Not everyone is sure of the difference between effective teaching and coaching in education. Both are very important at all levels of the educational spectrum, from directors, principals, teachers, support staff and of course, the students themselves.
Both involve helping someone learn and develop knowledge and skills. However, teaching is at times a more top down, method where a person who knows something tells you or shows you how to do it so that you gain the same knowledge. The information is sent from the teacher to the learner in the hope it will be understood and internalised.
What is coaching? Who needs a coach? The truth is we all need a coach to help us improve!
Coaching happens in many ways, it depends on what the learner needs coaching in- purpose. The aim of coaching is to create an ongoing dialogue of non-judgemental questioning, feedback and self-knowledge that promotes constant self-improvement and progress.
Everyone has had a sports coach, or could recall a time either positive or negative when they have been coached. Coaching in learning organizations should not be viewed as a negative experience.
You may have heard of Instructional Coaching or Student Centred Coaching. Both help improve teaching and learning and should be part of all learning organizations. Learner Centered Coaching brings the focus on both teacher and student, and any other member of the organization to improve learning through coaching.
Student-Centred Coaching by Diane Sweeney provides teachers with tools to move away from Teacher-Centred to Student-Centred Coaching for greater impact on student learning. I love using these coaching tools while co-planning with teachers to keep the focus on improving student learning. Assessment data is utilized throughout the coaching cycle to monitor and adjust instructional strategies to improve learning. Below are the Core Practices for Student Centered Coaching:
- Set goals for student learning
- Work from learning targets
- Plan using student evidence
- Co-teach to refine teaching practice
- Organize using coaching cycles
- Measure the impact of coaching
- Partner with the school leader
When co-teaching these strategies ‘tools’ are effective: Noticing and Naming, Thinking Aloud, Micro Modelling, Teaching in Tandem, and You Pick Four, are all excellent for teachers/coaches to utilize to collaboratively improve learning.
In this article by Jim Knight one is able to see the connections between Visible Learning and Instructional Coaching: Instructional Coaching for Implementing Visible Learning: A Model for Translating Research into Practice. Coaches help learning organizations translate research into practice.
The instructional coaching model is grounded in the seven principles of ‘partnership philosophy’ as delineated by Jim Knight in What Good Coaches Do:
Equality: instructional coaches and teachers are equal partners
Choice: teachers should have choice regarding what and how they learn
Voice: professional learning should empower and respect the voices of teachers
Dialogue: professional learning should enable authentic dialogue
Reflection: reflection is an integral part of professional learning
Praxis: teachers should apply their learning to their real-life practice as they are learning Reciprocity: instructional coaches should expect to get as much as they give
The primary difference between effective teaching and coaching is that teaching involves the teacher having the major role, whereas coaching is about the learner gaining a subset of tools or skills that can be used to solve problems over and over again beyond the area that is being currently being coached. Coaching is based on a more personal relationship, data, observation, and communication, and improved learning outcomes. Coaching someone requires a personal investment in an individual, trust and a willingness to learn and grow. Effective teaching and learning should involve elements of both teaching, facilitating, and coaching.
To achieve collective efficacy with coaching in our learning organizations we all need to understand coaching and how to practice it. Once leaders, teachers, students and other members of the learning organization understand why and how to coach and implement effective teaching techniques, we will have a greater impact overall in learning.
Coaching improves learning outcomes
An excellent educational organization has a culture of coaching that cascades throughout the organisation and ultimately impacts learning outcomes in a positive manner. By constantly looking for ways to coach, rather than ‘just’ teach, the teacher empowers the learner beyond information and into utilizing a toolset and mindset of problem solving and self-belief that leads to self-efficacy.
Common misconceptions of coaching in education.
There is a common misconception that coaches are needed for teachers or students who are struggling, when the truth is that everyone needs coaching in some way in order to progress. Needing coaching is not a weakness, but a recognition of the need to learn, grow and understand; How to improve? What are our strengths? What areas can we improve? What goals can we set? How will we know we have improved? How will we measure our learning? How can we collaborate? How can we share the learning?
A coach does not have to have the title of coach in order to perform the functions of a coach and practically coach someone. They do need to have a trusted, positive role in sharing information, actively listening and providing feedback.
An educational coach does not have to be a top pedagogical expert in order to be a great coach to a teacher or student. It is more important for a coach to be able to:
- Ask the right questions
- Actively listen
- Encourage self-reflection
- Promote personal resourcefulness
Coaching does not have to take place only in formal, scheduled sessions, it can take place at any time, and in fact, is most effective when it is part of everyday life rather than scheduled, formal sessions, although these do have an important place and will be necessary as well.
Another common misconception is that a coach is there to solve all your problems. Ultimately, coaches can help, but it goes far deeper than that – a coach develops tools and a mindset that empowers the coachee to solve their own problems.
Coaching as a cascading leadership model
The concept of coaching should take place at all levels in the educational process – from the very top and at every level along the way. A teacher leader can help other teachers, develop curriculum, create alternative strategies, research, model lessons, curate resources or test out innovative technology and practical methodologies within the learning environment.
Instructional coaches can assist schools by coaching them strategically to meet their long term learning objectives or into a more positive public image, resulting in better enrolment in the school and increased morale. Coaching can take place in so many different ways within a school or college and is vital for the forward learning progression of every role within a school, a community and as a whole.
Inquiry-Based Learning, Coaching and Service Learning
A teacher who has been practising teaching centered or ‘traditional’ instructional method could be coached into using more inquiry-based learning for their students. Through being coached themselves to ask questions, self-reflect, and find solutions the educator can then progress to create an environment for service learning that promotes self-awareness and feedback as well as improved learning.
Service Learning is a perfect opportunity to bring ‘coaching’ into the curriculum, and learning both in and out of the classroom. The goal of service learning is to move the role of learning past the classroom and into the local community and the world at large to collaboratively meet the needs of the community.
Service learning entails the creative combination of academic theory in a specific subject, with practical application in the real world, in order to help meet the authenticated needs of the community and consolidate the academic theory, knowledge and skills. On top of the obvious learning benefits, the community, learners, and educators are all enriched through the experience.
Service-learning provides opportunities for students to coach other students, learn action research skills, develop time management, understand their role and responsibilities in a community. Learners realises early on that what they learn in the classroom has a powerful and beneficial impact in the ‘real’ world. This method of learning, coupled with a coaching helps educators become more relevant to their students in the current world environment. Providing opportunities for a student to coach and to develop learner competencies such as caring, empathy, risk taking, communication, collaboration, perseverance, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in a practical environment helps the learner and the community..
Coaching promotes distributed leadership across the board within an educational system and leads to positive change and improved learner outcomes. However, quantitative data as well as qualitative data is constantly required to sustain proof and provide effective blueprints for future educators and students to benefit from proven coaching methodologies in education.
How does your learning organization promote coaching? Is it documented? Is it part of the culture? Does everyone believe they need a coach? Is everyone a coach?
A successful and thoroughly documented coaching program in a learning organization will support coaches at all levels by illustrating the positive impact of coaching on learning and teaching which will lead to collective efficacy..
Tara brings passion and a deep understanding of service learning, rooted in years of experience, to her training. Her training builds bridges from theory to implementation while generously sharing her resources and knowledge to ensure our success. Tara works with the whole school (administration, teachers, students, and SL leaders) to build a sustainable program that is embedded in the curriculum and tied to the mission. She energized a faculty on a Friday afternoon, no easy feat, leaving them with a desire to learn more about SL and to become more involved. I cannot recommend Tara highly enough.