A Culture of Coaching (Part 1) - Steve Barkley

A Culture of Coaching (Part 1)

The first book that I wrote about coaching was titled, Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching. The title was purposeful as I wanted to communicate that coaching was not merely an isolated activity of observation and feedback, but the way a team of educators “did business.” When a coaching culture is present, teachers use coaching input from colleagues to answer questions, solve problems, internalize new practices, and create innovations.

Consider this mindset on coaching described in Creating a Coaching Culture.

Mindsets: There is a prevalent belief that you get the most out of people, not through telling them what to do, or through advocacy and explanation, but through engaging them with the issues and challenges and helping them think through the choices and options. There is a belief that nobody has all the answers, but through inquiring together we can arrive at better responses to new challenges than by thinking alone.

(Read the chapter here.)

I facilitated a recent session entitled, Leaders Communicating to Build a Culture of Coaching, (video introduction) for the British Columbia Principal and Vice Principals’ Association. I examined how leaders’ conversations with individual teachers and groups of teachers could build a coaching culture.

Conversation about common vision is a good starting point. I am increasingly likely to make myself vulnerable to your coaching feedback when I know that you envision the same goal that I do for my students. Teachers, who continually examine and share their pictures of desired student achievement, discover common goals. This increases the comfort of turning to one another for coaching.

A focus on the student production behaviors that will lead to the desired achievement creates an entry point for coaching conversations with less discomfort than an initial focus on teacher behavior. If we agree as a staff that student perseverance in problem solving is critical to increased achievement, we can start peer to peer observations where we identify current perseverance levels among particular student groups as well as individual students. Then using collaborative problem solving we can experiment with teacher strategies to gain the changes in students. Now ongoing peer observation can identify and support the changes teachers make and the student responses to those changes. These observations provide feedback for collaborative decision-making.

I spoke with the BC administrators about the responsibility that they have for the processes of evaluation, supervision, mentoring, and coaching of staff. That responsibility, I believe, requires leaders to model each function and to support teachers mentoring and coaching each other. If the school has a culture of coaching, as a teacher, I recognize that many members of the staff are available to assist me in my continuous growth and my administrator who does my evaluation can at times set aside that evaluation role and work as my mentor or coach.

School leaders need to communicate the purpose of having a coaching culture. Consider this quote from the Institute of Leadership & Management report on Creating a Coaching Culture.

…. Many organisations still view coaching as a tool for correcting poor performance. However, good coaching is about achieving a high performance culture, not managing a low-performance one, and should not be seen primarily as a remedial tool.”

 It’s important that principals work with instructional coaches to extend the coaching culture in a school. That culture increases the impact that the coach can have in providing feedback and reflection opportunities as well as increasing the coach’s role in being the “coach of coaching.” Anyone working in a coaching leadership role (instructional coach, team leader, department head) should be increasing the amount of teacher to teacher coaching occurring in the school.

What are your purposeful behaviors to deepen the coaching culture in your school? How much coaching are you requesting?

(Continued in next blog)

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5 Responses to “ A Culture of Coaching (Part 1) ”

  1. Terri Bianco Says:

    What a lovely look at culture and coaching, Steve. This has an air of quality about it and it sounds as if the culture is spreading. Bravo! Looking forward to Part II.

  2. Jake Gavin Says:

    Thanks for the quote from the Institute of Leadership and Management. As a full time mentor I have been struggling with the “fix-it” mentality of some of the administrators and teachers of my school. Hopefully I can lean on this quote to help some of my colleagues see my primary mission.

  3. Michelle TG Says:

    You say, “Consider this mindset on coaching described in Creating a Coaching Culture.” Is that from YOUR book that you referenced in the paragraph before?

    (Great quote that I would like to post, but want to give proper credit.)


  4. Steve Barkley Says:

    If you look futher down the blog, there’s another reference to Creating a Coaching Culture that explains where it is from.

  5. Dr. Linda De Ivernois Says:

    Steve, you always model so effortlessly the entire continuous learning cycle that we all should embrace. Thank you for being the ultimate coach!

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