Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Coaching for change

After school today I engaged in a Zoom (think Skype) call to discuss a couple of chapters of the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching.  Afterwards, spurred on by some of our discussions, I noticed there were some similarities between the current book I'm reading about brain research (Your Brain At Work), and what we know about coaching.

Just today I was talking with some of the school principals about the different support functions that our tech coaches can offer - collaboration and consultation in addition to their role as a coach.  But we know that consultation is often not the best way to bring about change, as often suggestions can be seen as threats.  The real issue is who comes up with the suggestion.  In consultation, most likely it's the coach/consultant who has the knowledge to give.  What this does to the relationship, however, is that the coach looks smart and the coachee less so - and in fact the better the coach's suggestion the more likely the coach is to resist it.  If however the coach comes up with the ideas and solution him/herself, then there is a sense of autonomy and "buy in".  Despite this, many people think that coaches need to offer ideas and expertise.

There are many skills that need to be developed as a cognitive coach, certainly that of building trust and rapport.  Using positive presuppositions is one way of showing that you believe that the coachee knows more about their students, the content they teach, their own skills and so on, than the coach does.  What the coach does is to ask questions about the coachee's thinking and ideas.  In addition acknowledging the emotions and paraphrasing what the coachee is saying helps simplify and illuminate the issue.  The job of the coach is simply to help the coachee to reflect and move forward without getting stuck on the details of the problem.

The premise behind cognitive coaching is that behaviour will change as a result of thinking changing, not the other way round.  Change is hard - even changing your own behaviour, let alone trying to change the behaviour of others or of entire groups.  This is why behaviourism doesn't really work, especially with adults, who see "rewards" are being offered as a way of changing them, and then they see the person offering the rewards as a threat.  Rock writes, "If being changed by others is usually a threat, this leads to the idea that when real change occurs, it is probably because an individual has chosen to change his own brain."  He writes that an effective way to focus attention on what needs to change is by asking questions that require the coachee to make new connections (in cognitive coaching these are referred to as mediative questions).  When you ask people questions as opposed to giving advice, there is a sense of respect - it shows that you know the coachee has the answers.

For the past few years at ASB we have used the planning conversation to help teachers set goals for how they want to integrate technology.  As people work towards their goals they can feel a real sense of achievement as they decide what to do and notice the steps they are taking towards these goals - this is brought out during the reflecting conversations.  Rock writes, "Setting the right goal is like a gift that keeps on giving: you continue getting positive benefits all the while you head towards it."

Photo Credit: arbyreed Flickr via Compfight cc

No comments:

Post a Comment