In 2009, I was fortunate enough to have a book published – The Coaching Toolkit (my mum was very proud, but I was quite embarassed with the cover, which is a bit of a shocker!) At the time I had been doing a great deal of work with my co-author, Mike Harbour, to set up coaching in the school where I was working. We started off with a group of interested staff and then grew it across the school – with a great degree of success. In the first chapter of the book we outlined our thoughts on what coaching was all about:
Four years later, in a new school and a very different context we are looking to launch coaching again. It will be the main driver for CPD in 2013-14, with a view to using our own staff to develop consistently brilliant teaching across the school. Time slots will be put aside throuoghout the year for colleagues to meet in pairs to have a co-coaching conversation.
Again we have started small. A group of interested staff met last half term to talk about coaching and how it could be used at DHS. Armed with the STRIDE model, we paired up and gave it a go on each other.
Having discussed as a group what coaching was and how it can be used as a CPD tool to develop teaching and learning, we discussed the qualities that make a good coach. Some of the qualities discussed were as follows:
Then we discussed how the STRIDE model of coaching can be put into action, when having a coaching conversation with a colleague. What are the key questions that the coach needs to ask?
The feedback form this group of staff was really positive and it has convinced me that the time is right to develop coaching across the school in 2013-14. So, I thought it might be timely to reflect again on the benefits of coaching as a CPD model in schools.
The following quote from Dylan Wiliam is a great starting point when answering this question:
And this from Dave Brailsford, Team GB Cycling Coach:
Alongside this, the following list outlines some of the main benefits of coaching:
- Capacity building – When staff are able to solve their own problems by coaching, you are building capacity for future development. Problem solving is an important quality in school leaders.
- Develops a ‘Growth Mindset’ – When staff feel more confident about solving their own issues, they are more likely to do so again – and so continue to develop and improve their own practice.
- Grows self-esteem – When we feel that we are supported with developing our own practice and encouraged to try out new things, we are more likely to take risks. Risk taking leads to innovation and the development of new and exciting teaching strategies. Coaching enables this.
- In context – Because the coach works in the same context as the coachee, they understand the context of the issue, making it easier to help the coachee come up with an effective solution.
- Efficiency – As a culture of coaching grows within a school, individuals and groups get to the nub of an issue quickly, deal with it, improve it and then move on. Problems are less likely to linger/ fester. When coaching is happening informally and frequently like this (also known as Martini coaching!!!), it becomes a very powerful tool for continuous improvement
- Fosters team spirit – Coaching is non-hierachical and non-judgemental. It is also grounded in the belief that everyone can improve and get better – and that everyone has something to offer to support this process – especially when co-coaching is used (A coaches B, then B coaches A). So everyone feels valued.
- Develops a dialogue about pedagogy – Experience has shown that as coaching develops across a school, there are more conversations taking place about our core business – teaching and learning.
- Sustained improvement – Many CPD activities can be ‘one-off’ events. At best these may result in a new strategy being tried out once or twice – but this improvement is rarely sustained and usually tails off. With coaching, because you know that you have committed to action and are going to be questioned about ‘how’s it been going?’ when you next meet up with your coach, you are more likely to put it into action. If coaching meetings then happen throughout the year, this improvement will be sustained.
- Personalised CPD – The ‘one size fits all’ approach to CPD i.e. all sitting in a hall listening to the same message, is not an effective use of time. We all have our own areas of work that we want to develop – coaching allows each of us to focus on what we want to improve. This is so important if we want all teachers to be the best they possibly can be.
- Empowering – Because with coaching you choose the area you want to focus on and it is not dictated from above, people feel empowered and motivated to improve.
This resource can be used during a coaching meeting to record the main points discussed – using the STRIDE model.
It can be downloaded here.
What teachers say about coaching
A few (real!) quotes from teachers who have engaged in coaching:
“The coach I worked with was really supportive. They helped me to work through the issue myself and find a solution. And it worked! As a result, I felt more confident to tackle issues on my own. Really good, thanks very much.”
“The best CPD I have had in the last three years. Brilliant.”
“I took the ideas on board that I discussed with my coach, used them with my classes and as a result felt more confident, organised and generally happier about how the first meetings with my new classes went. It has had a knock on effect throughout the year with most of my classes.”
“Great to see the issue from another angle and come up with a solution….together.”