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What is coaching in the context of education?

Coaching is moving away from what many of us in the education profession feel most comfortable with and that is to support our learners through giving them the benefit of our expertise, superior knowledge and deeper understanding.

Learning coaching skills provides teachers with the tools to help pupils to find their own solutions, take risks and feel comfortable with making mistakes if there is some learning that comes out of the error.

There is profound evidence to suggest that coaching in education will enhance learning and development for leaders, teachers, support staff and for pupils across all key stages.


A coach is looking to increase the self-awareness of the individual they are coaching, leading to the coachee identifying their own strengths and how they can build on these to learn and improve.

Coaching is non-directive and non-judgemental.

The coach will not give the answer or suggest a viable solution.

A coach will use his or her skills to tease out of the coachee a way forward that belongs to them.

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?”


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