ACEL Thumbnail

ACEL eLeading article: Introduction to Coaching

This article was published in the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) eLeading newsletter on 26 August 2016:

Coaching in Education: An Introduction

It’s based on some frequently asked questions about coaching that my school addressed at the early stages of our coaching journey.

My recent (much less eloquent) interview for the TER podcast also addresses some of these issues.

I hope that it’s useful.

#educoachOC Chat 10: Data in Coaching

Here’s the preview blog for the next #educoachOC chat on data in coaching on tonight!

#educoachOC

Our next #educoachOC chat will explore the role of data in coaching conversations. The word ‘data’ has many meanings and connotations for teachers and school leaders. This chat aims to tease out some of the factors to consider when selecting, gathering and using data in the context of a coaching conversation.

At an international level, there is much debate around the validity and use of data such as that generated by the OECD. At a national level we are all familiar with the statistical data generated by national testing and school leaving qualifications, and how schools grapple with this in an attempt to make it meaningful and useful to individual teachers. School leaders need to deal with all manner of data, from budgets and expenditure to attendance and compliance measures. All of this data may fit the conventional view of data as statistical information used to measure performance or efficiency in some aspect of the education system. A…

View original post 319 more words

Towards a School Coaching Culture: Part 2 – Embryonic Signs

Part 1 of this blog post explored some starting points and contexts for the introduction of coaching and coaching approaches in schools. In this post I’d like to consider what we might see happening as coaching evolves in context. How might a coaching culture emerge and what does it look like?

Slide8

The definition above suggests that a coaching culture is one where the organisation has moved beyond seeing coaching as an isolated intervention, perhaps targeting specific issues. Coaching is now embedded as part of the organisational way of working, as indicated by its deliberate integration into strategic planning. Further, broader collegial benefits are identified and the use of ‘coaching approaches’ has been extended to include stakeholders other than just employees.

In Part 1, I outlined a range of conversational contexts or ‘portals’ through which coaching might be introduced in schools. I touched on the importance of clarity of intent, rationale, and organisational factors in the success of what probably begins life as ‘another initiative’. Once the starting point and broad rationale are identified, the way in which the initiative is led, by whom, with whom, and at what speed, is highly contextual. In this excellent book chapter, Christian van Nieuwerburgh synthesises a range of research on coaching cultures and identifies some helpful frameworks to describe the evolution of such cultures. Clutterbuck and Megginson’s (2005) four stages of development towards a coaching culture more or less describe the phases that we’ve gone through in my own school context:

ClutterbuckMegginson

The broad stages outline by van Nieuwerburgh using the ACTION acronym also fit well with our development process – albeit not quite so linear!

ACTION

I would not claim that my school has a fully embedded coaching culture and has reached the ‘normalisation’ stage – yet. However, I have witnessed what might be described as the embryonic signs of a coaching culture. More than three years since the introduction of the idea of coaching at the school, we can now see its influence across a wider range of contexts than we had first intended. The true test will be if the influence of coaching continues to grow and is sustained over the next few years. I am optimistic that it will.

We initially proposed coaching as a vehicle to enhance professional practice and to catalyze professional learning in a way that respected the professionalism of teachers. I have been very privileged to be given license to champion this approach as the main plank of our emerging professional learning strategy and lucky not to have to juggle this with competing ‘initiatives’. I know from past experience that this is not always the case in schools. You can read more about how we articulated our coaching model here.

Our coaching journey began with two ‘in-training’ coaches on our Secondary campuses offering a cycle of six or seven coaching sessions to teacher volunteers on any aspect of their practice. (We also had a Teaching & Learning Coach establishing a parallel role at our Primary campus 3 days per week).

After taking is slow, building trust in the process and personnel, and continuing to champion the approach at all levels, it is gratifying to see the fruits of our labours take shape. The evolution of our coaching approach (so far) can best be illustrated with the following examples:

Forms of Coaching

1-1 Coaching continues to be offered as a professional learning ‘service’. The uptake of this option has grown rapidly as more teachers experience it and word (and trust) spreads.

