Many colleges are using the Supported Experiments action research cycle as the basis of projects for teaching and learning improvement. I will use this action research model as an example to show how SFC can play a significant role in any teaching and learning project. In a Supported Experiments project, Solution Focused Coaches can:
- Coach people in their own subject area, where they have prior knowledge of team members and an understanding of certain issues OR coach in a different team, where they have no assumptions and can develop their coaching skills alongside their knowledge of another subject area.
- Lead group meetings in which peer coaching takes place about the experiments. In these conversations, teachers share experiences and help each other identify useful next steps to move their experiments forward. The coach acts as a facilitator, drawing out reflections and co-ordinating group work and plenary slots.
- Work 1:1 with teachers to refine steps for action plans and review progress. Solution focused questioning is used to prompt deeper reflection and ownership of the plan. This can be particularly useful for engaging part time staff who may not be able to attend group meetings.
- Identify common issues arising in experiments and in coaching in order to share these with the coaching team and project leader. This enables the project team to respond appropriately and keep the project on track.
- Support the planning and preparation process for the dissemination of practice at the end of the experiments cycle, to ensure that relevant case studies, video clips and resources are captured for use in the future. In some projects, these outcomes are not captured effectively so the benefits of the work are not realised.
From this short list it should be evident that SFC can play a vital role in a project, be it Supported Experiments or one related to any other theme. To a large extent, the coaches make it happen. Without them, it is a challenge to engage staff and keep them focused. With the best will in the world, many experiments die a death due to the pressures of everyday work in the education sector and the coaches are the mechanism for keeping the work on the agenda and fresh in the minds of staff. This is recognised by the staff who are being coached:
She was a very supportive coach and each time her guidance enabled me to have a clearer vision of how to move my supported experiment forward
They were really encouraging; reminding us of deadlines, feeding back on experiment ideas, focusing our experiments, helping us with time management and team building
The coaches have been motivating and patient and helped create the ideal environment for sharing ideas, giving and getting feedback
They also act as a vital point of contact for the project team. It is often difficult to take the temperature of the project at team level due to a lack of detailed information available but the coaches are well placed to raise issues and report on good news stories to the project team.
What are the additional benefits of developing a SFC group?
There is an added bonus here. The teachers who attend the training and try out the coaching skills also mention the direct applications to other areas of their work. The skills are transferrable, as these quotes from coaches at different colleges show:
I can still recall most of the tools used in the SFC sessions because they had such an impact on me as a facilitator and as a teacher. They were very useful in motivating and supporting staff during the Supported Experiment sessions. I still often refer to the Solution Circle Team Coaching Model
It’s been an empowering experience which has developed me as a person, a coach and a manager and it has been an opportunity to give staff renewed enthusiasm for teaching and learning
I have learned some good new approaches to managing difficulty, negativity and opposition in a constructive way. I have found benefits in taking some of the ‘solution focused’ techniques and applying them into general management situations within my department
Please contact me if you would like further information about or support with developing Solution Focused Coaching skills in your organisation. My mobile number is 07811 378 398 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org