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What is coaching in the context of education?

Coaching is the embodiment of what creates an outstanding school or college. Coaching delivers highly effective collaboration, where the sharing and cascading of good practice builds a powerful learning platform for leaders, managers, teachers and support staff.

Learning coaching skills provides teachers with the tools to help learners to find their own solutions to problems, take risks and feel comfortable with challenge and change. 

Coaching fosters a culture of trust and self - belief.  The principles that underpin an effective coaching culture support the development of an open-door observation strategy, opportunities for teams to work together within departments or across curriculum and phase or key stage divides to focus on similarities of pedagogy and learning. Coaching allows individuals to share their concerns, learn from others and take time to plan their own vision and learning goals.

Coaching models are many and varied. GROW is the most well used. Try OSCAR as an alternative


Coaching is non-directive and non-judgemental, the main aim of the coach is to support their coachee to find their own way forward, to help them to articulate their strengths and how they can build on them and create a learning pathway that is continuous and successful.

The coaching philosophy focuses on trust and the absolute belief that individuals who are given time and the opportunity to find their own way forward will make positive change.  This is so important in the context of education.  It is paramount that we do believe that every individual both the adult and the pupil will learn and grow to become competent and confident in all that they attempt.  We must create a culture of self-awareness and self-belief that will foster the right conditions for learning.

There is no better pedagogy than coaching and developing a coaching culture will model the characteristics of an outstanding school.

What are the skills a coach needs?

There are several skills a coach needs to learn or enhance in order to ensure that he or she can truly support others in their own learning journey.

questioningQuestioning skills

There are only certain ways to ask a question that will mean the recipient of that question has to think carefully about their answer. A coach does not want to hear a coachee give a yes or no answer, there is nothing he or she can learn about what the coachee is thinking or how the coachee feels about certain change or challenge.

Questions that start with:-

Where……? What……..? When……? How………? Who………? Which………?

require an answer that is more than just yes or no “How would you approach that differently next time?” is far more likely to allow the coach to find out what the coachee is thinking than a similar question, “Do you think you could try a different approach next time?”

Focus on the positive with powerful questioning and positive language


activelisteningListening skills

Active listening is crucial to effective and beneficial coaching. There is plenty of research that suggests we only hear 40% of what anyone is saying to us.

There is a plethora of mind chatter that gets in the way and stops us from listening actively. A good coach can eliminate the mind chatter and listen attentively to the coachee, gaining insight into the mindset of the coachee.

Listening is not just about what we hear it is also about the body language the coachee and the coach display as they embark on a coaching conversation.

Body language is louder than the spoken word. The website Business Balls has a very comprehensive section on reading the signals that the body displays, click here to download a copy.



A coach needs to have the skills that will allow the person they are coaching to be reflective.  

To be able to focus on what they are good at and how they can use their strengths to enhance their learning and improve in order to fill gaps in their own learning.  

Telling someone what to do to improve does not encourage self-reflection, on the contrary it can lead to resentment and a belief that it is the coaches fault that change has not happened quickly enough.



Coaching is not a soft option, asking open questions and waiting for an answer is difficult and often for those new to coaching can be excruciating. It can feel awkward when the coachee is silent, trying to think of an answer when they were expecting the coach to do that for them.

A lot lies behind what the coachee is saying or not saying, it requires a lot of skill to build the trust and rapport that will truly allow the coachee to find their own solutions, feel comfortable with the chance to reflect on what went wrong and how they can put it right and feel safe with sharing their innermost thoughts.



A coach needs to be empathetic and not judgemental.  The reason behind a particular behaviour or action is both known and unknown by the coachee, whatever the issue is, belongs to the coachee and not the coach. Understanding this is critical to success.



Skilful question and active listening allows the coach to carefully analyse the situation and prepare the next questions to draw out of the coachee what they want to do next.

“A masterful coach is a leader who by nature is a vision builder and value shaper, not just a technician who manages people to reach their goals and plans through tips and techniques. To be able to do this requires that the coach discover his or her own humanness and humanity, while being a clearing for others to do the same”
Elena Aguilar The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation

“a one – to – one conversation focused on the enhancement of learning and development through increasing self-awareness and a sense of personal responsibility, where the coach facilitates the self-directed learning of the coachee through questioning, active listening and appropriate challenge in a supportive and encouraging climate”
Christian van Nieuwerburgh Coaching in Education: Getting Better Results for Students, Educators and Parents

"Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them".
John Whitmore Coaching for People and Performance