementing a similar strategy.

Kate Hall, Director of Education at Hales Valley Trust, kindly shared details of their trust-wide coaching model in a webinar with our community. 


Laying the foundation

Kate: “We began by training leaders to be effective coaches, using valuable resources like the OLEVI Coaching Programmes and a range of great books (e.g. Coaching on the Go, The 4 Greatest Coaching Conversations and The Complete Handbook of Coaching). It was vital for us to create a shared understanding of what coaching was and more importantly, what it wasn’t, highlighting the differences between coaching, teaching, mentoring and counselling.

We then modelled this by explicitly practising coaching informally in meetings, corridors, staff rooms, etc. and began talking, explaining and labelling what we were doing and others began to do the same. This then caused a buzz where staff wanted to find out more. It shifted the culture from direct instruction and teacher talk, into more facilitation and coaching. 

Within three years, the school I was working at at the time, Lutley Primary School, became a flagship school, recognised as an OLEVI Center of Excellence in Coaching. Soon after, we had to develop the approach from one school and convert it to a model across the trust.

It was at this point that we were in a position to formalise our coaching approach using IRIS Connect and WalkThrus. It was paramount that the coaching was a process where staff felt safe to talk and explore, but also be challenged before we were able to move forward.

We codified our approach to teaching through the creation of trust-wide teaching rubrics, referencing Teaching WalkThrus to support the development of
these strategies and then used WalkThrus alongside IRIS Connect in our half-termly coaching cycles for all of our teachers across the trust.


The 5-week coaching cycle

5 Week Coaching Cycle - WalkThrus & IRIS Connect 5 Week Coaching Cycle - WalkThrus & IRIS Connect

Week 1 - Introducing the development focus

Each school in our trust has one staff meeting every half term where our development focus for the next 5 weeks is introduced, allowing time to present the materials, share, discuss the WalkThrus models, and provide deliberate practice to role model what they would look like. Every member of staff has a copy of volume one of the WalkThru book and a teacher workbook that we have created alongside a coaching booklet to use for their coaching sessions later on.

Week 2 - Practising the selected teaching technique

During their day-to-day teaching, staff practise the selected WalkThrus techniques. Leaders keep these live, displayed in the staff room and staff add post-its to it for good practice. On PPA day, leaders drop in and ask about the progress towards these, the strengths, the barriers and the solutions. They also ensure a consistent use of language during team meetings, with WalkThrus being a short standing agenda item where staff can share their successes and be coached through barriers.

Week 3 - Recording and reflecting

In week three, staff record a lesson using IRIS Connect and reflect on it through the lens of their development focus by using time-stamped comments directly on the IRIS Connect platform.

During this week, staff record themselves modelling several of the techniques that they have chosen to practise. In the coaching sessions they then explore why they chose the ones that they did and what impact it had.

After the recording, prior to the coaching meeting, staff then comment on their video clip using the language from the WalkThrus. This gives them time to review and reflect on their practice, and if needed, go back to the five stages of their WalkThru and evaluate their successes and what stages need further work. It’s important to highlight that this thinking commences before the coaching session, posing more support and challenge in a low stakes environment.

The coach may then also look at the recording before they meet with the teacher to evaluate the comments that have been made while watching the lesson and consider the precise aspects that are already having a positive impact on their teaching and those that are yet to be improved, giving the coach time to explore some lines of inquiry.

Week 4 - Responsive Conversations

In week four, every member of staff meets their coach for one to one conversations. During this week, the coach will listen to and learn from the coachee to clarify, assess, gauge and engage as well as intentionally challenge, strengthen and deepen certain aspects and skills of the coaching. 

For this it is vital, that the coachee can see their own teaching via IRIS Connect, allowing the coach to uncover the gap between their practice and the practice modelled via WalkThrus through effective questioning - what's the difference between what we have learned via the WalkThru and what happened in this lesson? Then, using the coaching booklet, the coachee captures their own notes and staff set themselves ‘I commit to...’ - statements to provide themselves a clear way forward to improve their practice.

Week 5 - Refining the technique

During week five, staff are working on those ‘I commit to…’ - statements in their classrooms to further improve their practice. Behind the scenes, leaders are engaging in coaching huddles led by a senior leader in the school to provide supervision for all coaches and offer collaborative support and professional development if needed.

During this time, the coaches use our standardised document ‘Staff on a page’ to capture the outcomes of the coaching linked to each WalkThru. This allows leaders to evaluate the impact of professional development, identify strengths and highlight who may need additional support to improve further. It also identifies those staff who can help to share and lead good practice across our Multi-Academy Trust.


Next Steps

We're now in a position where we'll continue to use the trust teaching rubrics for staff to self-assess where they are, cross-referenced with the WalkThrus so they can identify how they can further improve their practice in that area. We'll continue to build in strategies to bounce back, revise and keep on teaching the WalkThrus just like we would with our children, building on our schools deliberately selecting WalkThrus to address the weaknesses in pupils learning in their classrooms.

We now can also ask staff who are proficient and who have exemplary practice in an aspect of teaching, to share their recordings to our trust group on IRIS Connect, providing a bank of modelled practice of key teaching strategies and techniques from our own classrooms that can be used to provide additional professional development for staff who need further support.


Walkthrus Partnership-14New: WalkThrus Integration on IRIS Connect

The powerful coaching model Kate shared above has now been taken one step further. Since 26th February 2024, you can access the WalkThrus content directly within the IRIS Connect platform.

To celebrate our new partnership with Teaching WalkThrus, we're excited to present an exclusive 15% discount for IRIS Connect users who are yet to experience WalkThrus and sign up for their service by the end of April 2024.

Find out moreFor existing WalkThrus and IRIS Connect customers: please get in touch 
if you’d like the WalkThrus integration enabled for your organisation.
Find out more


Leave a comment:

Get blog notifications

Keep up to date with our latest professional learning blogs.