Cutting through the edu-jargon: What does it mean to be a ‘coach’? 5 attributes of great coaches

Just like the term ‘facilitator’, the ‘coach’ is often used to describe the role of the educator and leader. When used, heads nod in agreement, and then what? Do we assume that we either know what it means, or are actually doing it?  ‘The Coach’ is quite a defined role and it is worth looking at the attributes of great coaching to see how they can apply to the education sector.

I came across a post on the Melbourne Sports Institute website: “Defining and Explaining Great Coaching”. The original study by Andrea Becker in International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching broke down more than 60 attributes that emerged from athlete questionnaires of great coaching. In education, either as a leader or teacher, successful coaching provides an effective approach to developing skills, establishing culture and creating an encouraging and goal-focused learning environment.

For each area below analyse yourself as an effective coach.

1. Personal attributes of the coach

As with any leadership role, the internal qualities of the leader are what shines the loudest. In sport, great coaches display certain attributes. They have a passion for the game and are experts, always learning, always updating their knowledge. It is crucial that coaches see potential in the people they lead.

Introspectively, great coaches are real people who make mistakes and admit mistakes. They are emotionally stable, genuine, loyal and honest. Character matters and modelling behaviours such as commitment, discipline and being organised.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Passionate about what makes a great teacher or leader
  • Ongoing learning and development
  • See potential and growth in others
  • Admit mistakes
  • Emotionally stable
  • Real and genuine
  • Consistently model desired behaviours

2. Culture of the learning environment

In sport, the coach creates an athlete-centred environment, focusing on individual growth is essential to the success of the team. This then leads to a team-centred approach, collectively creating the culture of achieving what is best collectively. Coaches are accessible, approachable and good listeners, creating an atmosphere for the athlete to flourish. The practice environment is well-planned, highly structured and game-like, it replicates the authentic purpose.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Ensure a learner or team centred environment
  • Clear about the desired culture for success
  • Accessible
  • Good listener
  • Well-planned and executed coaching structure
  • Authentic outputs for the team/individual

3. Coaching relationships

The relationship with the team or individual extends beyond achieving the task itself. The quality of the relationship matters.

The personal attributes of the coach are the grounding for creating the relationships that underpin the success of the athlete. These relationships are both professional and personal, strong and lasting. They are built on a foundation of trust, confidence and respect. The coach takes responsibility for the team or individual performance when things go bad.

Athletes are provided care and respect and they know that the coach believes in them. Players are empowered because they are included in the decision-making.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Believe the best for the team
  • Put relationship first
  • Trustworthy
  • Respectful
  • Caring
  • Humility
  • Empowering of the team/individual

4. Behaviours of a great coach

These behaviours extend beyond the particular focus of the players and extends to life skills. Coaches help players achieve high expectations and these qualities are very consistent with great teaching, using a variety of instructional methods and pacing the coaching according to learner need

High level coaches prepare meticulously, they are focussed on the details. Coaching is not random. Great coaches create great systems. They also own the systems and believe they are essential for success.

Most importantly is the impact of effective communication. Great coaches remain confident, calm and emotionally stable under pressure. Communication needs to be clear, consistent and honest. It is well-timed, motivating and positive.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Whole person focus, not just task completion
  • Teach identified and essential skills
  • Vary instruction methods
  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
  • Implement a system for coaching
  • Effective communicator
  • Stable under pressure

The role of coach in both professional development and student learning is a broad and encompassing role. After reading this, I have come to the conclusion that it is also an essential role in any workplace or school. There are, however, a discrete set of skills to enable the team or individual success. It is easy to say “the teacher’s role is now more like a coach” and leave it there, how often have you heard that?

What if we committed to a coaching culture? This means at a school staff level, coaching becomes a significant approach to professional development, that is then embedded in the school culture and becomes a model for student learning.

@anneknock

 

Teacher as “facilitator” cutting through the jargon. Try this quick quiz.

We’ve all heard it teachers are coach, the ‘guide on the side not sage on the stage’ and facilitator. These words are easy to say, but what do they actually mean?

