A Rationale for Coaching in Education
Strategies for professional learning and staff development in a school context have traditionally been through the introduction of an initiative by senior leaders or visiting providers or through focus groups and twilight training internally or by staff attending external courses.
Other strategies have been to share classroom practice through team meetings, through discussion and conversations about observations and ‘drop-ins’ on classroom practice, although the results of these approaches have very little sustained impact at individual level, possibly because of a lack of understanding of the new initiatives or a lack of consolidation to embed the new learning.
Professional learning has led to the introduction of using coaching as a process for performance management and enhancement. Through the use of coaching conversations, it is hoped that the integration and realisation of new approaches into an existing repertoire of skills sets will encourage new thinking, reflective practice and ultimately improved teaching and learning for the children.
At present, appraisal and performance management is the preferred model for accountability in many schools but these processes are often not very rigorous or successful in driving change. Other strategies for development such as mentoring or co-mentoring are also used; however, these methods also appear to have very little sustained impact at individual level because of a lack of understanding of the new initiative or a lack of consolidation or willingness to embed the new learning.
Peer learning, joint practice and support whereby staff visit classrooms and either team teach or observe practice to develop teaching and learning objectives again have been seen to have little impact because of a lack of time to organise mutual sessions, a mix-match of timings with timetables or a lack of commitment.
However, in order for development to take place, support needs to be more personalised and relevant to individual needs and performance management targets agreed, which identify learning outcomes and real changes in practice that would result in improved learning or practice, rather than an imposed set of targets.
This approach again leads to the importance of introducing coaching as a process for development as this is at the heart of coaching and mentoring. The potential for the performance management process to develop colleagues, to build motivating and collegiate relationships, to achieve school priorities and to improve pupils’ learning and experience can then be established and developed further through solutions-focused coaching.
A coaching approach can support a more effective culture for learning and development for staff in school and so support professional development that makes a difference to the learning and experience of pupils and which is why I believe coaching should be integral to the professional development and performance management process in school.
‘The use of coaching is not a difficult skill to learn. Perhaps the hardest part is the willingness to give up what we did before, especially when it was a more prescriptive style. Change is a challenge for all of us, but in the modern world, it is inevitable and the better we understand the reasons for it and the effects of better methodologies, the easier it becomes.
Coaching should never be viewed as the flavour of the month or as just another new initiative. It is more importantly another step in the ongoing evolution of participative human interaction. As such it applies equally to leadership, to management, to parenting and to teaching and learning’ (Whitmore, 2005)
Jane is Assistant Head Teacher at Dubai English Speaking School, who have spent the past 2 years implementing a Coaching culture within the school, with the help of British School of Coaching.