Well, the 4th National Coaching in Education Conference was a great success – and our case-study presentation seemed to go down well too. The conference was affirming, inspiring and challenging in equal measures with excellent keynotes and concurrent sessions over the two days. Here’s the Storify of the #EdCoach2015 Twitter feed to give a flavour of the thinking going on at the MCG on June 1st & 2nd.
The conference program catered for people at all stages of their coaching journey with a nice mix of big-picture keynotes and concurrent sessions on specific aspects of coaching skills and the practical implementation of coaching as an intervention in schools. At the previous event two years ago, my colleagues and I were right at the start of our journey. Six staff attended the conference with a fairly fuzzy idea of what coaching was about and an even fuzzier idea of how it might be implemented in our school context. We left with a clearer answer to the first question but way more questions about the latter!
This year, there was again much talk of coaching models and developing a coaching culture. In discussion with a wide range of delegates over the two days it became clear to me that these terms meant different things to different people when translated into their context. I recalled the full day of post-conference debrief and the resulting scribbles on many sheets of butcher-paper that it took for us two years ago to clarify what we meant by all of the terminology around coaching. The coaching process itself is deceptively simple but I would suggest that taking the time to clarify the language around the process, and to contextualise it, is very important indeed. This language continues to evolve.
Here are some of my post-conference-ponderings:
I would describe this as the framework or protocol for the coaching conversation. This can be a well known system such as GROW or GROWTH (which we use) or just a well founded routine for managing the conversation. A critical point is that a coaching conversation is a managed conversation. We mustn’t forget that a system alone is not enough. Without due consideration to key coaching skills, such as powerful questioning and active listening, and what Christian van Nieuwerburgh calls “way of being”, all you have is a bunch of letters! All of these are comprehensively explained in short videos to accompany Christian’s excellent book here.
In my mind the term “coaching model” within an education context suggests a way of describing how coaching fits within your organisational structures for staff professional learning, feedback and improvement. It’s more than a description of how the conversation is conducted and what the desirable outcomes are. In many ways, the thorny issues of implementation and scaling reside in this space. A bit more on this in my next post.
At it’s most extensive, the term “coaching culture” might be a way of describing the pervasive impact of coaching-based approaches across all facets of school life, or the coaching dividend as the conference title would call it. Christian van Nieuwerburgh addressed this topic in his keynote using the Global Framework for Coaching in Education (see article here) that has been developed through a powerful collaboration with John Campbell and Jim Knight. Christian cited a body of research evidence showing the dividend of coaching approaches in aspects of Professional Practice, Educational Leadership, and Student Success and Wellbeing. His slides are available here. Several of the conference case-study presentations also talked of changing cultures over time as a result of coaching within their schools . Nick Burnett presented a concurrent session titled Leading a Coaching Culture (for Learning). Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to Nick’s session but a couple of his slides sum up a coaching culture perfectly.
So how do we go about making this happen?
In future posts I will consider some of the “nuts and bolts” of developing a coaching model and, ultimately, a coaching culture.