As coaching has increased in popularity within organisations, there is still variance and confusion when attempting to define the term ‘Coaching’. The merging of two similar terms; Mentoring and Coaching creates misunderstanding when attempting to design programmes that assist personal growth and development. The differing nature of the two models will be discussed later in this report. Whitmore (2009) simple defines coaching as focusing on future possibilities, not past mistakes.
Cox Bachkirova and Clutterbuck (2014) develop this definition suggesting coaching;
‘Is a human development process that involves structured, focused interaction, using appropriate strategies, tools and techniques to promote desirable and sustainable change for the benefit of the coachee and potentially for other stakeholders’ (Cox, Bachkirova and Clutterbuck 2014 p1)
What is evident from both definitions, change is at the heart of the coaching process whether seen in a professional or personal environment.
For coaching to succeed a positive relationship between coach and coachee is vital to enable a coach to ‘Transform someone from one place to another’ or to empower a person to ‘move forward’ and create a preferred change (Starr 2011). Gallaway (1986) believes the essence of coaching can be surmised as unlocking people’s potential which allows them to maximise their own performance. The coach is helping them to learn rather than teaching those ways to recognise internal obstacles and successfully overcome them.
Whitmore (2009) suggests the need for the coach to recognise these internal obstacles being more daunting than external ones. Coaching can be used as a powerful vehicle to deliver change in organisations, focusing on increasing performance, achieving results and optimising personal effectiveness.
Coaching has intellectual roots in a range of disciplines: social psychology; learning theory; theories of human and organisational development are only a small selection that contribute to different coaching models. Cox et al (2014) state this diverse range of theories create exciting opportunities for meaningful interactions but could lead to confusion, particularly for novices who are embarking on their coaching journey. Identifying individuals with the relevant skills to deliver the coaching program will be discussed later.
Mentoring and Coaching – what is the difference?
Most teachers have been mentored in their career – as a PGCE student, Schools direct novice, a newly qualified teacher or after promotion. Not many in School XY have experienced or been ‘coached’. Mentoring and coaching share similar features, Cox et al (2014) connect mentoring and coaching, as an educational/learning tool that predominately occurs as a one-to-one process. However what makes them distinctive is the context in which they happen and the purpose for which the conversation is conducted.
Rosinski (2004) proclaims coaches act as facilitators, whilst mentors give advice and expert recommendations. Using Rosinski (2004), mentoring can be used for teachers and schools to manage career transition; mentors can use personal experience to support mentees who are new to role. Coaching is used whenever an individual feels the need to evaluate or reflect on their professional capabilities, strengths and areas for development. By adopting a coaching model it allows for authentic continuous professional development.
In education mentoring is a supportive process based on a long term relationship, between an experienced mentor and an inexperienced mentee. The mentoring process concentrates on meeting, fulfilling standards linked with performance. The course ends when the mentee is confident or proficient enough to carry on in their role without oversight.
Coaching is a peer to peer discussion with the chosen topic being proposed by the coachee. During this dialogue feedback is provided on areas of strength and development. The coach asks questions that fosters reflection within the professional, allowing them to set their own goals for improvement. These types of conversations held between coach and coachee, differ from mentor and mentee.
The coach does not judge or evaluate, complete ownership of the conversation is with the coachee. Coaching also empowers the recipient to direct their professional development in a more bespoke nature to improve their skill set. For the coachee to feel empowered, the coach must be skilled in many attributes. Empathy and active listening, are two key skills which allow the professional to direct their course of development.
‘The coach must think of his/her people in terms of potential, not their performance’. (Whitmore 2009 p14) Coaches need to be experienced but it doesn’t mean they need to be in a superior position or line manage the individual who is being coached; as this will facilitate an open and confidential discussion. Using staff with the necessary knowledge of coaching theory and experience of using this, will prevent informal chats and direct purposeful conversations. ‘Coaching requires expertise in coaching but not in the subject at hand. That is one of its great strengths’ (Whitmore 2009 p14).
