Mathematics Coaching – An Interview with John Sutton and Arlene Mitchell

John Sutton and Arlene Mitchell (deceased), Senior Research Associates at RMC Research, Denver, CO are interviewed as part of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) resources to support mathematics coaches ( or The interview took place at the NCSM National Conference in Boston, MA in April 2015. John and Arlene were leaders for and contributed strongly to the research undertaken by the NSF-funded Examining Mathematics Coaching project (2009-2015), in partnership with Montana State University and the University of Idaho. John and Arlene have given numerous presentations at state, regional, and national conferences on the research and implementation of coaching at the school and district levels. Additionally, they have worked with a number of school districts to help plan and deploy mathematics coaching models to support mathematics teaching and student success in mathematics. Questions answered through the interview with NCSM are listed below.

  • What is your Philosophy regarding coaching?
  • Are there any non-negotiables to any coaching model?
  • What aspects of leadership can be supported by coaches?
  • Are there strategies that coaches would find useful in implementing [mathematics coaching] in an institutional context?
  • Should building capacity to “self-coach” be a goal of coaching programs?
  • What aspects of this process are most challenging for teachers?
  • What are some of the most challenging aspects of this process for coaches?
  • What questions would you pose to coaches or supervisors of coaching programs?
    • How much of the mathematics coach’s time is actually being spent in the coaching process?
    • How does student data figure into the coaching conversation?
    • In what ways do coaching program leaders continue to support their coaches to improve practice as a coach, as a teacher, and learner, so that they are in the best position possible to support all students and ensure success?