Monday, April 10, 2017

Developing my skills as a Cognitive Coach

Twice a week, every week, I meet with a colleague at ASB and we practice coaching.  Sometimes we coach each other, sometimes we talk about specific skills, and sometimes we watch videos we have made of us coaching other people and talk about ways we can improve our craft.  Chapter 3 of the book Cognitive Coaching is all about the mediator's skills, and about how both linguistic and non-verbals can foster cognitive development.  There are 5 types of verbal responses that a coach can give that help to mediate thinking:

  • Silence - wait time and listening
  • Acknowledging - both verbally and non-verbally
  • Paraphrasing
  • Clarifying
  • Providing data and resources
I remember when I did the training learning a little about status - I came back to this again in Chapter 3 where it states that the coach assumes teachers know more about their students, the content they teach and their own skills and strengths than the coach does.  They coach conveys this by listening empathetically and questioning rather than telling.  

Non-verbals are more important than verbal cues - nearly 2/3rds of meaning is conveyed non-verbally, for example with eye contact, nodding, matching voice tone and pace, using gestures and so on that contribute to building rapport.  It's also important to use the approachable voice when questioning, as the credible voice can feel to the coachee like an interrogation and can shut down his/her thinking.

Silence also indicates a productive conversation.  In fact when my colleague and I are reviewing our videos we are looking for the pauses which communicate respect for the time the other person is taking to think and reflect and which then results in higher cognitive processing.  Pausing also conveys the message that the coachee is valued and respected and that the coach has faith in the other person's ability to continue to think and then respond.  

One thing I'm working on at the moment is paraphrasing.  I know I need to work on this skill because in general when I look at the amount of time I spend talking compared with the colleagues that I am coaching, I find I'm doing a lot of talking!  I need to be more concise and to get to the heart of what they are saying.  Paraphrasing is important because it lets the other person know that you are trying to understand them and value what they are saying.  And just as using the "wrong" voice when asking questions can shut down thinking, questions that are preceded by a paraphrase can do the opposite - they can lay the ground for inquiry.  One thing I've tried over the past few days is writing down my paraphrases and then trying to cut them down in length - this is also helping me to consider the beliefs and values behind what a person is saying and this helps me to make more abstracting paraphrases.

So far as a coach I've rarely been called on to collect data (I'm thinking perhaps I need to offer this more during the planning conversations).  Data is often a very "neutral" way of giving feedback as, along with mediative questions, it's non-judgemental.   Other forms of feedback are not successful in encouraging the coachee to think - inferences, interpretations, personal opinions and evaluations may lead to mistrust or even fear.

Videoing myself is scary - sometimes I really dislike looking back at the videos because I feel I've done poorly or missed the mark.  But it is really valuable - and it is helping me to develop my skills and get better.

Photo Credit: sundaymay Flickr via Compfight cc

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