A Post Revisited
In a previous post, Core Coaching Competencies, I provided a brief overview of the International Coach Federation [ICF] and the incoming eight core coaching competencies that will take effect in early 2021. In this post, I will dig deeper into the competencies that are most and least applicable to effective educational coaching in a K-12 setting. One may wonder how coaching and teaching are related (as I did when I first began exploring this topic). In order to make the similarities and differences more clear, I created this Venn diagram, which can viewed in a larger format by clicking this hyperlink.
I believe two of the coaching competencies are closely related to the Professional Standards for BC Educators. These standards are intended to guide the practice of BC educators and identify breaches in duty. The second competency, “Demonstrates Ethical Practice,” and the fourth competency, “Cultivates Trust and Safety,” are a necessity in both teaching and coaching. Without basic ethics and standards, it is impossible to build relationships and create trust. Because K-12 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. Employing ethical behaviour is an expectation for a professional in any field but of vital importance for K-12 educators.
Likewise, a relationship built on an environment of trust and safety is imperative to coaching and teaching a student of any age. It is necessary for an educator to cultivate a climate of safety and trust in their classroom in order for students to learn effectively. 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 the fourth competency 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. Clearly, this competency fits well in an educational setting.
Two more competencies that seem connected to a K-12 context are Competency Six, “Listens Actively,” and Competency Seven, “Evokes Awareness”. Both of these competencies are related to basic communication skills. In some ways, these two competencies are foils for each other. While success at the sixth competency requires the teacher to diminish their own importance (a possible challenge for educators who are used to directing communication), 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 development. 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 even what is not being said (or what the student is intentionally leaving out). A truly effective coach will be able to use active listening to synthesize communication from across sessions and notice patterns that may exist. Although this competency may be challenging for teachers, it is vital for a positive and effective coaching relationship to occur.
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.
While a number of competencies are relevant and applicable to K-12 educators, there are some that are harder to attain in the classroom. For example, teachers will often coach students during informal exchanges while students are completing assignments or heading outside for a recess break. Because of the ongoing and multifaceted relationship between a teacher and a student, establishing and maintaining a coaching agreement seems unnecessary for the most part. However, fulfilling this competency would be more important 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. When examining the coaching that takes place between a typical student and a classroom teacher, I believe the more informal nature of the coaching interactions make the third standard less relevant to the K-12 context.
Competency Five, “Maintains Presence,” is another competency 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. Just because K-12 educational coaching usually occurs informally doesn’t mean it has to occur this way.
Another idea connected with the fifth 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.
From this brief overview of some of the incoming coaching competencies, I hope you were able to see how coaching and teaching can complement each other and be used to benefit learners. This school year, as I move into a new position teaching middle school, I plan to use the ideas I learned from the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies to build stronger relationships with my students and to help them navigate the reality of education in a Covid-19 world.
BC Teachers’ Council. (2019). Professional standards for BC educators. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/kindergarten-to-grade-12/teach/teacher-regulation/standards-for-educators/edu_standards.pdf
International Coaching Federation. (2020). Core competencies. https://coachfederation.org/core-competencies
Province of British Columbia. (2020). New curriculum info. BC’s New Curriculum. https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum-info
This post can be found in its original form by clicking this link: https://create.twu.ca/lolding/2020/08/03/core-coaching-competencies-in-coaching-for-education/