Internal ‘Executive Coaching’ was also offered to a target group of middle and senior school leaders with a view to focusing on their leadership roles and responsibilities. This was very well received and created more advocates in positions of influence.

Scaling-up access to coaching for a large Secondary school staff continues to be a significant challenge given the limited capacity of the coaches. One way of addressing this was the introduction of Peer-Coaching. Pairs of teachers were invited to be ‘trained’ in the use of a coaching approach in collegial discussions about practice. Again, there was a healthy appetite for this non-threatening reciprocal approach to classroom observation and feedback.

REALITY CHECK: There is a need for strategic investment to support this work – time! Teachers are finding time and space for this because they know what they are getting out of it. However, this cannot be maintained on good-will alone and schools need to consider what they might need to do differently, or stop doing, to support this new kind of professional learning.

Coaching Approaches to Performance & Development Conversations

The development of coaching skills and approaches with our school leaders (many of whom had been coached) was viewed as an important investment to support our recently revised approach to Performance and Development planning. It has also proved extremely worthwhile from a general leadership development point of view.

The intent of the Performance and Development Framework is to recognise, enhance and build upon the outstanding work of our staff so that they may continue to grow as members of our professional community. The Framework is intended to provide for a collaborative, growth-orientated process – not a punitive appraisal in the traditional sense. The process does not start from a deficit point of view. It is primarily about having better conversations about our practice so that we continue to strive to be the best educators we can be for the children in our care. As members of a professional community, we have a responsibility to routinely reflect, develop, and seek feedback on our practice so that we remain fully engaged in our work as professional educators.

The Leader as Coach program (a bespoke version of this program) was delivered over four twilight sessions. The aim of the program was to provide a frame for collegial dialogue between the leaders and their teams and/or P&D groups. The dynamic and outcomes of these sessions is something that I’ll write about at a later stage. We have not magically turned our leaders into coaches but we hope that we have sown the seeds, and introduced some skills, that will be sustained and further developed going forward. This may well need more coaching!

eLearning Fixer to eLearning Coach

The experience of our Head of eLearning, Phil Feain, serves as a great example of the transformative impact of coaching. As you might expect, he is passionate about the role of technology in supporting learning. He very much sees his role as one of supporting student learning through his advocacy of appropriate eLearning tools and strategies. He is NOT the Network Manager or a tech-support person (although he does know this stuff!).

Phil approached our coaching pilot with curiosity and caution. He thought that it sounded like a different kind of learning opportunity for staff but had a healthy suspicion of the latest fads (and to be fair, my motives, as I was a new to the school too).

He took part in our introductory sessions and liked what he saw and heard. When we targeted school leaders with an invitation to be coached Phil took up the offer and we started working on a couple of goal areas around his leadership role. His main concern was that he wanted to move from spending the bulk of his time as a tech-fixer or demonstrator to having more of a focus on the learning aspect of his eLearning role. Through being coached he was able to enact new ways of engaging with staff and initiate new opportunities to generate more two-way traffic in his role. One way that he has done this is by offering eLearning Coaching as part of our Professional Learning Program this year. In this role Phil is adopting a coaching approach to supporting staff to achieve their eLearning goals. Success! – for Phil and the coaching program.

So when we offered introductory training to get Peer-Coaching off the ground, Phil was one of the first to sign-up. He partnered with a colleague in another subject area and embarked on a reciprocal series of coaching sessions over the year thus gaining more coaching experience and learning as he went.

As one of the school’s middle-leaders, Phil was also involved in the Leader as Coach program. This experience is enabling him to begin to apply his growing coaching skills and experience to his role as a subject team leader.

For me, the most significant and pleasing part of this story is that Phil has been the first to open another coaching ‘portal’ by exploring the application of his coaching skills in academic progress conversations with his Year 12 students.

Similarly, it did not take long for our pastoral leaders who were coached or took part in the Leader as Coach program to begin talking about the potential of this approach with students, and even parents. This is most likely the next natural development for us.

