Monday, November 10, 2014

Stepping out of the coaching role

Cognitive Coaching is an extremely effective way to support a teacher's self-directed learning, as it involves allowing the coachee to make choices about the direction s/he wants to go in.  However what happens if, during a coaching conversation, the teacher has no ideas - at that point the coach might need to temporarily step out of the coaching role and into a different one.  The first role, that many coaches might be called upon to adopt, is the consulting role.  If the coach realizes that the person being coached needs a different type of support, he or she should make it clear to the coachee that the supporting role is changing - and then as soon as possible he or she should step back into the coaching role again.

Let's take a few examples.  When I sit with teachers to have them set their tech goals, or when we look at student work and decide where it belongs on the Tech Audit, I am always in the coaching role.  If I suggest a goal, or make a judgement about a student artifact, then I'm not supporting a teacher becoming self-directed.  However at school I often do step out of the role of a coach and into the role of a collaborator - for example during our PYP collaborative planning meetings, where everyone works together as equals to achieve a common goal.  At our Day 4 session of Cognitive Coaching, we talked about how collaborative meetings need norms and protocols and also a skilled facilitator who can bring the coaching skills of pausing and paraphrasing into the meeting - often productive meetings don't happen "naturally".

As mentioned earlier, I'm most often asked to step out of a coaching role and into a consulting role because of the expertise I have in technology.  This could happen at a tech meeting or in a training session where specific expertise is called on.  It's important to realize, however, that people can only take away what they are ready to hear.  Although I can talk about different tools or strategies, I need to be aware that the teacher may not be ready for them.  At times, I think, I move to a consulting role simply because of a lack of time or because that is what teachers thinks s/he needs, but as much as possible I think a teacher can to develop his or her own capacity with technology and not come to rely on a consultant/integration specialist for assistance.  As I gave a lot of assistance when I first arrived at the school, I'm trying to back-pedal this year so that teachers learn how to resolve their own problems, and even when offering advice or making recommendations, I try to give options and use the phrase "or not" so that the teacher has control over decision making about the way forward.

In my role I try never to evaluate a teacher or assess their performance, but at times it is necessary to touch on this role.  It's extremely hard to be both a coach and an evaluator and this can only happen if there is a lot of trust and if it is clear to everyone which role is happening and when.  The aims of a coach and an evaluator are very different.  A coach wants to support a teacher's thinking so that s/he arrives at his/her own goal, whereas an evaluator is looking for some conformity to performance standards or perhaps a school-wide goal.  In fact Bill and Ochan Powell summed up the different roles in the following way:
Coaching = transforming
Collaboration = forming
Consulting = informing
Evaluation - conforming
Looked at in this way, it's easy to see that of the 4 roles coaching should have the most impact in the long-term on a teacher developing internal capacity, and so transforming student learning.

Photo Credit: loop_oh via Compfight cc

No comments:

Post a Comment