Creating a culture for coaching and CPD
“You’ll get more from a £900,000 rider with a coach than you would from a £1m rider without one.” Sir David Brailsford
The foundations of school’s professional development should be a high starting point from which to build on; the need for world class continuous CPD for all staff should be an expectation not a possibility. Stover, Kissel, Haag and Shoniker (2011) believe teacher reflection can be the catalyst for change and professional growth. By adopting a coaching model this would encourage constant reflection from all members of staff.
In a typical coaching model, Mraz, Algozzine and Kissel (2009) proclaim teachers engage in a cycle of demonstration, observation and reflection. Joyce and Showers (2002) highlights ongoing modelling, practice and reflection over time as key elements for effective professional development. Creating a culture for coaching allows the cultivation of expertise in teaching or in any field. Adopting a coaching model that provides meaningful discussions, using feedback to challenge and overcome internal obstacles, will only strengthen the teaching within your establishment and transform pedagogy.
Not all teachers have the same needs or developmental requirements. Stover et al (2011) suggest a model of differentiated coaching to unlock potential. They view teacher/coachee reflection in different ways, but highlight the strength of considering the learning outcomes of the students. By developing this awareness, it can inspire teachers to continue their engagement in professional development, becoming stakeholders in their own learning with the support from their coach.
Joyce and Showers (2002) believe teachers benefit from a culture promoting practice and feedback as this enhances teacher’s growth and development but also enrich their instruction. With any professional development, a wanting to improve is at the crux of the thought process. For meaningful change to happen, teachers must have a voice in the process of their own learning. It is essential that coaches must heed teachers’ voices, by adopting a differentiated model this will engulf the needs of all not just a few.
Creating a culture for coaching encourages an inquisitive rather than an advocacy environment. Bawany (2015) states a coaching culture is an alignment between individual employee, team and organisational goals. For the culture to realise its potential Baweny (2015) claims a shared vision and a desire for personal mastery are vital for cultivating the desired ethos. Initiating a culture for coaching is a challenging concept but by using personal mastery could foster the personal motivation to continually improve in our practice.
‘Utilizing a deceptively simple framework, the GROW Model provides a powerful tool to highlight, elicit and maximise inner potential through a series of sequential coaching conversations’ (Bawany 2015 p2).
Adopting the GROW model allows the individual to analyse their own aspirations, a greater understanding of their current situation, the possibilities open to them, and the actions they could take to achieve their personal and professional goals. The model allows the coach to be reactive to the coachee needs, and they can move between the different elements at various stages in series of coaching conversations.
The use of effective questioning is a key element for this model to be successful. Implementing GROW alongside a differentiated coaching within the CPD model will allow teachers needs to be targeted with a bespoke programme of coaching. Previously mentioned in this report, using the right personnel as coaches is a vital requirement for success. Identifying teachers for coaching roles based on expertise rather than hierarchal position will establish an open and trusting relationship that will enhance professional development and self-reflection.
Toll (2006) recommends for coaches to build these relationships by creating non-evaluative support systems, making risk taking the norm and embracing continual reflection. Promoting a culture of reflection allows for greater collaboration and removes the feeling of isolation that is now common place in the profession. A culture for coaching encourages teachers and support staff to become stake holders in their own learning and gives them a sense of value within the organisation.
The majority of CPD which staff experience are from out-sourced agencies, who provide training on wide ranging topics. Professionals who attend these courses are expected to disseminate the information they have learnt, to their teams when they return. This normally takes place during departmental meetings. Evidence indicates when people are told something, recall dramatically declines. Whitmore (2009) uses the table below to exemplify this theory:
The Teacher Development Trust has undertaken research that indicates, only 1% of teacher training is deemed transformational and has limited impact on student outcomes. The study conducted supports Whitmore (2009) on how new skills need to be learnt. By evaluating the current CPD model, and questioning the thought process of sending teaching or support staff away on external courses. A teacher coaching model could be an important training model for a culture of continuous professional development.
