Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In recent years, K-12 online charter schools have seen increased enrollment as parents and guardians seek alternate options for educating their children. Online schools provide opportunities for flexibility, individualization, and continuous learning when in-person learning is not available. However, research on K-12 online schooling is currently minimal despite enrollment. Further, little to no research explores middle school online students or delves into the stakeholders who support students. Some online schools have employed a Learning coach—an adult assigned to work with a student at home. Learning coaches can be an asset for engaging learning. The researcher asks the following questions: How are learning coaches utilized and supported by middle school ELA teachers in online schools? How do parents of middle school students enact their role as learning coaches in online schools?

This study investigated the role of learning coaches in an online school system to understand better how learning coaches work with students and the school and, second, determine what strategies or tools the school uses to assist learning coach practice. The mixed-methods study evaluates learning coach roles from the school and a middle school parent’s perspective. The researcher collected interviews from five middle school English Language Arts teachers, a learning coach teacher who was an employee responsible for working exclusively with Learning coaches, and five middle school parents who were the assigned learning coach for their child. Moreover, the researcher analyzed ELA courses for curriculum content and communication to determine how teachers interacted with Learning Coaches through the content. The researcher also studied school-produced literature for Learning Coaches to establish the school district’s expectations of Coaches. Finally, the researcher surveyed middle school Learning Coaches as quantitative data to further understand the enactment and utilization of Coaches.

The findings of the study revealed three major themes regarding Learning Coach roles. The first was that learning coaches are monitors and supporters of their students. The second was that Learning Coaches maintain a partnership with the school to create a learning environment that aligns with school expectations. The third theme was the importance of developing effective communication and connections between home and school. The implications of this study show strategies and structures online schools and traditional schools can implement when distance learning.



Committee Chair

Skinner, Kim