Coaching as Part of Strategic Plans

Positions of leadership at our school are reappointed every four years. We are in the midst of this process at the moment and this has presented the opportunity to update role descriptions and review current requirements. As a result, my own position, Dean of Professional Practice, now has coaching, and leadership of coaching, explicitly stated in the role description. Based on the success of our work to date, and the persuasive effect of this on the senior leadership of the school, our coaching team will expand and be formalised in 2017 with the creation of two new substantive positions of Secondary Learning and Teaching Coach. These strategic moves can only strengthen the place of coaching in the school learning culture going forward.

A Coaching Culture?

So what are the signs that a coaching culture might be emerging? This slide suggests some (coaching) questions that we might ask ourselves and points to some possible answers. What could this look like in your school context?

Slide9

References

Clutterbuck, D., & Megginson, D. (2005) Making Coaching Work: Creating a Coaching Culture. London: CIPD.

Gormley, H., & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2014). Developing coaching cultures: a review of the literature. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 7: 90-101.

van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2016). Towards a coaching culture. In C. van Nieuwerburgh (Ed.) Coaching in Professional Contexts. (pp.227-234). London: Sage.

Towards a School Coaching Culture: Part 1 – Starting Points

I recently had the privilege of presenting at the researchED Melbourne event. For this presentation I decided to take more of a “big picture” view of coaching rather than discussing the developmental story that I had done a few times before. Through my ongoing involvement in coaching and seeing how it is evolving at my own school and many others that I know, I have become increasingly interested in how the introduction of coaching as an “initiative” might affect a change in organisational culture over time.

I’m a little late in getting around to this but I thought that it might be useful to write a commentary to some of the slides that I used at researchED.

It is important to begin by clarifying what we mean when we talk about coaching and the definition below sums it up perfectly for me.

Slide2

The terms coaching and mentoring are often used in the same breath and their meaning conflated in educational discourse. Unfortunately, this only serves to perpetuate the confusion that exists about the difference between the two. A useful way to distinguish between these two forms of “helping intervention” is to place them on a continuum as shown on the slide below.

Slide3

The key difference between coaching and mentoring is one of intent – what is expected, invited or solicited when entering into each of these collaborative engagements with another. This post on the #educoachOC blog explores this topic in more detail.

So why coaching in education? This quote from John Campbell speaks for itself and resonated strongly with me when I thought back to my early interest in coaching in schools.

Slide4

Starting Points

Schools provide a range of “conversational contexts” (Campbell, 2016, p. 133) where coaching approaches can improve outcomes. When we first think about introducing coaching, we might identify a problematic conversational context as a starting point. This could sound something like “We want to change the nature of conversations around ‘x’ so that ‘y’ will improve”. It’s not too difficult to identify a wide range of contexts like this in schools.

Alongside these conversational contexts the introduction of coaching may be driven by a more general philosophical view of teaching and of teacher learning such as the moral imperative argued by Wiliam (2014, p. 6). It may be about a view of teacher professionalism.

We need to create environments in which teachers embrace the idea of continuous improvement…an acceptance that the impact of education on the lives of young people creates a moral imperative for even the best teachers to continue to improve.

Van Nieuwerburgh and Campbell have proposed a Global Framework for Coaching in Education as a way of considering the range of entry points or “portals” for the introduction of coaching and coaching approaches in schools.

Slide6

Entering through the Professional Practice portal could mean a focus on classroom teaching, with a desire to create a safe space for dialogue about the reality of what is happening in teachers’ classes leading to more discerning and personalised professional learning. Entering through the Educational Leadership portal could be about focusing on the nature of performance and development conversations that leaders have with their teams with a desire to both improve the leadership capacity of the leaders themselves and make these conversations more developmental in nature. Approaching coaching through the Student Success and Wellbeing portal could be about employing coaching approaches with students, or between students, in order to enable them to better articulate their learning and to set goals and identify strategies to help move them forward. Just as with school leaders, equipping students with coaching skills might also develop their leadership capacity. The Community Engagement portal invites us to consider broadening the application of coaching approaches further still to involve parents, carers and other community partners involved in learning and development conversations.

