Coaching Approach

“Coaching” is wide-spread nowadays. There are Coaches in many professional areas but a lot of the times, coaches did not go through a formal training or have not clearly articulated their view about coaching. In this section, I would like to share my approach to coaching using various influences:

  • The pedagogical approach of subordination teaching to learning by Caleb Gattegno
  • The definition of “motivation” by Daniel Pink
  • Cognitive Coaching by Costa & Garmston
  • Instructional Coaching by Dr Jim Knight
  • The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

My Essential Elements

All the influences mentioned earlier had a massive impact on my career so far. They guided me in the way I approach teaching, learning and coaching. We are going to look at the essential elements that nurture a successful coaching approach.

Accountability & Choice

It is essential we have accountability not to control or micro-manage but to agree on expectations, agree on a goal to reach and also to recognize the autonomy of individuals. Accountability is also necessary for all teachers to feel equal.

Identity & Trust

Every teacher has a very personal approach to their profession and they seek a specific status and reputation. It’s hard to question a teacher’s practice because it’s immediately seen as judgmental, it can be harsh for the person to be given a feedback or a critic (for instance, appraisal processes are often stressful). Therefore it is crucial to develop trust through the coaching model. Coaching is not telling the person what to do or what to think, it’s mediating thinking and facilitating self-awareness. The coach questions more than gives answers. The coach kindles thinking and self-directed learning. Beyond creating an healthy environment of trust, I personally use my strength of being approachable and a people-person and often build relationships with my coachees. Not all of them are open to this but with many, I can really create a very friendly atmosphere.

Cognitive Coaching

The Cognitive Coaching model specifically aims at developing trust and rapport because the coach is a mediator of thinking. This is done by using specific conversation structures during the different phases of planning, reflecting and problem resolving, in particular by:

  • developing higher levels of efficacy, consciousness, craftsmanship, flexibility and interdependence
  • applying four support functions: coaching, evaluating, consulting, collaborating
  • utilizing the coaching tools of pausing, paraphrasing, and posing questions
  • distinguishing among the five forms of feedback
  • using data to mediate thinking

Humor

This does not come from any book! This is my own key element 🙂 I feel that using humor is a powerful way to lighten the mood at times and to build a rapport with the coachees. It’s also a way to get people to listen to you when presenting. For instance, I particularly like to use self-deprecating humor (it sounds more positive in French: “auto-dérision”) as a way to relax the atmosphere. I don’t “use” (or “abuse”!!) humor to “put on a show” and fake friendly contacts, I use humor, like anyone else, when there is an opportunity, in a context and when it is going to be well received.

Learning is being aware

I learnt from Caleb Gattegno that only awareness is educable and learning is being aware. Indeed, I apply the 4 stages of learning that he described to my teaching and coaching practice. Those stages are as follow:

1- An awareness that there is something to learn: You cannot learn something new (or something about yourself) unless you are aware that there is something to learn, perhaps something you need or something you want.

2- Exploration by trial and error (with feedback!): You now start exploring something new, you are throwing yourself into the unexpected (often supported by your coach or collaborators) and you try, which means, you might fall but have to pick yourself up and try again. It’s about failing forward, being resilient and perseverant but there is something that we often forget to insist upon is that you don’t simply repeat an action, you are given a feedback (sometimes, the feedback is given by someone else, sometimes you are self-aware [you are “present] that there is something to change). The feedback in this trial and error process is crucial. The many experiences that you will come across during that time will create your EXPERIENCE (without “s”).

3- Becoming autonous through presence and automatizing: Now that you have had many experiences and learnt so much through them, you are able to become autonomous. Even if you may make mistakes at times, you are able to correct them because you have developed inner criteria of self-correction and you are entirely “present” to what you do. The concept of presence is similar to being “attentive” but does not carry the meaning of “paying attention” because it’s not “hard” in terms of focus, it’s “free” in the sense that you are completely focused and not forcing yourself to concentrate. 

4- Transfering to another learning situation: At this stage, the knowledge is secure and the person is ready to transfer her/his learning to another learning opportunity. Say you just learnt how to ride a bicycle, in the process, you learn about stability (among other skills) and you can now reuse this skill to learn something else, for instance, surfing! While riding a bicycle and surfing require different set of skills, some of the ones you already developed will help you with the new learning. Often, people believed to be “creative” or “talented” actually just “transfer” a lot of their previous learning experiences and skills to a new situation and, therefore, seems naturally talented because they are faster than others. There are people who also have grown a strong sense of self-consciousness and are, therefore, very present to themselves. So they can adjust and learn from mistakes very fast, they are adaptable and can easily improve. 

With Gattegno, we learn that learning is limitless. It’s also individual (as it is linked to awareness), it’s personal and experiential. He was a constructivist – but not in the sense of Piaget – someone who really demonstrated that we can educate awareness (by triggering it) and the key role of the teacher in this context is to create situations that will generate experiences, that will force awareness and will allow students to learn.

Multimodality

Multimodality is essential: we need visual, auditory, kinesthetic and oral modalities to learn best. There are not learners stuck in a specific style of learning. Everyone is everything because we live in the real world with multimodality as a lifestyle! When we go to a supermarket, we don’t force ourselves to memorize how the place looks like and where to find what, we do this by using our retention system: simply by experiencing the world: moving around, looking, smelling, touching etc.

