Comment: Maximising performance in educationFebruary 26, 2017, 9:45 am GMT
Modern schools are developing at a fast pace with practitioners embracing new methods of teaching. One of the key drivers is the need to develop and to differentiate students in order to help them stand out in the competitive environment of college or the workplace.
oaching and mentoring are used across all types of organisations where going from good to great is a mindset and creates the marginal gains required in a competitive market. So why not transfer that mindset to education? The coach creates the solution-focused environment and brings the skills to the process, (listening, questioning, challenge, probing, goal-setting, creativity, energy), to enable the individual to identify the solutions. In schools and colleges, the proactive learner uses those skills to enhance their performance in class and in examinations.
Firstly, and very crucially, it's important to understand that coaching and mentoring are different: coaching is, "a process that enables learning and development to occur and then performance to improve", and mentoring is "to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be." (Both extracts from Eric Parsloe).
Coaching and mentoring are now embedded as a culture in several schools and at all levels from senior leaders and teachers to students and parents. Ask Judith Barton from British School of Coaching why she thinks that coaching in education works and she will reply that it's because education is an environment that wants to improve, has a thirst for learning and creativity and is brave enough to want to try new things.
When education classes 'flipped' from teacher-led to student-led learning, coaching and mentoring was identified as a technique that would support this approach and that students would become more proactive in the learning process. For instance, a British independent school took students out of their traditional classes in to an outdoor class created in a central garden and also introduced a non-traditional classroom with moveable furniture, writable walls and an observation room for other teachers to observe teaching styles and develop their own. Both scenarios offer a stimulating, creative environment for development beyond the norm.
Effective techniques and tools used in education can be deployed in a variety of ways – in exchanges with peers, during team meetings, in more formal one-on-one line management situations and of course between teacher and pupils. While the competencies outlined below apply to all kinds of interaction within an educational environment, in my experience they are of particular significance within a classroom situation. If one considers coaching competencies of rapport building, challenging questioning, active listening and silence, seeking to understand, empathy, neutrality and flexibility in approach, as the bedrocks of good coaching practice, there is clearly a connection between good coaching and good teaching.
The way a teacher uses 'coaching language' through open questions such as "What do you think about…?", "How will you be able to find out?" , "Who can help you?" and "What will you do next?" is very effective in terms of following interest and allowing students to lead their learning and allows individuals to develop at a pace that is challenging and that stretches individual capabilities.
Barton says that developing key coaching skills in education are core to building effective dialogue within the school community. She notes: "Key skills include the following: rue listening active or deep listening; questioning to understand, probe and challenge; silence – to create a place of silence to allow the other person to think and speak; openness – suspend judgment; and energy to be able to deliver and operate successfully."
The idea of working as part of a team or with a partner to solve problems, explore issues and develop learning, is something that effective coaches in education use extensively in their teaching practice. Over the past few years, schools have promoted curricula, and organisational structures that incorporate wellbeing, mindfulness, self-awareness, confidence and life-long learning and this is at the core of their enrichment strategies. Schools adopting a coaching culture provide a platform for growth, resilience, leadership skills and happiness.
BSC has partnered with ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) to launch the very first accredited professional qualification for young people from 14 to 24 years. The Young Leaders Award is a level two qualification and is equivalent to a GCSE. The programme recognises volunteering and develops leadership skills including self-leadership, confidence building and resilience and is seen as an alternative to the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
In July 2016, the first cohort of 14-24 year olds embarking upon the Young Leaders Programme included a 15-year old student from HMC school, Dubai College, several college students and a university graduate looking to enter the workplace. All have since graduated as Young Leaders; two are now undertaking Level 2 mentoring qualifications, one has secured an apprenticeship, recognising the difference when competing.
Coaching is, however, used at all levels including executive level, senior/middle leadership, and supervisory level. In many cases individuals have a clear view of why they would like coaching, for example, career planning, handling challenging staff, induction to the organisation and onboarding, interview preparation, handling workloads, managing upwards, confidence and self-esteem.
Further leadership development at this age and with younger levels is well under way as BSC aims to embrace future leaders and parent mentoring amongst its portfolio of courses to support children from age six upwards and workshops for parents who want to develop mentoring skills that allows them to further help their children.
Development of the BSC qualifications, courses and workshops is the brainchild of Judith Barton and is carefully and rigourously undertaken, whether it's a Level 2 or Level 7 programme. Not content with delivering students to qualification, Barton explains how supervision and ongoing support is essential for maintaining skills and rigour. Coaching is focused on maximising performance and often clients, whether sports, business or education, may already be performing at a high level. When they approach BSC, they are looking to bridge the gap no matter how small; making those marginal gains.
Judith Barton concluded, "Just imagine if we could build productive dialogue skills in the early years of young people, what a difference it would make to them throughout their lives and just imagine the impact on society?"
Clearly, school and colleges need to add extra value to student outcomes. Too often they attempt to improve by doing 'more of the same'. More classes, more tests, more homework. Coaching and mentoring offers a better solution both for student and teacher. By giving the students ownership of the learning process, coaching and mentoring gives the learner strategies to identify their strengths and weaknesses. They learn how they move forward and become confident self-developers on the pathway to life-long learning. In schools with a coaching culture teachers become facilitators of development, learning and enhanced performance at all levels. The marginal gain.
Carmella Hunt is a PR consultant. For information about British School of Coaching, visit http://www.britishschoolofcoaching.com
Carmella Hunt, School Marketing Advisor.
"Key ingredients for good learning
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