When we propose the introduction of something like coaching we may not yet have an entirely clear vision of what it will look like in practice across the school, but chances are, we will know what is driving us to pursue it. This rationale for the introduction of coaching in a school context is key to its success and is an important area for schools to examine.

So, if coaching is seen to be the answer, what is the question? I have explored this question in a previous post.

A Word of Caution

Coaching is about unlocking potential (Whitmore, 2009, p. 10). At its best, coaching is empowering and respectful and aims to build capacity and efficacy. However, it can be tempting for school leaders to view coaching as an appropriate response to perceived teacher under-performance or non-compliance.  Coaching is not a cure to be administered to teachers or a manipulative strategy to ensure compliance. In fact, “stealth coaching” by leaders (or anyone else for that matter) risks engendering feelings of mistrust of the true intent of coaching and those leading it. This issue is ultimately about our beliefs about our colleagues’ capacity for professional growth and our respect for their professionalism.

Slide7

Context is Key

Whenever I’ve had discussions (online and in person) with colleagues in other schools about the why and how of coaching in their context, they invariably refer to the contextual conditions that exist(ed) in their school. These are things like the customs, routines, processes, levels of collaboration, leadership, and the nature of discourse about practice in the school. Any and all of these can have a positive or negative influence on how coaching “lands” with staff and on its rate of growth.

The pre-conditions for coaching will be different in every school context. Coaching leaders need to be in tune with these and take them into account when considering their approach. Trust is a critical factor here. We know that trust is critical in individual coaching relationships but in terms of establishing a broader coaching culture we need to think about the levels of trust across the full range of conversational contexts in the school.

Some Questions

  • Through which ‘portal’ are you approaching coaching?
  • What conversational context do you want to enhance with coaching and/or coaching approaches?
  • How does your rationale for initiating coaching sit with the true intent and principles of a coaching approach?
  • Thinking about the prevalent discourse in your school: is it one of trust, growth, ownership, empowerment and learning, or is it one of performativity, judgement, deficit, suspicion and compliance?
  • How might this influence how, when and with whom you introduce coaching in your context?

Part 2 will consider my own school context and the emergence of what we could call the “embryonic signs” of a coaching culture.

Further Reading

Towards a Coaching Culture (free book chapter): https://au.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/74874_vanNieuwerburgh_Towards_a_Coaching_Culture.pdf

References

Campbell, J. (2016). Coaching in schools. In C. van Nieuwerburgh (Ed.) Coaching in Professional Contexts. London: Sage.

van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2012). Coaching in education: an overview. In C. van Nieuwerburgh (Ed.) Coaching in Education: Getting Better Results for Students, Educators, and Parents. London: Karnac.

van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2014). Introduction to Coaching Skills: a practical guide. London: Sage.

van Nieuwerburgh, C., & Campbell, J. (2015). A global framework for coaching in education. CoachEd: The Teaching Leaders Coaching Journal, February 2015: 2-5.

van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2016). Towards a coaching culture. In C. van Nieuwerburgh (Ed.) Coaching in Professional Contexts. London: Sage.

Whitmore, J. (2009).  Coaching for performance: GROWing human potential and purpose: The principles and practice of coaching and leadership (4th edn.).  London: Nicholas Brealey.

Wiliam, D. (2014). The formative evaluation of teaching performance. CSE Occasional Paper No. 137. Melbourne: Centre for Strategic Education (CSE).

 

27957596666_c25045648b

It Takes a Village: a Reflection

My Twitter friend Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) is a highly regarded connected educator, blogger extraordinaire, eLearning expert, thinker, writer and collaborator. He often uses the phrase “it takes a village” as a typically humble response to the gratitude or further dialogue he receives from others when he has shared something through his blog or on twitter. Aaron has blogged about this several times and often chooses to illustrate what he takes from the phrase by simply sharing other peoples comments on his blog posts. To mark his 300th blog post, he chose to invite those who have commented on his blog posts to respond with a short reflection or comment on what it means to us to be part of the village.