Slide14Last week we had a great group from Melbourne come to NBCS for an Immersion Day. These are opportunities beyond Edu-tourism, to drill down, gain clarity in priorities and identify next steps. I really enjoy working with these groups. Facilitating is not telling people what they should do, but providing the conditions for the group to learn through input – knowledge and experience – and then provide time and space for them to process and develop their own outcomes, for their own school.

facilitate (v) to make easy
1610s, from Fr. faciliter “to render easy”

There are a few key elements of effective facilitation:

  • Leading people through a process of agreed objectives
  • Encouraging participation, ownership and productivity
  • Creating conditions where participants feel safe
  • Ensuring that the group is the star
  • Achieving their outcomes

Probably, the most important point is that a facilitator recognises that the answer is ‘within’ the individual or group, they have the capacity to find a solution. The facilitator guides the process and allows the group to draw their own conclusions. They empower the group and then step back.

The art of facilitating has four priorities:

Clarity of the task: what needs to be completed

Facilitator, know thyself: impact of the facilitator on the process

Empower the group or individual: Channeling the energy and understanding the group dynamics

Enable the process:  Create the right environment to get the work done

2013-09-05 04.19.01Allowing for the process doesn’t mean operating without structure. The best facilitators implement a structure that feels organic and fluid to the participant, yet it is well-thought through and meticulously planned. It is much easier to be a controlling content knowledge specialist than an effective facilitator. Facilitators work in-the-moment – they are ‘present’ with the group. This is their highest priority as a practitioner.

It’s not always easy to take that step back and allow the group to own the process and outcomes. Human nature wants to take control. When we consider teachers as facilitators the responsibility for learning is the students’.

Here’s the paradox: Facilitator is a leadership role where the power resides in the group.

Teacher as facilitator: What does it mean?

Being substantively neutral
Not the only source of knowledge and expertise

Create a climate of collaboration
Not command and control

Provide a range of tools and resources to help the group find their answers
Not one way is the only way

Being a content knowledge expert is challenging in the era of teacher as facilitator. Where once you were a teacher because of what you knew, now, the role is more about what the student needs to know to achieve their own learning goals. Handing over the responsibility of learning to the student is not abandoning the job of the teacher. Content matters. As with the group from Melbourne coming to our school. I presented input and knowledge from our experience, but then provided the conditions for them to set priorities and next steps.

Try this quick quiz. Do you:

  1. Need to be the focus of every session with your students?
  2. Know what it means to be ‘present’?
  3. Embrace the notion of making the way for learning *easy?
  4. Have a toolkit of ideas and resources to employ as needed?
  5. Commit to seeking the needs of the group or individual, not your own?
  6. Believe that collaboration plays a significant role in learning today?
  7. Allow the students to plan and drive their learning?

This is what a facilitator does.

@anneknock

* easy is a challenging word here. It is not used in the sense that there is no rigour, but that the teacher’s role makes the path clearer.

Every space tells a story: Is your library the community’s living room? 6xCs to shaping your narrative.

In the libraryI have a soft spot for libraries. I started my teaching career in a primary school as the teacher librarian. This isn’t usually the first job for a young graduate, but it was mine. I loved reading to the children, making author and theme related display, but most of all, seeing the children explore the world of literature and their own passions for learning.

Learning Spaces

Learning Spaces Making more effective learning environments  is an online journal by Imaginative Minds

The most recent edition (Vol 2.2  2014) has an article “Libraries for the future of all users” (by Lee Taylor).

The key function shift from one of “collector” to “connector” – where the primary purpose has moved from one of collecting books, information or music, to one providing a range of people the opportunity to use this space to connect intellectually and physically – a kind of “living room” for the city.

Have you ever considered the library as your school of community living room? This can happen when there is a shift from “collector” to “connector”.  Prioritising people over things.

What characterises a people-focused, future-focused library?

It’s a place for connection, where people’s needs are understood. In this article Taylor makes connections with new community libraries in the cities of Newcastle and Manchester in the UK, by Ryder Architecture. Both of these projects:

  • minimised staff spaces
  • maximisation of public/shared space
  • book collections mechanised for efficiency
  • provide varied places for different types of work
  • variety of collections that respond to community interests
  • welcoming entrance space

These points contrast to the libraries of the past:

  • books front and centre
  • command and control culture
  • task and process oriented staff
  • large designated staff work spaces to hide away
  • one large controlled space where silence is reinforced
  • facing barriers to entering

The architects decided that to make the library the community living room the users needs were important, that it was a shared and community-owned space. This meant that the designed included things like easily accessible power charging points and that the design was able to accommodate mixed mode study. I think we can all relate, I often have my laptop, iPad, mobile phone, paper, pens spread out around me when I’m working.

