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Embedding a positive coaching culture in your school

In his latest blog, Daniel Robertson, discusses how to promote effective mentoring in school.

Creating a Coaching Culture that is Effective

Coaching is no new concept when it comes to the education landscape. Despite the various perspectives on its impact and effectiveness, when embedded in a continuous dialogue and as part of a supportive community, it can play a significant role in both professional and personal development. 

Existing at the root of effective whole school coaching is the need for consistent and supportive implementation. With this in mind, it is important to note that teachers require meaningful and supportive conversations and feedback that enables them to feel valued and supported. It is then that a coaching culture will make an effective impact upon their thinking and performance within the classroom. 

So, what is coaching?

Essentially, when broken down into its most simple form, coaching consists of a two-way dialogue where there is a clear intention to involve the ‘coachee’ (the one receiving coaching) in exploring solutions and practical strategies. 

How does it work?

In order for this to work, it is essential that we make questions effective and constructive while approaching conversations from a broad perspective. 

Remember, you are trying to raise awareness in your ‘coachee’ of their own practice and to gauge a clear understanding of their personal goals and aims for development. It is only when we listen with an open mind, that we can successfully collaborate upon creating actionable options for them to develop further. This is even more important when coaching ECTs who may not have the experience and knowledge of some of the teachers in your care.

Open Questioning and Dialogue

Using open style questioning is also an effective tool when it comes to coaching, as it encourages the ‘coachee’ to take responsibility for their own direction and self-reflection, rather than the process feeling as though they are receiving direct criticisms in relation to their practice. What’s more, this strategy not only generates self-sufficiency and reduced reliance upon leadership but also makes teachers more mindful when it comes to their own practice, leading to greater development opportunities. If this kind of approach is overlooked, the ‘coachee’ may feel undervalued. This will especially be the case if you are focusing on the development of a (supposedly) underperforming classroom teacher, who is already most likely lacking in confidence.

Effective Feedback

Once a path to growth has been established, it is crucial that we understand that this is a process and everybody develops at varying rates. Make yourself available to your ‘coachee’ for support and further guidance, and make sure to observe (from a supportive perspective) and provide feedback at an appropriate time which is measured against the achievable objectives you have both collaborated upon. 

Feedback should also be approached in the same way as earlier conversations. Meaning, that the two-way dialogue should focus on the amazing achievements that have been obtained so far and the setting of further goals to enable your ‘coachee’ to develop and achieve their professional and personal ambitions.

Successful Leadership

A collaborative approach to the development of teachers will only be successful if there is a belief in staff to achieve and a strong desire to support their growth. Even from a leadership perspective, we do not have all the answers, all the time. This is where collaboration plays a key role in raising performance holistically and by drawing upon a broad range of experiences, skills and knowledge, higher levels of results and achievement are sure to follow.

Sometimes, it is even more effective to recognise that teachers, beyond the leadership team, can have a powerful impact on the development of their peers. Whilst overseeing the development of staff, why not draw upon the individual and unique strengths of others within the team? Partnering teachers together in a collaborative capacity, can bring knowledge and skills together, and contribute to the overall growth of the wider group. This can be established through effective CPD strategies that give teaching staff ownership over their own further training and progress.

Make it the Norm

If coaching has been established effectively, a culture based on reflective practice and a desire to achieve can be embedded into everyday school life. Create opportunities that encourage consistent and continuous conversation among staff. This way, everyone is on the same page, and there is a consistent understanding of what good teaching and learning looks like. This is because development is treated as a topic that everyone feels at ease with. Therefore, teachers feel secure in their performance and have a strong sense of mindfulness when it comes to what they need to do, to improve even further.

This impactful approach to CPD, although different to the traditional approaches of lecturing large groups of teachers about holistic performance and how the team can pull together to solve a broad range of developmental areas, can also encourage staff to identify where they need further training and support. What’s more, you are sure to create an ambitious culture that enables others to realise their aspirations and to take action to further develop their careers.

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The author

Daniel Robertson is a Digital Journey Lead for Spurgeons Children's Charity. Prior to this role, he has worked as a Teacher of English in a wide variety of school settings.

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