“A coaching culture for learning is one in which coaching is used consistently by all partners across the school community, to help develop learning, understanding and personal responsibility in others, from staff to parents and from students to governors and wider stakeholders”.
van Nieuwerburgh and Passmore, 2012
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Research demonstrating the impact of coaching on student attainment, the well-being of stakeholders and on professional growth is extensive and convincing. So why isn’t every school seeking to embed a culture of coaching. And amongst those that are, why are they not always successful?
The answer is really quite simple. Creating and embedding a culture of coaching is essentially a process of institutional change, and institutional change is hard.
Plenty has been written about leading and managing change in schools; my MA course included a whole unit on it and I have really enjoyed losing myself in the extensive literature in this area over the years. My go-to academic on school change, though, is always Michael Fullan. In the recently published second edition of his classic book, Leading in a Culture of Change, Fullan identifies five characteristics of effective leadership of complex change: moral purpose, understanding change, relationship building, knowledge building and coherence making.
Fullan’s characteristics certainly have relevance when we think about the specific change process of building and sustaining a culture of coaching in a school. However, because of coaching’s particular emphasis on collaboration, supportive challenge and reflective practice, in this case, I believe Fullan’s model needs to be extended and built upon so that change is not just regarded through the lens of leadership but broadened out to include a range of other factors.
In line with this, below, I offer a model, which outlines the elements, which I believe need to be present for the effective introduction, building and sustaining of a school-based culture of coaching. Based on my own experience, as well my understanding of the research, I hope it may be useful to schools considering introducing coaching as central element of their teaching and learning practice.
In the coming weeks, I will take each element of the model in turn and write in more detail about the importance of each one and what practical steps can be taken to ensure they are in place, as a school embarks on the process of introducing and embedding a coaching approach.