Newcastle City Library and Manchester Central Library are characterised by welcoming entrances. Generous and comfortable, a space to linger, where library-users can catch up for coffee.

So if it time to rethink your library, where do you start?

If you are thinking about making changes to a space, to make it more person-centres there are a few things to think about. I have synthesised these into 6xCs

  1. Community: All stakeholder needs considered
  2. Connection: Design space for connection and working styles
  3. Collections: Placement and storage of resources, books, artefacts
  4. Communication: The verbal and non-verbal messages conveyed
  5. Comfort: Fit out meet users’ needs  – furniture, air, light, technology, modes
  6. Cool: The space is interesting, attractive, inviting, fun and quirky

Here is a process to facilitate your team’s thinking and action steps for change:

1. Articulate the aspirations of the 6xCs for your context

  1. Community
  2. Connection
  3. Collections
  4. Communication
  5. Comfort
  6. Cool

2. Gather your working group, go on a field trip and have lunch together.

Visit recent developments in your city how do these spaces interpret the 6xCs:

  • City offices with a variety of places for working and connecting
  • Community libraries
  • Incubator/co-working spaces
  • University libraries and social spaces

Look again at your 6xCs and create a statement of aspiration for each.

City sights

3. Develop your strategy

A. What is the current situation?

B. Describe the library what you want to see.

C. What are the pathways from A to B? Can you prioritise them?

D. What are major barriers and obstacles to achieving your B?

E. Now, what will you do:

  • Within a week
  • Within a month
  • This year
  • Within 2 years

This is the kind of process I enjoy working through with groups – Identifying their A, dreaming about their B and then developing the strategy to get there. Let me know if I can help you with your change process.

I’m also thinking about a Library Learning Space Study tour to the UK. Looking at community, university and school libraries. Interested?

@anneknock

Every space tells a story. Is yours a place that supports the work of innovation? 10 Ideas to ponder

A few years ago I was presenting a workshop at a conference that was held in a school. The classroom allocated to me was one of the most depressing spaces I had ever encountered. As a professional learning space, I tried to do my best to reconfigure it, but the only thing I could really do was shift the orientation.

classroom

What did this space tell me about itself? The teacher was the most important person in the room. There was nothing else to look at. The old posters on the wall were tatty and who knows what view there was on the other side of the black plastic that was covering the windows. The large clunky benches meant that there was little opportunity for collaboration. The space shouted the culture at me: sit down and listen, don’t look out the window, look to the screen at the front. I will tell you everything you need to know.

Every space tells a story.

This is what’s happening in the world of work:

20120223-061939.jpg

Your next workplace may look more like your lounge room than an office. Architects of a new generation of modern buildings are offering workers ”living spaces” and ”lounge” facilities to make them feel at home, often replacing the traditional desk and chair.
(SMH 9 July, 2014)

 

What story does that tell? Comfort, pleasant surroundings and a sense of being ‘at home’ matters to productivity, creativity and innovation.

What story does a learning space need to tell?Maglegard

Think about the spaces you work or teach in. Does the surrounding physical environment support and facilitate the learning that you want? How does it positively influence the desired culture?

 

 

John Seely Brown, co-chair at the Deloitte Centre for the edge contends that the cultures that constantly produce innovation share three characteristics: visionary leadership; an organizational commitment to breakthrough thinking; and a place that supports the work of innovation. (Forbes)

When we talk about innovative schools, the three characteristics are the same:IMG_1230

  • Visionary leadership
  • An organisational commitment to breakthrough
  • A place that supports the work of innovation

Learning spaces for the innovative school need to be places where students and teachers can collaborate, share knowledge and learn together. Separate does not allow for this – separate desks and separate classrooms.

What are the considerations in designing a learning space that supports and facilitates innovation?

