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Developing coaching in the classroom

Schools need to shift from a 'fixed' mindset to become more self-reflective, says Jane Shaddick-Brady

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 16, 2017 | Teaching

Educators around the globe are focused on the need to add extra value to the outcomes of children at school. As a teacher of children whose ages range from 3 to 11 years old, I have been interested, for a number of years, in exploring coaching techniques to support children’s learning and also to help teachers develop professionally. 

Too often, schools attempt to improve by doing ‘more of the same’. More classes, more tests, more homework. Our school, which is a British overseas school, stopped traditional homework in 2014 and created ‘Home Learning’; the aim being to provide opportunities for independent and supported learning to be undertaken outside of curriculum time which reinforced, extended or enriched current learning. We believed that the change would enable children to take responsibility for their own learning and to become more independent learners who make choices about their learning and develop perseverance. It would enable children to practise and consolidate skills and broaden the context of learning, providing enrichment and extension. Crucially, we believed it would provide opportunities for parents to be more involved in their children’s learning.

In 2012, I started studying coaching and began my journey with British School of Coaching (BSC) to achieving the ILM Level 7 Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring, which I believe changed my outlook and approach to learning. I have always felt passionately about professional development and the importance of keeping up-to-date with new and current thinking in the ever-changing education world. I believe it is even more relevant to keep abreast of initiatives when working overseas. ​ 

I began to constantly consider how can teachers use coaching skills to align with daily teaching practice. How can we address the opportunity to develop collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity?​ I realised that, as a profession, teachers on a daily basis use a range of skills to enhance pupil outcomes; skills such as questioning, listening, reflection, goal setting and feedback.

My school has a firm and positive commitment to self-reflective learning and to develop thinking from a traditional, 'fixed' mindset to one of 'growth' and self-reflection. Over the last three years, we have invested in the Level 3 qualification for our Middle Leaders and currently have 13 qualified coaches. The investment in developing our Middle Leaders, particularly, as coaches has had a powerful impact on how we, as a team of professionals, have changed our approaches to running meetings, developing professional thinking and now have a solution-focused approach to many​ issues we face in school. 

As our professional language and approaches have changed, so has our classroom language and approaches to teaching and learning, which has had a direct influence on our children

The school has now developed a coaching culture that involves staff, children and parents, and this has helped to develop our approach to problem solving and self-reflection. However, more powerfully, there has been a change in the language and dialogue that we use in school, and this has had a positive impact in the classroom. As our professional language and approaches have changed, so has our classroom language and approaches to teaching and learning, which has had a direct influence on our children.

Our classrooms are now equipped with opportunities for our children to develop their work through peer coaching and mentoring and opportunities for using questions, such as 'What do you want to achieve?', 'What does success look like for you?', 'How will you achieve this?', 'What obstacles stand in your way?', 'What will you need to help you?' Opportunities for developing student leadership skills outside the classroom environment can presently be seen in the establishment of roles, such as School Council representatives, House Captains, Play Leaders, Cultural Ambassadors and Rights and Responsibilities Ambassadors, and Lead Learners. 

Our school places great emphasis on developing​ leadership skills and in developing life-long skills and fundamentally, this is at the heart of our school vision. Academic success is important, but we believe in the development of creative thinkers, problem solvers and students who know how to learn in an environment of mutual respect, enthusiasm and commitment, in order to develop their life-long learning skills. There is a wide range of opportunity for students to have as many irresistible,​ learning experiences as possible in order that the whole child is developed, not just academically but in the many other areas of development to prepare them for their future. 

As we reflected on how coaching had impacted on our outcomes, my colleague and fellow coaching graduate, Sanam Yaqub set about looking at ways to share this with other schools and teachers. We created the one-day 'Coaching in the Classroom' programme which explores the use of coaching competencies and tools through practical activities. These competencies can be adapted to support and promote the development of 21st century skills, such as critical thinking and collaboration in a primary classroom setting, framed alongside ​approaches such as using a 'Growth M​indset' and 'Mindfulness'. It’s a highly practical session, during which we aim to equip teachers with the tools that are adaptable to compliment all teaching practice and to hit the ground running from the beginning of the new academic year ahead. It’s all about “shifting” and “challenging” perceptions in teaching.

Jane Shaddick-Brady is Deputy Headteacher at Dubai English Speaking School, based in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, a COBIS Accredited Member School and Outstanding BSO School

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