Coaching, coaching, coaching—everywhere you look in educational literature, there is generally a conversation that includes “coaching” as a buzz word! Have you ever wondered what is meant by these references to coaching, and why coaching has become such a phenomena—Yes, why coaching and why now?
Researchers such as Elenar Aguilar (The Art Of Coaching, 2013) cite coaching as an essential component of an effective professional development program. She shares that coaching builds will, skill, knowledge and capacity because there is a “personal” ownership. Yet coaching is not new—our most familiar connection has been through sports—more specific examples include Carolina Panther’s coach Ron Rivera; legendary basketball coaches John Wooden (UCLA), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), John Thompson (Georgetown), and Dean Smith (North Carolina). What qualities do these individuals possess that make them exceptional coaches? How have their coaching practices lead to successful teams? And finally, how do these “sports” related practices transfer into an “education” setting?
What in our educational paradigm has changed? During a 2017 TED Talk, American surgeon and researcher Dr. Atul Gawande notes the current view of how professionals “get better at what they do” and “how it has been derived from the world of sports.” His view focuses on the notion that professionals “are never done growing” and “everybody needs a coach” to hone their skills and develop their game.” Secondly, Gawande specifically references coaching as a necessary component for improvement as the complexities of a job increases.
Based on educational research regarding best practices and my experience over the years, there are five successful qualities of a coach that have stood the test of time.
- Building relationships
- Establishing clear, effective lines of communication
- Understanding the complexity of adult learning
- Establishing environments that support collective efficacy
- Building effective teams
These qualities have guided my work over the last few weeks, as I posed questions to coaches regarding their “take” on the coaching phenomena as a tool for academic, instructional and professional improvement. Questions that were considered were: (1) What would a graphic representation of coaching look like for you and why? (2) How do you make use of “coaching” in your daily work? (3) Describe a typical coaching experience? (4) Have you ever been on the receiving end of a “coaching” experience? If so, share what that experience was like, and (5) How did you know professionally that “coaching” was a next step in your career? Yes, why coaching?
Every coach surveyed shared they had been on the receiving end of a coaching experience and that these coaching conversations predisposed them to thinking about coaching as a possible career choice. Without exception each coach shared their positive coaching experience and linked that experience to collective, collaborative planning with feedback.
Listening to the extended survey conversations, it was the collaborative nature of the interactions that allowed participants their creativity, to “hone” their instructional performance and dictate “self “action! You may ask, how did their coaching experiences support these ideas? Overwhelming and across the board responses focused on the respect and rapport felt during the coaching process (relationship building) and the collaborative nature of the experiences. These components comprise the #1 and # 2 foundational tenets we call eduContext. These contextual conditions foster, support and facilitate effective learning environment for adults and students (Maye, 2017). They are essential environmental components for effective teaching and learning.
When I began thinking about the question “why coaching?,” I had my own notion regarding what I believed to be a possible response.
My goal in choosing to survey current coaches was to seek additional , unbiased responses to answering the question, Why Coaching? What I discovered included even more than my original thinking. Aguilar says it best, “coaching goes where no PD has gone before, into the intellect, behaviors, practices.” It is at its crux, about relationship building and collaborative interactions. It is about the growth that coaching provides in the coach as well as the individuals who are coached. When all is said and done, I believe that all of these ideas are definitive responses to the question, why coaching?
Dr. Gail Worrell, eduConsultant