The Zone

  1. Flexibility: Wheels, movement and ‘reconfigurable’
  2. Technology: Seamlessly embedded into the space, simple and reliable
  3. Furniture: Choose the place to work and connect, facilitate collaboration
  4. An inspiring feel: Aesthetics matter, natural light, an aspect, empty space
  5. Storage: Thought-through, embedded and easily accessed
  6. SCIL BuildingMultiple focal points: No area is identifiable as the “front of the class”
  7. Light, air temperature and quality: To minimise stuffiness
  8. Subtle and unsubtle zoning: Spaces within spaces
  9. Acoustic engineering: To enable multiple conversations across the space
  10. On brand: Supports the vision and
    aspirational culture of the school

@anneknock

Further reading: How place fosters innovation. 360° Research, Steelcase

My top 10 challenges to become an innovative school #revisited

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about my top 10 ideas for an innovative school, its been the most viewed post.  Although it’s not definitive, it’s helpful to have a guide that can shape strategy. This time I’ve added a few challenges.

Revisiting the ideas, and updating for 2014:

1. A vision for learning is incessantly and clearly communicatedOrestad Gymnasium

  • What is your vision? Make sure you know where you are going.
  • Find ingenious and relentless ways to communicate it.

Who are the keepers of the vision?How do you empower the carriers of the vision?

2. Learning is future-focused

  • Shape the learning context for change
  • Observe the students, see how they work and communicate

How can you have less fixed and more flexible features?
What is happening in the world of work that can directly relate to school?

3. Culture takes time and persistence to embed

  • Once you have the vision – prioritise your steps. Change will take time and strategy
  • If you believe it, be resolute. Help those who are struggling to change, but stick to your guns.

Do you have a shared language?
What are the non-negotiables of culture?

4. Engaged and motivated students are the goal 2011-03-03_0088

  • Put current practices through the ‘learning’ filter – do they still belong?
  • Think about your own conditions for productivity and creativity, maybe it’s same for students

What strategies will make learning relevant and authentic?
What practices
disengage and de-motivate students?

5. Equipped and supported staff are essentialIMG_1218

  • Vision + ‘Learning’ Filter = Regular PD to support through change
  • We can’t change the way teachers teach until we change the way teachers learn

How much teacher-talk is OK?
What is the baseline expectation for IT proficiency?

6. Technology is an environment for learning, not the driver

  • This is not about who has the most bright shiny toys
  • Students live in a world of technology – the school-world needs be relevant

Is technology almost invisible?
Are you embracing the opportunities that the cloud opens?

7. Relationships matter

  • In the midst of all the learning, technology and activity nothing matters more than quality relationships
  • Students need to belong, be known, valued and accepted. This is only achieved through relationship

What activities deliberately get your teachers working (and playing) together?
Is relational learning seen to be important in your culture?

8. Learning is authenticNEMO

  • Set in a real-world context, skills will be learnt readily when there is purpose
  • Provide opportunities for students to be world-changers

Are your teachers passionate and infectious about their subject matter?
Does school feel like the real world or school-world?

9. Spaces for learning are welcoming and comfortable2012-10-03 13.27.20

  • This is not about bright shiny spaces and colourful furniture, it is about aesthetically pleasing environments where students (and teachers) will want to come to learn
  • Not all spaces (AKA classrooms) or furniture need to look the same

 

Have you visited a workplace that shows new ways of work?
Have you looked beyond the school furniture catalogue?

10. Creativity and innovation have expressionThe Zone

  • There will always be barriers to innovation, find ways to break or go around them.
  • Make this your culture, give it voice, take risks, embrace failure

 

 

 

What’s blocking innovation in your school?
What’s your next step?

@anneknock

The Curious Leader: The 4 zones of comfort that keep your team stuck

CuriousHow curious are you?

Leaders are curious people, seeking to explore possibilities. If you are like me, something will spark your imagination, you will see a new opportunity and then start to explore. Then your big job is to help your team to catch the idea and step out of their comfort zone.

 

Curious… It has the desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelope is interesting. Leaders are curious because they can’t wait to find out what the group is going to do next. The changes in the tribe are interesting, and curiosity drives them.Tribes, Seth Godin

They [curious people] are the ones who lead the masses in the middle who are stuck. The masses in the middle have brainwashed themselves into thinking it’s safe to do nothing, which the curious can’t abide.

Once recognised, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity  that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.  

