Coaching: the key to outstanding teaching and learning

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In this newspost I want to explore coaching as a powerful pedagogy. Where teachers learn to coach, they quickly see the parallels with the strategies they use to deliver exceptional teaching and learning. We have a highly regarded course for all teachers it is called ‘Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning’.

Picture walking into a classroom where all the pupils are engaged, focused and absorbed in what they are doing. The teacher is there to facilitate the learning, not necessarily simply to deliver the content. There is a buzz of learning and a confidence for all that taking a risk or making a mistake is absolutely fine as long as it leads to some kind of deeper understanding. The teacher’s role is to encourage, challenge and foster a love of learning that will remain forever.

The teacher uses the classroom to foster independent learning, group interaction and the blending of skills and knowledge. He or she creates opportunities for learners to make sense of their growing understanding and what they need to do next to progress.  There is a trust that is implicit in the relationship between the teacher and his or her class. The quality of learning is dependent on that teacher’s inspiration and expertise and the learner has the confidence to use the resources, rise to the challenges of the tasks being presented and is motivated towards achieving above and beyond their potential.

Where teachers develop a range of coaching skills and learn how to use them as part of their teaching repertoire, they are more adept at creating a classroom culture that puts the onus on learning rather than teaching and creates for the pupils a tacit understanding that they are responsible for their own learning and are accountable for what they achieve.

The skills teachers will develop as part of learning how to coach are the ability to use deep and rich questioning to put the onus on the learner to find their own solutions, be ready to take risks with their learning and accept challenge as part of their experience in the classroom.  The second skill is learning how to become an active listener. Listening raises awareness of what others think. It allows the listener to build a picture of how much a learner understands, their attitudes to learning and the barriers that might hinder learning.

It is also important that teachers have the opportunity to reflect on their pedagogy and how the way they teach impacts on learning, enjoyment, progression and achievement. Here at Learning Cultures for this course we have created a set of pedagogy cards that give teachers an opportunity to talk about their teaching approaches and what works well for them. We ask them to share their best practice examples and we encourage those who are listening to use the incisive questioning techniques they have been learning about to find out more, to challenge perceptions and to define how the approach leads to learning.

We also challenge teachers to focus on their strengths, how can they articulate what they are good at and how they influence others to achieve their full potential.  There is often a reluctance for us all to talk about ourselves and certainly to say what we are doing well. To be a good coach it is essential to know yourself, how you influence others and what it is about you that others will trust with their dreams and aspirations. We use this as a powerful opportunity to focus on how to plan a learning agenda linked to strengths and gaps in skills and knowledge that will help all to move towards an ideal professional future.

The essential final element in learning how to coach is to have the opportunity to practice coaching with others over time. This is profoundly linked to having very clearly defined goals for how this future will be achieved. Articulating one’s goal and then determining the road map for how it will be achieved is a crucial first step.  It is also important to recognise what currently works well but also to know the barriers that might impede success.

Where individuals can set out their own goals and how they will achieve them and then share this with others there are opportunities for coaching conversations to take place that have a twofold impact. Firstly, the goal setter consolidates their understanding of what they want to achieve and secondly, the listener is able to practice their questioning, influencing and listening skills.

Coaching and teaching have a synergy that cannot be easily ignored by anyone who has spent time learning how to coach.  We will all need new approaches and positive answers to welcome back learners who have been away from school. Coaching provides so many answers to ensuring both teachers and pupils have the confidence, self-esteem and self-belief to move forward from here and continue to make exceptional progress. Follow the link to the course discussed below.

Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning

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