Why aren’t more schools using coaching in staffrooms?

Professional Coaching is a fantastic opportunity for experienced teachers to develop themselves further and for new teachers to gain the confidence, skills and self-awareness needed for a long and successful teaching career.  

The Coaching Professional apprenticeship not only provides teachers with the latest theory and access to a variety of coaching models to underpin the new strategies they’re learning but also offers the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter and how to implement their learned techniques with peers and in the classroom.

Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance, but still, so many schools are yet to introduce coaching or make use of the apprenticeship levy as part of their staff development plans. 

Peer coaching for teachers: Teachers coaching teachers

Coaching is simply a two-way dialogue where the intention is to put the responsibility for finding solutions to a variety of challenges on the coachee. This is done through a process of effective questioning and active listening on behalf of the coach.

The open questions asked are designed to focus the coachee on their goals, and the current situation and allow them to explore the options available to them to move forward whilst maintaining personal responsibility for their actions.

Importantly, the questions encourage staff to think for themselves rather than wait for the answer to be provided. It moves staff from being dependent on line managers and senior staff to be more independent and self-sufficient. In this way, coaching can elicit greater student independence and promote effective learning.

The final steps in the formal coaching process includes giving effective feedback which needs to be specific and timely and ensuring the coachee has adequate follow up information and clear evaluation.

But, typically, teachers are time-poor, so feel they are unable to commit to the hours of formal coaching and learning required to achieve the necessary level of knowledge and skills to deliver it effectively. Many will have a fixed model of what coaching looks like, which involves ring-fencing their time, sitting in a quiet room working with another, and also time-poor peers.  But while this model is true for the endpoint assessment element of the Coaching Professional apprenticeship, the learning commitment is far less formal and coaching just as effective when used in shorter, less formal situations. 

The Myths about Coaching
  • It takes up too much time and it’s quicker to tell people what to do: Yes the endpoint assessment requires formal coaching sessions, and overtime coaches will contract with coachees to make time and space but so many short interventions will create the impact required and create  more time for everyone in the long run
  • You need to have experience in the relevant field to be a good coach: Coaches don’t need to be experts in every subject matter; they need to be experts at asking the right questions to help others gain clarity and find their own solutions. 
  • Coaching is only useful when formally assessing performance, for example for appraisals: Creating a coaching culture within a school will have an impact across the organisation. Coaching erodes limiting beliefs, instils self-belief and growth and can be used in many informal conversations from the kitchen to the staffroom. It is an effective way to challenge others every day to develop and deliver their best performance.
  • It’s not my job to coach: It’s the role of every leader and every teacher, who supports others to drive progress and results through engaging others and empowering them to achieve personal and collective goals.  
  • It doesn’t work: Good teachers don’t necessarily have the right skills to be able to do coaching in a meaningful way, so are not doing coaching very well. When coaching is professionalised and formalised it is given the value that it deserves and as a result will get the impact schools to want.

Historically teachers have studied for relevant qualifications to enter the profession with enough subject matter knowledge to enable them to transfer their knowledge to their pupils and students.  There are further qualifications available for senior leadership teams to help senior teachers to set a vision, create an action plan, manage staff by telling them what their job is and hold them accountable if they don’t do it potentially, but little or no time is given to personal development that allows a teacher to impart knowledge to create a change in others the way coaching can. 

Where can you apply coaching in education?
  • Within the leadership team to facilitate clarity around purpose and direction
  • Between leaders and staff to motivate and challenge performance
  • To conduct performance management reviews and any informal reviews of performance
  • To use as a problem-solving tool to address specific issues or achieve specific goals
  • To be used by teachers in the classroom to promote more student engagement and effective, independent learning
  • To encourage pupils to peer coach and tutor, give effective feedback and self-regulate behaviour
  • To more effectively articulate a position to governors or parents, to effectively deal with parental questions and challenges.
  • To improve student and staff well-being through gaining a greater understanding of their current thinking, actions and suggestions
  • In any situation that requires dialogue or the ability to impart or elicit information, improve understanding, solve problems, develop self-awareness and ask others to take personal responsibility to achieve individual or organisational goals.