Understanding the Skills, Principles and Practice of Effective Coaching and Mentoring within an Organisational Context
The first of three unit submissions, Unit 500 requires learners demonstrate an understanding of the skills, principles and practice required for effective coaching or mentoring within an organisational context. The unit guidance highlights 20 guided learning hours, however, if you were to treble that figure, I think that would be a closer to the time committed to writing assignment and that excludes a visit to Wells Cathedral School, interviewing experienced practitioners and the wider reading and research that contributed to the 13,000 word assignment. I highly recommend the learning however forewarn candidates of the investment required.
The scope of the unit is considerable.
- Understand the purpose of coaching and mentoring within an organisational context
- Understand the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to be an effective coach or mentor
- Understand the importance of effective contracting and management of the coaching or mentoring process
Once complete, the assignment is internally assessed through an assignment brief which is marked and subject to internal and external verification. (Pass/Referral).
Here is an extract of my response to the assignment that may prove of relevance to other educators and leaders interested in Coaching and Mentoring from Section 1.
Evaluate organisational factors that may affect coaching or mentoring, such as structure, culture performance and stakeholder expectations. Consideration must be given to the impact of values, ethics and principles within organisations as well as the importance of internal support. In the evaluation, include at least three factors that are affected by the organisational context.Assessment Criteria 1.2
In this section I plan to evaluate how Headteacher advocacy, organisation structure and the accountability framework either inhibits or promotes coaching and mentoring. This evaluation is constructed with reference to three case study schools. Finally, a review of professional development and culture will form part of the evaluation.
Without the Headteachers advocacy, projects or initiatives in school rarely thrive, and they rarely survive should the Headteacher leave their post. At Wellington College, with the Masters support, coaching has become the ‘golden thread’ of the staff strategy. At Wells Cathedral School, established values supported coaching, however, following the appointment of a new headteacher, the school’s commitment to coaching was being “reconsidered.” Finally, at the last case study school, coaching was being withdrawn, or at least postponed, after it had become defined as a remedial accountability strategy linked to performance review, despite the support of Headteacher.
Second, the traditional organisational structure of secondary education has evolved in recent years with both local education authorities and government-led national strategies diminishing in favour of a ‘school-led self-improving system,’ Teaching Schools and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). Traditional hierarchical and pyramidal, common chain of command, school structure remains largely unchanged, (DfE: School leadership in England 2010 to 2016: characteristics and trends (Revised July 2018) both in the UK and internationally. The hierarchical, hegemonic and bipartite (curriculum/pastoral) structure of schools underlines the importance of Headteacher and also means that coaching or mentoring typically falls under the responsibility of one of the two Deputy Headteachers, even where it is strongly advocated by the most senior figure in the organisation.
Most coaching and mentoring relationships operate within organisational context, whilst also contributing to it. The structure and culture of an organisation therefore influences how coaching is received, perceived and supported. All three schools are highly reputable independent and fee-paying schools who were able to promote and invest in coaching and mentoring training and support. Furthermore, Wells Cathedral School and Wellington College are both are boarding schools, sharing many of the dynamics of an extended family. Both schools strived to model and mirror “healthy family values,” with staff-student and staff-staff relationships reported as beneficiaries coaching.
At Wells Cathedral School, the Headteacher was herself coached, and brought her senior team in touch with coaching. With growing interest, e of her Deputy Headteachers adopted coaching for professional development. This organic growth was accelerated when part-time teacher and on site performance coach was recruited to support coaching formally. With internal momentum building, a whole school coaching approach was adopted. Coaching was seen as an approach to support staff and kept separate from accountability and performance review. At Wellington College, initially, the Master was less supportive, however he enabled the Deputy Head (Educational Developments and Partnerships) with an “unbound” budget to recruit external expertise and then build internal capacity. Coaching was again kept separate from accountability and performance review and has thrived, to the point that one factor considered when recruiting staff is their ‘coachability.’ Similarly, at the last case study school, support was forth-coming, with a significant investment given to train a team of internal coaches. However coaching became the default and remedial strategy to support under-performing teachers and central to accountability and performance review.
An evaluation should also consider the students attainment. Kraft and Papay (2014, p 476) demonstrated that teachers in more supportive environments “improve more,” and student outcomes progressed faster than in unsupportive schools. (On average, teachers working in schools at the 75th percentile of professional environment ratings improved 38% more than teachers in schools at the 25th percentile after ten years.) Unsurprisingly results at both Wells Cathedral School and Wellington College have improved with the introduction of coaching, as has staff and student retention.
Addressing practical issues such as sufficient coaches, access to supervision, lack of privacy and geographic dislocation have been shown to be surmountable challenges, however there needs to be a commitment from the school leadership team to address them. Finally, at an individual teacher level, the school context, supportive or performance driven, may affect how the teacher or client perceives coaching, leading to close mindedness or a lack of self-responsibility to progress coaching and mentoring effectively. It will certainly make building rapport and trust more difficult, it may even lead to the suspension of the coaching, as in the final case study school.
An evaluation of these three case studies, shows that Headteacher advocacy is required to both launch and sustain Coaching and Mentoring, however it does not guarantee that it will be successful. Coaching and Mentoring typically falls to senior colleagues and where it is kept separate from accountability and performance review, valued for its “intrinsic worth,” it was most successful. Interestingly, both Wells Cathedral School and Wellington College leaders made reference to the growing culture of accountability and performativity, drawing upon coaching for almost the exact opposite impact. For the “intrinsic worth” and inherent goodness in “unlocking potential in others.” There are pockets of resistance and the profession is seeing a rise in the prominence of “Instructional Coaching.” In this context coaching is being re-positioned, central to a what Hargreaves and O’Connor (2018a) defines as ‘collaborative professionalism.’ Coaching practice and a coaching approach is being actively aligned with the emergence of, and construction of, “teachers as agents of change” and ecological agency (Priestley et al. 2015).
DfE: School leadership in England 2010 to 2016: characteristics and trends (Revised July 2018). (2018). [online] Department for Education. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-leadership-2010-to-2016-characteristics-and-trends [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].
Hargreaves, A. and O’Connor, M., 2018a. Collaborative professionalism: when teaching together means learning for all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Kraft MA, Papay JP. Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience. Educational Effectiveness and Policy Analysis [Internet]. 2014;36 (4) :476-500.
Priestley, M., Biesta, G., and Robinson, S., 2015. Teacher agency; an ecological approach. London: Bloomsbury.