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The Federation of British International Schools in Asia

April 2022

Revolutionising Professional Development in Schools

Coaching has the capacity to positively impact all individuals in a sustainable way across education, revolutionising professional development in the process, from CEOs and headteachers to teachers, students, non-teaching staff and parent communities.

If you are considering the value of coaching in education settings, you will be reassured to know that coaching in an educational context is based upon a huge volume of research evidence and transformational outcomes.

The overwhelmingly positive impact a coaching culture has includes:*

  • Improved staff performance and teaching practice
  • Enhanced staff wellbeing
  • Sustainable and embedded Continuing Professional Development
  • Provides peer support
  • Supports trainee teachers
  • Improved conversations around teacher development

*van Nieuwerburgh, C. & Barr, M., 2017, ‘Coaching in Education’ in Bachkirova, T., Spence, G. & Drake D. (eds), 2016, The Sage Handbook of Coaching

Coaching underpins the development of skills that learners need to fulfil their potential, such as managing change, ownership of learning, agility, and the ability to work with ambiguity.

In my book All Ways Coaching, I explore a framework of pedagogical approaches that align with three ways of coaching, also known as coaching domains: Fundamental, Systemic and Transformative. Understanding these ways of coaching and fusing them with differing approaches to teaching forms the foundation for a coaching way of teaching.

Fundamental

The Fundamental domain is the most widely used and well-known approach across the education sector. It is concerned with the basic skills, processes and models of coaching in a one-to-one coaching relationship, such as in a classroom.

Using Fundamental coaching skills can enhance learning and development through increasing self-awareness and a sense of personal responsibility. The coach facilitates the self-directed learning of the coachee (in this case the student) through the core techniques of questioning, active listening, empathising, acknowledging, paraphrasing and summarising, clarifying and forwarding the action. These are all underpinned by ‘holding’, the creation of a supportive and encouraging environment or space where your student(s) feel confident to engage with you.

Fundamental coaching skills help you move from focussing on yourself to focussing on the coachee (your student). You must strive to be non-directive and non-judgmental and avoid deciding what is best for your coachee. In practical terms this requires the defining of goals, holding the student accountable, and helping students to think through things to come up with answers themselves.

Systemic

The Systemic domain acknowledges that educational contexts are fluid and can be unpredictable. The Systemic way of coaching reflects that we are part of communities and cultures that shape our language, ways of being, thinking and doing. This is about having a broader perspective, looking beyond the individual to the patterns and dynamics at play in your setting.

Each person’s system is made up of different parts, such as family, community, and social context. Systemic coaching entails acknowledging the backdrop to your students’ lives. That is not to say you should get caught up in their storyline but have an appreciation and awareness of their context.

As a teacher you need to be reflective and self-aware, mindful of the attitude and approach you bring to lessons. In a coaching mindset, we must reflect on what values we are bringing to the table, and an awareness of the systems to which we ourselves belong, and not let these influence our coaching way of teaching.

Transformative

The Fundamental and Systemic domains are an apprenticeship into the mastery of Transformative coaching. Transformative coaching takes into consideration the multi-faceted context of educational settings rather than a linear outlook focused on an individual or system. It is about being fluid and agile rather than rigid in approach. Agility allows for space and creativity to happen, you can provide direction for the conversation and ensure progress is made by referring to your own experience – this challenges the orthodoxy (or fiction) of impartiality in a coaching partnership. Your challenge is how to act with principle: drawing out internal values from the students rather than risk unconsciously imposing your own.

Coaching in education has the potential to improve student outcomes, support greater staff autonomy, and encourage confidence and ambition across school communities.

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The Author

Nicholas McKie is a Professional Certified Coach and Founder & Director of Persyou, specialising in leadership coaching across the education sector. His book All Ways Coaching is published by Cadogan Press and is available from Amazon. Nicholas is also a former international school principal and UK school inspector. Connect with Nicholas on Twitter @McKieNicholas and @PersyouC and on LinkedIn.