"Masterful coaches inspire people by helping them recognize the previously unseen possibilities that lay embedded in their existing circumstances."
Robert Hargrove (2003)
The term coach has been widely applied to various roles and functions in many schools as well as in the field of education. The role may include a resource provider, an expert in subject or technical matter, a presenter of information, or one that manages and directs groups. The Michigan Department of Education defines an educational coach as one who mediates thinking, clarifies goals, and builds capacity. To assist schools in developing a coherent understanding of the varied roles or "hats" that an educational coach might wear, the Coaching 101 training program has examined four distinct roles: coach, facilitator, presenter, and consultant. A deliberate intention underlies each role that supports teachers and school personnel in reaching their goals.
It is beneficial to be clear about the four roles of coaching, facilitating, presenting and consulting. All four have value, and a deliberate intention: to mediate or to inform. Without a clear understanding of the intention of the role(s) that they may be asked to fulfill, the educational coach's work may be misdirected and without purpose. The skillful educational coach must be equipped to navigate the roles and be transparent with their teachers as they transition between them. Each role requires a specific set of knowledge and skills and addresses a specific need within the school environment.
An educational coach may support schools by being an information provider; two roles that elicit this behavior is the role of Presenter and the role of the Consultant. The role of Presenter is guided by the teacher's instructional outcome; this is referred to as the "driver." The intention of the presenter is to transfer information and to extend and enrich participants' knowledge, skills or attitudes and to have these applied in people's work. A presenter may deliver the information through direct instruction, cooperative learning, study groups, and/or case study. The Consultant is also an information provider, however this role may elicit different behaviors. The intention of the consultant is to advocate and support the teacher and is guided by the teacher's desired outcome. The consultant may advocate for content or process or be an information specialist. As a content advocate, the consultant encourages the other party to use a certain strategy/methodology. Both roles of Consultant or Presenter bring expertise to the table and are perceived as being the owner of information. The relationship between the information provider and the teacher tends to be hierarchical.
An educational coach has an opportunity to be a mediator by taking the role of Facilitator and/or Coach. The intention of the Facilitator is to assist/support a group in completing a task and is driven by the group's goal, outcome or product. The Facilitator conducts a meeting in which the purpose may be dialogue, shared decision-making, planning, or problem solving. One of the fundamental behaviors of the facilitator is to choreograph the energy of the group, becoming aware of the necessity of focusing on one content area and one process at a time. The Facilitator may utilize coaching skills to assist the group, but always holds a neutral perspective when considering the outcomes of the meeting. The intention of Coach is to mediate thinking, by assisting the teacher in clarifying and attaining his/her goals; therefore, the driver is the teacher who will determine his/her own roadmap. Both roles of Facilitator and Coach hold a collegial relationship and create a nonjudgmental environment where teachers feel safe to reveal assumptions and thinking around student achievement.
Need for Transparency
The educational coach may be asked to function in all four roles: Presenter, Consultant, Facilitator and Coach. No matter what role/hat they wear, their actions will be directed and in alignment with their intention. Therefore, it is of upmost importance that coaches have clarity around the drivers that are distinctive to all four roles and that there is precision in the way coaches label the roles for themselves and others. The metaphor of a winding road is often associated with the educational coach because of the various paths/ roles that they may encounter.
"know one's intentions and choose congruent behaviors."
Art Costa & Robert Garmston (2002)
The educational coach needs to be candid and transparent about the intention and behaviors associated with this role. The skillful educational coach is able to seamlessly weave in and out the four roles by aligning congruent behaviors with intentions. The transition from consultant (expert) to coach might be signaled by posing a question to the teacher to guide their thinking and to schedule a follow-up meeting to begin a coaching conversation, such as: "As you think about the challenges that four of the boys had in completing the task, what might be some reasons for their difficulty?"
Mediation is the Goal
It is important to note that the identity of an educational coach is that of a mediator. That identity never changes, therefore when providing one of the roles of the information provider—Presenter or Consultant, the goal is to eventually transition to that of a Mediator—Facilitator or Coach. This is crucial because the Mediator has the greatest opportunity to influence thinking that transforms teacher practice, leading toward greater student achievement.
Diane Jackson, Ph.D., is Director of Coaching 101, a Michigan State-wide System of Support Coaching Program based in the Office of K-12 Outreach in the College of Education at Michigan State University. She is the Director of the Coaching 101 Core Design Team which consists of Dale Moss, Patricia Rushing, Patricia Vandelinder, and Virginia Winters.
Click Here for References
Costa, A.L., Garmston R. J., & Zimmerman D. (2014). Cognitive Capital: Investing in Teacher Quality. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Costa, A.L. & Garmston R.J., (2002). Cognitive Coaching: A Foundation for Renaissance Schools, Norwood, Massachusetts: Christopher-Gordon Publishers Inc.
Grift, Gavin, (2014). Transformative Talk: Cognitive Coaches Share Their Stories. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc.
Aguilar, Elena (2013). The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.