Coaching/Mentoring and Learning at All Levels of Our Profession

In the academic year 2015-16 I led a whole school initiative on the coaching of teaching and learning of teaching staff, this isn’t a fanfare about the success of that initiative, this is a summary of the rationale, what worked (what to do and what not to do).

A lot of this was inspired by #shapingcpd 2016 conference held by Iris Connect @Iris_Connect. I really recommend reading the report below. I genuinely learnt a lot and this impacted on coaching at the Harefield Academy.

Shaping CPD Report

I know it’s a little self obsessed to quote yourself but…

Shaping CPD Video Highlights (scroll to the bottom)

Now I’ve started I may as well continue.

The Rationale

Entering the profession in the early 2000s with the aim to be a soldier for egalitarianism, ultimately to make the life chances for state school pupils more equitable. I have always believed that the quality of the teacher and thus the teaching pupils receive is the essential controllable factor in achieving parity.

Sanders and Rivers 1996 further reinforces my view, high performing teachers push pupils over 50 points forward over 3 years when compared to their peers.


We have all been sat in various CPD session or even worse INSET days, chewing pens, waiting for the minute hand on the clock to move and worst of all thinking ‘oh this again, I remember being forced to do this 5 years ago’.

If leaders want to implement sustainable change this is the very first hurdle of resistance they should attempt to jump. The ultimate aim of any CPD is development is to impact in the classroom. After doing some searching I found this interesting study by Joyce and Showers 1996


The graphic points out that the normal inset session with or without demonstrations will only yield 5% impact within the classroom. Although when this is practised in role-plays, department time, etc. 80-90% of teachers will be able to take the theory but the impact in the classroom only rises to 10%.

I’m going to stop there for a second and let that digest.

What most teachers are subjected to, year in and year out does not translate to a big impact within the classroom!

Having delivered some of these sessions this was worrying, hours of time in preparation for 10% impact in the classroom practice of the teachers in attendance! So without being too cynical let’s have a look at solutions.

Coaching/Mentoring It Is Then

What to do/What Not to do

  1. DO base the everything around trust, make it about impacting classroom practice.
  2. DO make use of the expertise within the school. In every school I have worked in there have been amazing practitioners and leaders no matter the context.
  3. DO use coaches and have coachees throughout the school at every level, I had two coaches, an amazing vice principal for my leadership development and a main scale teacher because I wanted to develop a specific part of my classroom practice.
  1. DO make sure you invest some time in training your coaches. Nothing expensive or external, I held sessions entitled Active Listening, The Grow Method, Questioning, What coaching is and is not? etc. I also produced optional formal coaching resources including coaching logs, videos and set tasks which could be used to provide evidence towards a CBI coaching qualification (if anyone wants these just ask).
  2. DO use paperwork to record the goals and actions in coaching sessions, but be wary of this being seen as a tick box exercise it is not. Sessions can be really informal as long as they lead to progress towards the goals, our average sessions were a mere 10-15 mins per week.
  3. DO use regular learning walks and observations. Be aware trust has to be built for any initiative like this to succeed.
  4. DO NOT make coaching part of performance management. Avoid coach – coachee partnerships where this relationship exists, we even used inter-department partnerships to make it clear that this was about day to day pedagogy.
  5. DO NOT make this yet another thing you have to do, make this all about the coachee’s practice and improving both coach and coachee.
  6. DO NOT get too caught up in the difference between coaching and mentoring, the only real difference is where goals come from, coachees in coaching and the mentor in mentoring, ultimately this leads to the same end, the improvement classroom practice.

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