While teaching or coaching, we can trigger awareness with multimodality: gestures, visual aids, acoustics…

Intrinsic Motivation

The concept of intrinsic motivation by Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is at the center of my EdTech vision and coaching style. I am convinced that a successful coaching model allows teachers to be in control of their learning (not compliant), to find their purpose (their goal) and to feel that they are making an impact (by improving learning for instance) and learning. This model of intrinsic motivation is possible when we create an environment of trust.

Rewards and punishments are extrinsic. Using such practices will delay or prevent learning because the teacher will feel micro-managed, not trusted, competing with others in an unhealthy way etc.  While punishments seemed to not happen anyone in schools (or at least not physical punishments!), it’s still prevalent to hear negative comments, judgments and other related situations where the learner feels undermined. Rewards are still very present in the educational sphere and are also a problem because they generate comparisons between people (comments such: “Good job!” translate into a judgement value, not something based on an action, it’s immediately interpretative as “you are a good student” and not “you did what you had to do”/ “the learning happened”/”the task was accomplished”).

I also like how Daniel Pink focuses on empowerment: Put yourself in the little chair so that others can sit on the big chair. 🙂

Innovative mindset

I am inspired by George Couros’ book: The Innovator’s Mindset. He also emphasizes on building relationships. I followed his MOOC and am part of his Facebook group, I have learnt a lot from his book and videos. What inspired me for coaching is the fact that we can create something (innovate) from what we know and we don’t need to wait to start sharing ideas. I encourage my coachees to share because they then start to realize who they are and where they where they want to go, they give themselves more credits about their achievements instead of focusing on what they don’t know yet!

Reading Couros’ book reinforced my beliefs about the following:

  • Learning is a creative process
  • Innovation is creating something new and better
  • We need to embrace an open and positive culture of trust and focus on strengths
  • Teachers need to experience agency through their PD so they can take it back to their classroom
  • Strive to make an impact, become resilient and persevere
  • Refuse to give up if you truly believe in your ideas

The role of Coaching

After looking at those elements, I like to say that coaching (and subordinating teaching to learning) is about mediating thinking and generating awareness so that people can take control of their learning and be self-directed.

I appreciate the instructional coaching approach of Dr. Knight who talks about “pre-contemplation” as a phase when teachers have no idea how their teaching looks like. Therefore he suggests to videotape a class and then have the teacher watch herself/himself. The results are very encouraging because in the process of “mirroring” through video-taping, the teacher becomes aware of her/his teaching practice and can more easily start the coaching process based on observations and the teacher will develop a goal, with the help of the coach who asks questions and guides the teacher towards what she/he thinks he/she wants to work on. Through the process of mediating thinking and making the teacher aware of strengths and weakness, it becomes so much easier to come up with a goal and take ownership of it.

For instance, while it’s important to send out surveys and questionnaires at times, I am always a bit skeptical about the degree of reality because people respond to survey and “state” their perception but those perceptions do not always represent the reality.

Personalizing Professional Development using goal settings (in the context of coaching) becomes more reliable in terms of analysis data and measuring progress. This will generate authentic engagement, not “compliance” and free the teacher from being told what to do!

In this context, I would like to share what coaching is NOT:

  • Telling people what to do
  • Being a “support system” that “spoon-feed” people
  • Micromanaging
  • Agreeing all the time (sympathizing is not a requirement: something you need to disagree but you can do this respectfully and meaningfully)

These are the keywords that resonate with relevant coaching practices (made with WordCloud):wordle.png

Quotes

Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.

Only by helping people liberate themselves from their fears can you unlock the unlimited potential that most individuals possess.  

You don’t have to be an expert in a particular field of endeavor to be an effective coach. I don’t teach people anything about golf. All I do is help create awareness and self-responsibility in the person being coached. Their own high awareness is their teacher.

John Whitmore

Change is not about doing more but about doing less.

Change is a choice.

Lisa Bodell

Coaching done well, may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.

Atul Gawande

Coaching is a form of professional development that brings out the best in people, uncovers strengths and skills, builds effective teams, cultivates compassion, and builds emotionally resilient educators. Coaching at its essence is the way that human beings, and individuals, have always learned best.

Elena Aguilar

Skillful cognitive coaches apply specific strategies to enhance another person’s perceptions, decisions, and intellectual functions. Changing these inner thought processes is prerequisite to improving overt behaviors that, in turn, enhance student learning.

Costa & Garmston

When teachers stop learning, so do students.
Jim Knight

Resources

Putting this approach into practice, this is the training course I created for the EdTech Mentors (Teacher-leaders) at my school:

The slide deck of all sessions (still a working document)

and this is the template I use to keep data about personalized learning PD for teachers in my school:

To give you a context about personalized learning PD, these are some of my notes and I will develop this topic in one of my ISTE session in San Antonio, 2017. Relevant personalized PD:

  • focuses on strengths, not weaknesses
  • promotes personal goals, not top-down goals
  • models and facilitates the integration of the EdTech Vision of the school
  • aligns to the ISTE Standards and ISTE Essential Conditions
  • is centered on innovation & pedagogy, not on the tools and gadgets
  • allows mentoring and peer collaboration
  • includes alternative PD recommendations (ex: observing a colleague’s classroom, lead or participating in a Twitter chat, writing a blog or articles, sharing best practices through video interviews…)