There are so many reasons why we should embrace coaching, as both an approach and through roles in the FE context. Here are a few:
1. Research on what makes effective staff development says it works. In fact it says that teachers rarely change their practice without coaching conversations (see references to research by Joyce & Showers and Timperly at the end of this blog). With coaching, there can be up to 95% transfer of learning into practice; without it, the transfer can be as low as 5%. We can see why- we are too busy, too forgetful, too unfocused, too disengaged to implement every good idea we hear. We often need the focus of a conversation with a colleague or a coach to put our attention on what we can do to improve our practice.
2. Anyone who has had anything to do with staff development knows that training alone is not a silver bullet for improving staff. How often do people attend training on a topic yet still perform badly on it when re-observed, say?
Our experience alone should be telling us that we need more than a group session on something to develop a person’s skills, understanding and attitude to an aspect of their practice. And yet many colleges are still wedded to group training sessions as their main form of CPD delivery. This doesn’t make much sense really.
3. We have been differentiating for individual learners for years in class, providing individual tailored support where appropriate. Why are we still being so broad brush about staff development? Learning theory suggests that people don’t all learn the same way. We need to accommodate this in our development offer to staff.
4. If you develop a coaching role within your college, e.g. Advanced Practitioner or Teaching and Learning Coach, these people can develop a new skill set and role that gives them progression beyond teaching but not into management. It really is an enriching and rewarding experience for some teachers to move into these roles, as they were never really interested in management but enjoy working with staff in developmental ways. As an employer, these roles make you more desirable as a working context as you are creating options for varied career progression.
5. Many people feel comfortable and safe in a coaching conversation and are much more open and honest about needs, problems etc. than in a management 121 or a group training session. This means that you have more chances to address key issues with coaching in place than without it. There is more potential to improve quality of T&L with coaches in place.
6. If you respect and value your staff, you see them as individuals worthy of support, development and investment. They are your key resource. Coaching can give them the chance to have tailored, relevant support to develop their practice. In turn this can enhance their delivery to learners, your core customers.
7. And in case I am not convincing you, here are a few quotes from real coaches and coachees from the FE sector, talking about what they gained from coaching:
Coachee: What I really liked about the sessions was that the coach was not spoon-feeding me with ideas or solutions. Through careful guiding she made me come up with my own ideas / solutions to each problem I had. She also encouraged me to focus on all the little positive improvements that began to show after I started my coaching sessions and not just on what went wrong.
Coachee: All the techniques that I learnt during the coaching sessions, I was able to apply to my other classes. Overall I became more positive and confident in teaching and interacting with my learners and dealing with issues in a more assertive manner.
Coach: 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 coaching techniques and applying them into situations within my department.
Coach: The coaching training prepared me to be a better facilitator. This year I had an opportunity to practise not solving other people’s problems, but being a real facilitator.
Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002) “Student achievement through professional Development” in Joyce & Showers (Eds.), “Designing training and peer coaching: Our need for learning”, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Timperly et al (2007) “Teacher Professional Learning and Development”.
Free download from www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2515/15341