(Seth Godin, 2008, Tribes: We need you to lead us)

“Lead the masses stuck in the middle” this is the challenge for the majority of leaders. If we think about it statistically, most of us work under a leader’s vision, and are responsible to bring a range of people along. They invariably represent a variety of positions, often brainwashed… into thinking it’s safe to do nothing.

The curious leader looks beyond the present and has an eye on the next steps, drip feeding the future, while simultaneously shaking people from their comfort zone. After all, Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. (Godin, 2008)

Alice in Wonderland

Transition your team from the four comfort zones:

The Mind Zone: This is what I know. It’s how I’ve always worked, and now you’re telling me what?

Present the research, the wisdom and the opportunity that the new idea or project will bring. When people become mindfully engaged, they will step up. Describe the big opportunity and cast vision. Repeat.

The Culture Zone: This is the way we’ve always done it… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Addressing cultural issues is essential to effective leadership. These are usually deeply held views, evident in behaviour and conversation. This means that the desired mindsets, behaviours and language are consistently modelled and reinforced.

The Familiar Zone: I’ve got all my tools and resources. We’ve all worked together for years.

The right tools for the job and positive working relationships are important to productive and meaningful work. Leaving comfort zones may mean deploying new teams and operations. Your team needs time to process this and establish new relationships. They will need training and coaching.

The Safe Zone: If I stay safe I can’t fail. New ideas might not work and then what do we do?

We all agree that feeling safe is an important human conditions. Leaders are usually people who can live with a degree of risk. Taking your team into unchartered waters requires trust. They need to trust that you know where you are going and where you are taking them will be better.

As Alice said, I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!

This rather curious sort of life is the stuff of adventures worth having.

@anneknock

Will you take the pledge: I will only use the term “21st Century” as a noun, not an adjective

All students at school right now have only been at school in the 21st Century and the majority of them were born in the 21st Century.

Slide1

Language we use in education needs to be relevant and have meaning to the context. I believe there is no place for the use of “21st Century” as an adjective, it is 2014 after all. This applies to:

  • 21st Century Doo Wop21st Century learning
  • 21st Century skills
  • 21st Century schools
  • 21st Century education
  • 21st Century spaces

 

 

 

Today we can just say: learning, skills, schools, education and spaces. We know, and are excited, that the “21st Century” requires a different approach than what the 20th Century had to offer. The young people at school now have only really known:

  • Mobile devices, rather than desktop computers
  • The Internet as the source of information and Google and Wikipedia as the gateway
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Music and video as device-based, not stored separately to the player, such as videotape and CD
  • Simple and fast long distance communication as the norm
  • Social media as communication and information source
  • Photographs and video immediately available for viewing
  • International travel and communication as normal and accessible to many
  • Queensland beating NSW in the State of Origin Rugby League Football series*

We use “21st Century” as an adjective because it has adequately described an aspiration. The way we would like to see schools meeting the needs of the young people we serve. But language is alive, it’s organic and can change.

Dictionaries provide updates of the words and terms that have reached everyday speech. In 2013 new terms were officially recognised by the Oxford Dictionary, including:

  • BYOD
  • babymoon
  • double denim
  • FOMO
  • MOOC
  • srsly
  • twerk (sadly)

We now have the opportunity to either add the words/terms we would like to see, or create new ones. The more we use them in speech and written forms, the more they will be used.

Think about changing… Replace with…
lesson and period
describing learning as a discrete,
time-bound activity
learning session
computer (anything)
skills, room, lesson, the thing itself
technology, device
homework
tasks set that could not be finished
in class or for extra drills
pre-learning, post learning, applied learning
occurs outside school hours, but not
necessarily at home
discipline
describing the system
relationship management
behaviour development
classroom learning space, or just give the spaces
their own unique names
desks and chairs furniture
student learner

There are some terms that will probably stay. I think we still say ‘teacher’, the nature of the role continues to change and encompasses a broad range of skills and expertise. I can’t see it ever replaced by ‘facilitator’, this is just one of the skills a teacher needs.

The more we use the desired terminology in context, the more the community will understand what we mean.

How else would FOMO not require a descriptor?

@anneknock

*Australian Interstate football rivalry, that to date, has seen Queensland will 9 series in a row… maybe this year.