When it comes to personal improvement the education field is one where standards and criteria are constantly changing, so it can make it difficult to track success outside the traditional field of exam results.
Coaching for education gained particular attention in the UK with the publication of ‘Student Achievement through Staff Development’ by Bruce R. Joyce and Beverly Showers back in 1981, but coaching courses only really started to make an appearance in the 1990s. They are now gaining ground with more and more schools and colleges using coaching as a means for professional development.
Coaching for education
Personal Development for teaching staff is becoming increasingly important as schools come to realise the value of professional coaching in implementing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for staff.
A study carried out by Newcastle University, funded by CfBT Education Trust (a top 50 UK charity providing education services for public benefit in the UK and internationally) and the National College, looked at collaborative research with 13 schools in four regions of England.
The research questions were:
- What happens in teacher coaching sessions and how does this influence subsequent classroom teaching and pupil outcomes?
- How can coaches improve their coaching practice; did the research project interventions support improvement, and were there any recognisable outcomes?
- How is coaching being utilised within the context of whole school improvement and professional development?
The project had two related aims: to observe and analyse a range of current coaching practice and to develop the means to enhance that practice.
What did they find?
The reports findings make for an interesting read and it’s worth taking the time to check out the full report.
Coaching can play a significant role in securing three important outcomes for schools:
- Shifting the culture towards self-evaluation and inquiry in which teachers learn collaboratively;
- Improving the general CPD experience of teachers, making it school based and classroom focused, but with important links to pedagogical knowledge, thus achieving research-informed practice;
- Improving teaching by providing feedback to teachers and allowing them to reflect intensively on classroom evidence generated by video.
It is important to observe at an early stage that coaching was very popular amongst the sample teachers. Despite some minor reservations by some, all the teachers involved were positive.
This might be expected as they were essentially volunteers, but other studies have found comparable levels of enthusiasm. It can also be partially explained by the fact that coaching matches most of the characteristics identified with successful or effective professional development.
There are opportunities for experimentation, observation, feedback, collaboration and dialogue with a strong classroom focus.
Coaching as an evolutionary practice
Coaching for education could also be seen as an evolutionary practice in terms of the need for a long term plan for training and development of coaches in order to maintain capacity and sustain expertise and knowledge growth.
Coaching is a popular aspect of professional development with much potential for improving professional learning and student outcomes as measured by research studies.
However it is in imminent danger of becoming another innovation which has lost its shine. Many schools have tried coaching in some form but the report evidence suggests that implementation and management issues are causing significant friction.
A fundamental problem is that coaching requires clear purposes based on understandings of variants of coaching models and what they can achieve, and of coaching principles and processes.
Such clarity is missing from many of the decisions taken in introducing coaching and the result is a combination of confusion and tension. One of the often repeated downsides is a feeling that coaching may be used as performance monitoring and staff appraisal rather than for personal carer development.
The report concludes that coaching must be seen as an integral part of school improvement planning and as a key process in developing school culture. Coaching is not a quick fix. It has substantial appeal to teachers because it meets professional development needs and reflects personal values for many teachers who wish to take their profession seriously.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your staff be the best they can with a coaching and mentoring program specifically developed to meet your school’s needs, contact us for an informal chat.
You can also download our Aspire Case Study which looks at how we worked with four schools in a partnership agreement to help empower and provide best practice guides for staff working within a challenging environment.