Core Coaching Competencies in Coaching for Education

Lolding/ August 3, 2020/ LDRS 663/ 2 comments

In my last post, Core Coaching Competencies, I provided a brief overview of the International Coach Federation [ICF] and the eight core coaching competencies. In this post, I will dig deeper into the competencies and how they are connected to effective educational coaching, looking specifically at the K-12 context.  

Demonstrating an ethical practice is a non-negotiable in any coaching situation. Without basic ethics and standards, it is impossible to build relationships and create trust. Because educators are in a position of authority and working as a representative of the school, it is doubly important for them to be aware of things like confidentiality and to be referring students to other professionals as appropriate. The ethical behaviour outlined in the first competency is directly related to the Professional Standards for BC Educators. These standards are intended to guide the practice of BC educators and identify breaches in duty. Employing ethical behaviour is an expectation for a professional in any field.  

The second competency is Embodies a Coaching Mindset. The ICF defines this competency in the following way: “Develops and maintains a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client-centred” (International Coaching Federation [ICF], 2020). As I reflected on this competency while reviewing the ones that followed, I realized that striving to attain the behaviours outlined in this competency would likely result in a basic attainment of competencies three through eight. 

Because coaching in an educational context often occurs on a more informal basis, I believe the third standard is less relevant to the K-12 context. Teachers will often coach students on the fly during informal exchanges as they work on assignments or other educational tasks. Because of the ongoing and multifaceted relationship between a teacher and a student, establishing and maintaining a coaching agreement is unnecessary for the most part. However, I can see this task as useful for educators who serve as school counsellors. In more formal instances, it makes sense to set clear guidelines about the process and goals of this sort of coaching relationship. 

The fourth competency, Cultivates Trust and Safety, is imperative to a coaching relationship with a client of any age. It is also necessary for an educator to cultivate a climate of safety and trust in their classroom in order for students to learn effectively. Again, this competency is directly connected to the expectations laid out in the Professional Standards for BC Educators. Teachers are expected to act in a way that protects the emotional and physical health of students and honours the diversity that is present in the classroom. Some of the descriptors under Competency Four are in direct correlation with these ideas. For example, coaches should demonstrate respect for the client’s identity, style and language, and they should show support, empathy and concern for the client. 

Competency Five, Maintains Presence, is one that many educators may struggle with as they combine coaching activities with the other tasks that regularly occur in the classroom. In the fifth competency, coaches are directed to be “focused, observant, empathetic and responsive” and to create or allow “space for silence, pause or reflection” (ICF, 2020). Because K-12 educational coaching often takes place in the midst of a busy classroom, it is important for teachers to be able to recognize those situations that may require more care and attention and to set up times to meet with students outside of class time in order to be fully present when necessary. Another idea connected with this competency that may be a challenge for educators is “working in a space of not knowing” (ICF, 2020). Teachers are used to knowing the answers (or having the answer key close at hand). Working in a space of not knowing and co-creating meaning with their students is something that may push teachers outside their comfort zone. However, with the recent update to the BC Curriculum and the focus on big ideas, core competencies, and deeper learning, teachers are becoming more comfortable working with their students to discover the unknown.  

The next cluster of competencies is connected to the skill of communication. Competency Six, Listens Actively, and Competency Seven, Evokes Awareness, both fall under this umbrella. In some ways, these two competencies are foils for each other. While success at the sixth competency requires the teacher to take a back seat to the client (a possible challenge for educators who are used to directing the lesson), the seventh competency requires a more active role and caters to many of the skills already developed by master teachers. 

Personally, I feel that active listening is the area where I need the most work. I often want to jump into a conversation with my ideas and solve the problem at hand without fully listening to what the other person is saying. In order to be successful at active listening, an educator must pay attention to all the cues being presented, including body language, tone, and what is not being said. A truly effective coach will be able to use active listening to synthesize communication from across sessions and notice patterns of communication. 

When trying to evoke awareness, a coach will use techniques like asking powerful questions or using analogies to help the client explore different perspectives or ways of thinking about a problem. I think most teachers regularly use these sorts of techniques to help their students discover new understandings about the various subject matter being taught. Because educators often have an idea about the direction they want a lesson to take, they will have to be careful when coaching that they do not simply ask leading questions of students to help them come to the solution the teacher thinks is most suitable. When coaching, the goal should be for the student to determine their own course of action, even if the teacher would make a different choice. 

Finally, coaching Competency Eight is focused on facilitating client growth. There are parts of this competency that would come easily for an educator, while others may be more of a challenge. In the eighth competency, the coaching relationship is described as a partnership; this idea is quite different from the typical power dynamic present in a student-teacher relationship. However, an educator should be used to working with pre-existing worldviews and behaviours when integrating new learning and understanding. In addition, the act of coaches prompting clients to set goals, plan their next steps, and identify resources and potential obstacles, is similar to much of the work teachers do in the classroom on a regular basis. 

From this brief overview of the eight coaching competencies, I hope you were able to see how coaching and teaching can complement each other and be used to benefit learners. I’d like to further explore how coaching is used by educators in this province in future reading and posts. Stay tuned! 

BC Teachers’ Council. (2019). Professional standards for BC educators

International Coaching Federation. (2020). Core competencies. 

Province of British Columbia. (2020). New curriculum info. BC’s New Curriculum. 

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