Implementing any new strategy or initiative there are always positive and negative connotations associated with the process. The main costing concerns that surround coaching are the following:
Time – coaching does not lead to immediate results, in some cases the process can be slow, as relationships between coach and coachee need time to grow. In a school setting the allocation of time is another issue. Timetabling would need to be organised for both coach and coachee to have the same lessons free, if not this would create cover implications leading to financial cost or a lack of flexibility for when sessions can be held.
Coaching is highly skilled profession which requires training to develop and embed specific skills. Members of staff may not be willing to partake in training or expectations maybe placed on senior leaders to undertake the ‘role of the coach’. This may lead to a false coaching culture, due to the positions held by the coaches.
The benefits of using coaching as tool for professional development are vast, I have attempted to surmise the key factors below:
The development of highly skilled practitioners, who continually share good practice, raising the quality of teaching and learning. Lower staff turnover as staff feel more supportive and valued. Increase collaboration between departments, sharing ideas and joint observations. Use of technology can assist with lesson observations, targeting specific goals teachers have identified they wish to improve and generate coaching conversations, using footage videoed.
Education has now followed the business world by implementing coaching models to improve professional development. A federation of primary schools in East London have strategically placed coaching as the driving force for teacher development. The culture within their schools encourages collaboration and joint goal setting with senior members of staff.
‘The federation ensures that the consistency of the high quality of teaching and learning is supported by equally high quality professional development and training which focuses on the important details of refinement of effective assessment strategies’
‘Whole school professional development activities have improved many areas of teaching, including mathematics, the pace and planning of lessons and marking. The coaching of individual teachers building their confidence to stretch and challenge pupils.’
‘The session leaders are outstanding. The support they give to these trainees, who are at an early stage of their careers, through structured programmes and through individual coaching and mentoring is exemplary. The impact can be seen through the confidence and skills these trainees possess.’
(The evidence for the school listed above has been taken from Ofsted Report 2013.)
Cost benefit analysis of coaching:
The analysis below attempts to highlight the benefits of coaching in comparison to external CPD. The proposed claims do not attempt to discredit external courses as developing teachers in all areas of their career is vital.
The big question is, can coaching work in all schools? There is enough evidence to support the notion of yes but in reality there are many constraints. The number of staff that school Y has is well over one hundred. Could all of these staff be put through a coaching programme within an academic year? The answer is probably not but by using CPD time more productively, coaching sessions could take place within small groups on a half termly basis.
With budgets being drastically cut schools are now looking for ways to improve teaching and learning but with limited cost. Using expert practitioners to deliver bespoke sessions that will enhance one specific area of a teachers skill portfolio, will enhance the learning experiences of students.
Teachers who require a more personalised coaching approach, could be given one to one sessions with coaches to empower them even more. By embedding a culture for coaching within the school, coaching conversations would become the norm no matter what position they hold in the school.
The use of technology is a must as this removes some of the time issues that are perceived with coaching. Using Ipads or Star Lesson Monitor will allow observations to take place without the coach being there but will provide instant material for coaching discussions.
I have outlined my plan for the initial phase of the coaching model to be used within school Y to the Principal. The ‘two pronged’ approach of individual and community coaching was received well, and the first wave of coaching will begin in the new academic year. This will give me enough time to recruit the enough experts from within the school and discuss the coaching model with them. By using the prescriptive GROW model it will allow the coaches to gain an understanding of how coaching can work. Once confidence grows, other approaches could be adpoted.
Education is currently in a state of flux, by encouraging teachers to take risks and collaborate with each other will only strengthen the common purpose we share in the profession, which is to inspire the young people we teach to achieve more than just what is deemed acceptable.
By introducing a culture for coaching, professionals will become stakeholders in their own development and will continually seek ways to improve and this will have benefits for all parties.