Probably the most important factor in successful coaching is communication. Below are 6 strategies to help coaches communicate effectively, all taken from Chapter 4 of Jim Knight's Instructional Coaching:
1. Understand the communication process - respect, equality and openness are good starting points for learning conversations.
2. Employ authentic listening - be attentive and learn to distinguish between experiencing and evaluating during coaching conversations. When we experience a conversation we focus our attention on simply hearing exactly what the other person is saying and leave aside our personal biases and judgements. The goal of empathetic listening is to silence ourselves and attend to others. There are a number of listening strategies:
Develop inner silence - silence thoughts that lead us to judge rather than experience the comments of others
Listen for what contradicts your assumptions
Clarify - check to make sure you understand what teachers are saying by paraphrasing
Communicate understanding - good listeners ask questions, clarify and communicate that they have understood what is being said. When we communicate that we understand it encourages the speaker to keep talking
Practice every day - we become better listeners the more we practice
Listen for feelings (frustration, fear, pride etc) and acknowledge these feelings
3. Understand your audience - learn how to present information so that it can be understood easily by teachers. Coaches who are effective communicators structure every message so that it can be accurately perceived by their audience.
4. Recognize and overcome interference - when working with teachers employ strategies that help get through the interference that keeps them from hearing what we have to say and that get in the way of the transparent sharing of ideas. In some cases the interference comes from within ourselves so we need to be aware of how our own preconceptions might be blocking communication.
5. Interpret non-verbal communication - be aware that when we communicate much of what takes place happens below the surface. Watch for nonverbal cues, rad body language, look for eye contact and pay attention to how we feel as we talk with others. Facial expressions are often very fast (less than one-fifth of a second), but by watching facial expressions carefully coaches can learn a lot about rapport and can improve their ability to communicate clearly.
6. Build relationships through emotional connections - be attentive to teachers' thoughts, emotions and concerns in order to recognize emotional bids for connection and respond in ways that enrich their emotional connection with others.
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