A while back, a reader asked whether I had seen any positive changes in teacher professional development since 2013 when I began writing for GPE. Yes, I replied, many! The most positive change I have seen is the international education community’s embrace of coaching.
In 2007 when my EDC colleagues and I initiated a coaching program in Indonesia, coaching was so uncommon in donor programs that I was shuttled about various offices as a coaching whisperer-cum-apologist—arguing (not always successfully) to intrigued but skeptical donors why coaching was beneficial to teachers and how it could promote a greater return on professional development investment.
Fast forward to today and we increasingly see coaching programs as a central, or at least ancillary, requirement in many donor-funded education programs.
Given the proliferation of coaching programs in international education programs, it seems worth devoting some digital ink over the next few blog posts to coaching—what it is (the focus of this post), and in the next posts, some of the common misperceptions about coaching, and how we do coaching in the age of a pandemic.
What is a coach?
If you are a sports fan or have played a sport, you understand how essential a good coach is to performance.
A coach is a trained and knowledgeable professional who is skilled at taking teachers (or principals) from where they are to where they want to be. In education, as in sports, a coach’s job is to make people work better in their profession and be better professionals.
Coaches do this in three ways:
- They help teachers focus on clear, doable goals and support them in meeting these goals.
- They help individual teachers and groups of teachers develop the skills needed to attain goals.
- They help teachers increase their capacity for collaboration, adapt to change and work through conflict (Garmston & Wellman, 2013).
A coach is not a supervisor, an evaluator or an inspector (think about how well that would work for an athlete or team). S/He is not the teacher’s boss. Nor is a coach a teacher’s helper or assistant. Finally, coaches and mentors are not the same thing (more on that in the next post).