What is coaching?

Coaching is helping others in their intentional change

Boyatzis, Smith & Tresser, (2003)

In reviewing the literature to find a meaning of coaching, you may find many varied definitions of the term.  Indeed, some definitions directly contradict each other.  There is a plethora of literature currently being produced which explores the concept of coaching, much of which is based in developing life skills or based in the workplace.  In addition, much is written about the difference between coaching and mentoring.  However, this is another area which is not straightforward.  My advice for anyone wishing to seek a greater understanding of coaching is to read several texts and to draw a meaning of coaching which suits their own situational needs.  But at its core, it is about helping others to reach their full potential.

The model of coaching introduced to myself several years ago was developed following a two-year research project, undertaken by the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University and funded by CfBT Educational Trust and the national college. The full report Coaching for teaching and learning: a practical guide for schools details the findings of the research project and provides a useful guide for anyone wanting to introduce a model of coaching support in the development of teacher practice.    The coaching model developed sought to provide a space for teachers to be more reflective about their own practice and to help them to work on development areas in a safe environment.

The purpose of coaching is to improve classroom performance.  Coaching has been described as a form of professional collaboration and support to improve professional development and craftsmanship through experimentation, reflection, exchanging of professional ideas, and problem solving (Bergen et al., 2000, pg 3).

For me coaching is about drawing out the potential of others and I have personally seen the benefits of the use of this model within an educational setting. The coaching relationship should be one based on trust between the coach and teacher and be completely separated from any performance management, internal observation procedures.   The coach is there to act as a listener, supporter, and should enable the teacher to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and the impact of their practice on their learners, the quality of learning and learner progress.  The teacher can see for themselves, through the viewing of video of their practice and considered reflections, how changes in their approach within the classroom can have a significant impact on their learners’ performance. 

As Thorne( 2001) states:-

The coach’s interest will be in developing a skill set and creating an environment that is conducive to working with another person on a one-to-one basis.  Coaching is about enabling – supporting another individual to achieve their personal goals.  It may also be about encouraging learners to be more reflective (pg 3).

Of course, there are many other forms of coaching, including coaching conversations to support leaders and managers and indeed individuals in facing the challenges of work and life.  Very often people who I have coached have just been very grateful of the time to talk and to be listened to, and valued in their work.  In these so very busy times, taking time out to undertake a professional conversation with a coach and be very refreshing.

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