Coaching the Teachers to Coach the Students

Over the last 15 to 20 years there’s been a massive shift towards coaching as a concept for the development of human potential in the workforce. As long ago as around 1994 I attended a one-week training programme at Ashridge Management College in UK entitled ‘The Manager as Coach’. It had a strong impact on my thinking.

Over the last few years i followed with interest the way that the coaching movement was developing around the world, through membership of the US based IAC (International Association of Coaching) and Coachville. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from and communicate with people who have chosen to work as specialist coaches either to high level corporate executives or alternatively for people who want a coach to focus on personal growth.

The first really important myth to blow out of the water is that coaching exists to ‘solve problems’, as a tool only to be drawn upon when there is a problem. sadly, we still too often see that happening, but in its ideal state it’s so much more than that. Sadly, there are those companies who call in a coach when an ‘expensive resource (i.e. highly paid executive) has a problem in their performance. However, at its best, coaching is a continuous and ongoing activity that has as its major objective enabling a person to fulfil more of their potential than they could on their own.

The Kunskapsskolan model is built on the principle of teachers acting as learning coaches to pupils, gauging their abilities to take ownership for their own learning, to develop their intrinsic motivation and to articulate and pusue their own goals (for learning and life). In such circumstances, it makes perfect sense to me that if coaching is the way for teachers to be with pupils, so it is also the way for leaders in education to be with educators.

Sadly, the agenda in many education systems has been far more driven by a sense of need to measure and assess teachers, rather than to coach them. This flows out of a ‘problem solving’ mindset that sees teachers’ efforts as inadequate and failing and in need of redressal. The reality is that on almost any day, in any conventional school, the management (Principal, V-P, supervisor, Superintendent, Director has only a superficial knowledge of how any individual teacher is doing his/ her job. If you pre-announce that you’re going to a teacher’s classroom, what you see is completely artificial. if you just suddenly turn up, the second you open the door and enter ‘their space’ you change the whole dynamics of what you’re witnessing. And if you put video cameras in to classes so that you can monitor what teachers are doing ……………… then plainly every shred of trust has gone from the system.

One of the things that excites me most about the Kunskapsskolan education model is that the open plan, no enclosed classrooms nature of the architectural design of the schools takes away all those artificial barriers. it means that all spaces are shared spaces and adults being around to witness each other’s work is completely natural. This means that assessment of what teachers are doing becomes completely unnecessary. Instead, we can focus entirely on a coaching approach based on a shared belief that insights, guidance and reflection can enable every one of us to be a continuous learner, that there is no such point of no more learning and that together we all want to do the best job possible to serve the learning of the pupils.

With these thoughts in mind, i was really pleased recently to read this Ed Week article advocating the benefits of coaching for teachers/ educators. It also contains some useful thoughts for the teachers themselves about the vital importance of being coach-able:Ed Week Article – Don’t Evaluate Teachers, Coach Them

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4 Responses

  1. We knew that these issues were there , but we never knew somebody was constantly thinking of resolving them .

    Personally , do like the thoughts , concepts on forum to read and contemplate .

    Thank you .

  2. After reading your article I have been only sighing to myself..wondering why I feel so depressed with our education system…and then I feel equally angry at myself for leading myself to such a state of complacency…simply because I am left with no energy
    or the wits….It is high time we had more NIkhil Goyals……to enthuse the present generation of teacher to take stock of things and allow a genuine child centered and a more meaningful education to take shape and stop ourselves from ‘betraying our students’….[ this statement from the film…’We are the People we’ve been waiting for’…still haunts me and hence had to quote it here]…..

  3. sir i like ur post but would want to enqire would this swedish model work well with cbse.
    regards, richa

    • I think the approach of coaching teachers is not inherently a Swedish model. When it comes to applying the broader aspects of the Kunskapsskolan educational model there are a couple of things I would say;
      a) It’s already translated very effectively to two other countries after Sweden (UK and USA), in each case being adapted to the local national educational standards and norms,
      b) CBSE sets a curriculum – a set of ‘end goals’ to be achieved educationally. It is not prescriptive about how to reach those goals. Therefore, I do not see the model as being in any way incompatible. In fact, with the CBSE being quite ‘content heavy’ I see positive advantages in the fact that children will move forward through their learning at their own pace, rather than artificially at a common pace of a cohort group.
      c) In the Kunskapsskolan model, at the end of each learning step, a student is assessed and they only move on to the next step if that assessment demonstrates they have learned effectively. This avoids many of the pitfalls in the existing system that see children moving on regardless of whether their learning fundamentals are solid. This leaves some children consolidating gaps in their learning that leave them no choice but ineffective mugging up in later years.
      d) Motivated students in control of their own learning will, I believe, outperform those subjected to the traditional, antiquated ‘push model’ regardless of the country or environment.

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