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Coaching and Mentoring for GTCS Sub-group on PRD 1. Coaching and Mentoring in Scottish Schools: Background and Context

1.1 A mentoring and/or coaching approach has become the cornerstone of a range of major initiatives across Scottish education. In the classroom, teachers increasingly use coaching skills to support young people’s learning in line with the aims of Curriculum for Excellence. The Assessment is for Learning approach is based on coaching principles.

1.2 The ‘Learning Rounds’ approach to classroom observation is founded on the skill of giving nonjudgmental, evidence based feedback, sharing it with the teacher, the department or the school and leaving them to interpret it and decide how to use it. The Flexible Route to Headship (FRH) matches a personal coach with each candidate as its core approach. School leaders use coaching skills to support distributed leadership and develop their staff at every level. The Standard for Headship lists as one of the skills required of a head teacher: “ the development of staff by coaching and mentoring” 1.

1.3 Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are allocated a mentor to support them through their induction year. Links with the New Teacher Center at UCLASanta Cruz have led to significant numbers of teachers applying enhanced mentoring skills as they support NQTs. In the report Teaching Scotland’s Future, Graham Donaldson notes the finding from the Early Professional Development (EPD)Pilot Scheme in England, which provided mentoring for teachers at an early career stage, that “ more than three-quarters of teachers and mentors indicated that EPDhad considerably enhanced pupils’ learning” 2

1.4 In the specific context of teachers’ professional review and development (PRD), it is widely recognised that a coaching approach is best suited to productive PRDmeetings between line managers and their staff. Donaldson also endorsesthe more general applicability of mentoring and coaching: “ Mentoring and coaching skills enable much more effective dialogue and learning to take place within groups of teachers and with stakeholders and partners” 3 For all of these reasons, many authorities have continued to offer training in

coaching skills and the number of teachers with coaching skills continues to increase.

1.5 There is some potential in widening accessto coaching and mentoring by the use of online webconferencing on GlowScotland. A small-scale, online coaching pilot with supply teachers was successfully completed within the CPDTeam’s CPDStepin community.

2. Coaching and Mentoring defined

2.1 The terms coaching and mentoring describe a continuous two-way processthrough which the person in the role of coach, or mentor, usesquestions, discussion and guided activity to help the person being coached, or mentored, to solve problems, address issues or do tasks to a higher standard than would otherwise be the case. The aim of the processis to improve performance in ‘getting the job done’ and, with no extra effort, making a direct contribution to the person’s learning and development.


Ambitious, Excellent Schools: Standard for Headship, Scottish Executive, 2005


Professional development for teachers early in their careers: An evaluation of the early professional development pilot scheme, Nottingham: Department for Education and Skills. Moor, H., et al (2005), quoted in Teaching Scotland’s Future: Report of a review of teacher education in Scotland, Graham Donaldson, The Scottish Government, 2010, p52 3

Teaching Scotland’s Future: Report of a review of teacher education in Scotland, Graham Donaldson, The Scottish Government, 2010, p52

2.2 Coaching and mentoring are separate activities but the key principles are similar. Common elements, in an educational context, include: •

a learning conversation

reflection and sharing

agreed outcomes

focus on learning and teaching

mutual benefit

confidentiality 4.

2.3 A mentor should have relevant and similar experience to the person being mentored, will act as a model and may offer advice. A coach need not share the knowledge base of the person being coached and will use questions to challenge thinking and promote reflection. Hook et al. (2006) put it this way: “mentors know lots of answers, while a coach knows most of the questions” 5.

3. Benefits of Coaching/Mentoring 3.1 Hook et al. (2006)6 describe the benefits for teachers as: • • • • • • • •

thinking more clearly about things feeling valued and listened to recognising and appreciating their skills and resources increasing their range of options clarifying how they’d like things to be as they get even better understanding what they need to do to get there becoming more creative and optimistic feeling more positive and confident about change

3.2 If used effectively, there is abundant evidence that coaching empowers individuals, builds teams, enhancescollegiality and improves morale across the team or establishment. As a result of feeling more in control individuals are more likely to accept responsibility both for their own learning and behaviour and for the aims of the organisation (in this context the school) as a whole. 4. Climate for effective coaching An absolute prerequisite for effective coaching is a climate of trust. Schools where effective coaching takes place tend to be schools where morale is high, management / staff relationships are good, a climate of opennesspervades and people at all levels feel valued. Sheppard/Moscow (2007) state that a positive coaching climate requires you (the coach) to:


National CPD Team, quoted in Mentoring in Teacher Education, HMIe, 2008


Coaching and Reflecting, Peter Hook, Ian McPhail & Andy Vass, pub. Teachers’ Pocketbooks, 2006



• • • • •

believe in the client’s potential accept mistakes as long as the client is learning be open to feedback regard this as an opportunity to learn yourself acknowledge the importance of feelings as well as facts in the workplace give support and encouragement7

The foundation for this processis the quality of the relationship between the coach and the person being coached. This is why it is not enough for a coach to possessthe required skills and techniques. The person being coached needs to know from their behaviour, attitude and consistency that the coach is a person to be relied upon.

5. Coaching/Mentoring Capacity in Scottish Schools 5.1 Government funding for the introduction of coaching skills in schools was made available in2005-06 “targeted at building a coaching/mentoring culture at many levels in the Scottish educational system.....The initiative will provide funding of £20,000- £50,000to each local implement a focused coaching/mentoring project in their area.”8. Since that time there has been continued investment in coaching and mentoring in the context of many of the initiatives described above (Section 1) and there is now considerable capacity in Scottish schools in terms of the number of teachers with training in the relevant skills. It is important to acknowledge that there are very few qualified coachesin schools. It is perhaps more helpful to think in terms of a gradual culture shift from a ‘top down’ model of leadership and management to a collegiate, less hierarchical style based on a coaching approach to everyday leadership and leadership development. We should think of the teacher in the coaching role when it is appropriate, rather than as full time coach. 5.2 Further development of the relevant skills and dispositions would enhance the quality of PRDfor all teachers and would support the cultural shift that will encourage and empower teachers to take responsibility for their own professional learning. National CPDTeam August 2011


Coaching Skills, Shepard/Moscow Ltd., Training pack for West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute Councils, 2007


Improving School Leadership, OECD Background Report: Scotland, Scottish Executive, 2007

Coaching and mentoring - key principles  

A position paper by Bob Cook of the NAtional CPDteam outlining the key principles of coaching and mentoring in relation to PRD