Please read Aaron’s full post A Village Takes Many Things – a fascinating and thought provoking collection of responses to a phrase that seems to resonate strongly with many of us. #ittakesavillage

I don’t often write “off the cuff” (I know I should) but in this instance I responded to the question more or less in the moment. I’ve copied my own response below.

It Takes Dialogue

I think that this phrase speaks to the complexity of teaching. None of us have all of the answers to the myriad of professional dilemmas that we grapple with, on a number of levels, every day. By connecting online, I’d like to think that we are each sharing our thinking and ideas and drawing on those of others for the benefit of our students. The complexity of teaching stems from the fact that every one of our students are unique, as are the interactions in every one of our classrooms. What works for me might not work for you but what works for me might just nudge your thinking towards something else that works in your context. Reciprocally, by distilling my thoughts into 140 characters, or being discerning about links and resources I share, and sending them out to the world, I invite feedback and dialogue. This shapes and influences the next stage of my own thinking and understanding. We are not going to put the [education] world to rights but we are doing our own small bit for the greater good.

I often ponder how the many years of relative isolation in my early career (I started teaching in 1992) might have been different. How my learning might have been accelerated by exposure to voices beyond the walls of my school and local area. What I do know is that, until my engagement with Twitter (and subsequent graduation to blogging), the breadth of my professional conversations was quite limited. I had my own department within my school supplemented by occasional face to face contact with a wider network of people (most often working in the same subject area as me). These external voices were part of local associations, national bodies and the very occasional conference. All too often though, these fora were about sharing resources and socialising (no problem with that) rather than discussing their application in context. It was not until I had the privilege of working in Initial Teacher Education that I came into more regular contact with a wider range of perspectives on education and some global voices. But even then, dialogue was still limited by hierarchies, opportunities and physical constraints on time and space.

I remember my anxiety at putting out my first tweets. I was cautioned by some peers against sharing too much. Someone might steal your ideas and materials! Thankfully I didn’t see it that way. I reached out to connect and learn.

Now I can’t imagine not being a connected educator. I’m very grateful to be part of the global education village.

And a final footnote: I’m now living and working on the opposite side of the world from where my career began but more connected than ever!

 

#educoachOC Chat 9: Listening

Listening in a Coaching Context: next #educoachOC Twitter chat – Monday 6 June 8.30pm Australian EST

#educoachOC

Listening

Our next #educoachOC chat will focus on listening in a coaching context. Alongside other key coaching skills such as questioning, clarifying and empathising, the way we listen and engage with the coachee – with our ears, gestures and eyes – is perhaps the most fundamentally important factor in building the trust required for coaching to be effective.

Listening in everyday conversation can be very different from listening in coaching. We all know people who are poor listeners and we recognise the signs when we do not have someones full attention. There may be a clicking of a keyboard at the other end of the phone, or a TV program playing in the background, or a lack of response or nonsensical answer when you’ve asked a question. When the conversation is face to face we can see this lack of attention to what we are saying in the lack of eye contact, body language and expression. We can also…

View original post 537 more words

#educoachOC Chat 8: Coaching Contexts

#educoachOC

Chat 8 Promo slide

Our next #educoachOC monthly chat is about contexts for coaching in schools. In particular, we’d like to explore the antecedent conditions for coaching: the precursors to the introduction of coaching in each of our educational contexts.

To set the scene for this chat you might want to read some of our team’s individual blog posts from last year. In If coaching is the answer, what is the question? Chris explores the starting points for coaching in his school context and in Developing a Coaching Model: Choices & Considerations he discusses some of the factors to be considered in moving from initial catalyst to developing a context-specific approach. In Implementing a coaching model: One school’s approach Deb explains her school’s approach to developing a coaching model.

Taking this notion of contexts for coaching further, and considering where our initial starting points might ultimately lead, the Global Framework for Coaching in Education

View original post 227 more words