I have recently read the NFER research paper Capacity for Collaboration? Analysis of School to School Support Capacity in England Essentially, the research suggests that there is capacity for high performing schools to support those who need some help.
However, schools working in partnership must have answers to these questions if the potential to create a self-improving system is to be realised,
- What is the available evidence that examines best practice of where schools collaborate successfully?
- Who across the respective schools, both those deemed to be high performing and those in need of help, is responsible for ensuring successful collaboration happens?
- Who determines the needs of all the schools involved including the lead school?
- What can each school offer in relation to their relative strengths and experience?
- How is success defined and how is this agreed across the respective schools?
- What are the measures used to assess impact?
Collaboration, and learning from what works well through the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice is fundamental to any successful organisation. Schools and colleges by their very nature find this difficult even within the environs of one organisation. Silos exist between subject specialisms, key stages and year groups. Timetable constraints create a barrier; opportunities for meetings are limited and pupils’ demands take time and energy. With this in mind a strategy for collaboration across a partnership needs to be very clearly orchestrated.
Coaching is one of the most powerful ways of ensuring successful collaboration.
Coaching is solutions focused. A coach will:-
- tease out how those who lead determine their goals and evaluate how realistic they are
- help those involved to identify their own strengths and the qualities of others; not just those in the lead school but of all the schools involved
- question individuals to identify their needs and their learning agenda in order to ensure that the process leads to a culture of excellence and improvement across all the schools
- make everyone reflect on their priorities in relation to the part they play in the collaborative process and question how to deflect other issues that stand in the way of a successful outcome
The capacity for collaboration is there. The opportunity to embrace what is outstanding and cascade it widely is there. Coaching is a proven tool in the box. It is without doubt, the pedagogy that delivers outstanding learning and will provide the framework for positive organisational change.
If you are planning your CPD strategy or designing the appraisal system for the new academic year you will achieve phenomenal success if you build coaching into the process. Learning is just as important for teachers as it is for pupils. A good teacher never stops learning and relishes any opportunity to be challenged and stretched. Without on-going opportunities for good quality training, classroom practice becomes hackneyed and dull.
Coaching is a process, it requires individuals to learn a suite of skills in order to support others to set their own goals, be clear as to how they will achieve them; have well-defined steps along the way and evaluate their learning at the end of a given period of time. Coaching is non-judgemental and can be the conduit for transformational change.
A coach will never project their own views, direct another or suggest they know best. A coach will facilitate a conversation that requires the other person to soul search, learn from their mistakes, find their own solutions and ultimately make their own decisions about how to create successful outcomes from their stated goals and objectives.
Here at Learning Cultures we have created the most comprehensive coaching programme you could ever wish for. We have not left anyone out. From leaders, managers and Governors to teachers, Cover Supervisors and support staff we have developed training courses and modules that will ultimately deliver a whole school or college coaching culture. We have even included the pupils as potential candidates for coaching in our repertoire.
Training is of little or no value if it is delivered as a stand-alone activity where it is not linked to school improvement, learning goals and individual aspirations. It will have no impact unless the learning is disseminated to others and cascaded successfully. Coaching provides the mechanism for ensuring that there is on-going reflection and professional dialogue linked to learning and the celebration of good and outstanding practice. Plan your CPD using coaching at its heart and you will create outstanding individuals who are highly motivated, understand their own self-worth and who embrace change and challenge.
Or for the latest resources, activities and best practice examples join us for our fourth annual coaching conference. The Power of Coaching at the wonderful Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire on 29th June. You might also like to attend our Leading a Coaching School event at the same venue on Friday 30th June. A veritable extravaganza of coaching training.
The business of a school is learning. If we put learning at the heart of every goal we set and through professional coaching conversations we focus on how our pupils learn, how we learn and how our colleagues learn we will build a culture that celebrates what works well, identify what needs to change and be able to reflect on the impact our teaching has on how well pupils deepen their knowledge and progress.
Identifying the pedagogies that we use in the classroom is important. The craft of teaching is a gift. However, if we don’t look carefully to how successfully it links to learning we cannot expect to find ways to continually improve.
Ponder on these questions
- How does your teaching link with what learners are interested in?
- How does your teaching allow pupils to learn concepts that will support them to deepen their knowledge?
- How does your teaching allow pupils to make connections with what they have learnt elsewhere?
- How does your teaching promote the use of higher level thinking skills that deepens their learning?
- How does your teaching allow pupils to share their ideas and work well in groups?
- How meaningful is what you are teaching to your learners’ own experiences and existing knowledge?
- How can you be sure that your teaching is building on prior learning?
- How do you create opportunities for pupils to talk about their learning and be able to say how they are learning as well as what they are learning?
- How do you make sure that pupils understand what is said to them and comprehend what they read?
Make sure that with every plan and every decision made, whatever it is about, there is a link to learning. There is some serious research that suggests it makes an outstanding difference!