As one of my personal goals this year is to further explore coaching and mentoring with our teachers, my first step towards achieving this is to look at what the research says about different types of coaching. Today I’ve been reading the October issue of Educational Leadership where Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran write about the importance of making a clear distinction between the coach and the evaluator.
I was interested to read this in the light of my current role at school being redefined for next year for whoever is newly recruited. The updated job description contains an evaluation of teacher’s IT skills. When discussing it, I felt a little uncomfortable about this change, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Surely an evaluation of a teacher’s technology skills must be the first step towards supporting an improvement in performance? However as I read today evaluation can “provoke frustration, fear and a sense of failure. It can stimulate resentment and resistance, undermine self-efficacy and increase unwillingness to change. In short it can make performance improvement less, rather than more, likely.”
I’m interested to read about why evaluation typically leads to little growth or development: that evaluation is typical of bureaucratic organisations based on a hierarchy of authority and standardised work processes, whereas development, on the other hand, is typical of professional organisations that encourage inquiry and reflection. In bureaucracies “rules replace trust, communications become constrained, people hide problems, management becomes intrusive and cooperation is withheld.” Bureaucracies are described as unhappy “shape up or ship out” cultures.
Can coaching change this culture? Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran argue that if administrators ask coaches for information regarding teacher performance this compromises the function of coaches. “Evaluation guarantees … agreed on minimum standards , coaching invites [teachers] to grow beyond those minimums” Carrot and stick approaches may lead to teachers meeting minimum standards but it won’t encourage creativity or motivation. However trust will encourage a safe environment that empowers teachers to take on new challenges and be responsible for their own professional growth.
Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran write that research shows that 3 principles are important for coaching to succeed:
1. Teacher-centred: if the coach demonstrates, advises and teaches this undermines the learning. Coaches need to ask questions rather than give answers – they trust that teachers can be responsible for their own learning and decide the best way to move forward.
2. No-fault: if the coach watches a lesson in order to evaluate and correct what is wrong, this can turn into performance assessment which saps motivation. Listening with empathy, however, can motivate teachers to be more engaged in their own professional development.
3. Strength-based: If the emphasis is on the problems, the responsibility for changing these is on the coach. Starting with the positives allows teachers to build their own goals to build on their strengths.
How can this article move me forward in my coaching role? I’m glad that my current job description doesn’t involve evaluating teacher’s skills, so I already feel that many of the negative possibilities are unlikely to occur. Looking at the 3 principles for success I feel I need to work more on the first one as I spend too much time demonstrating and teaching. As teachers move into incorporating IT more in their everyday lessons, I see my role should be identifying their strengths and encouraging them to build on these:
· ask more questions,
· listen with empathy to the answers,
· focus on the strengths,
· encourage teachers to be more responsible for their own professional development.
I think it’s a challenge to make a real difference in the remaining 6 months, but I’m going to give it a go!
Photo Credit: Pencil Sculpture by C. A. Muller