To understand the importance of coaching skills, it is essential to understand the differences between teaching, coaching and mentoring first.
Teachers - for many centuries have been helping students to learn, whether explaining how to solve an equation, exploring geographical differences or examining causes of war. Teaching is about facilitating the learning process, with students broadening their knowledge, deepening their understanding and mastering key skills. The teaching process relies upon the student's ability to learn.
Coaching - has received significant attention in recent years in the context of independent learning. Coaching enables the individual to help themselves and is therefore an important skill in a teacher’s repertoire. Through imparting independent learning techniques, the coach will provide the student with the ability to stretch themselves to attain higher levels of knowledge or skill.
Coaching allows the individual to identify their own areas of need, define goals and develop strategies for reaching these goals, giving themselves positive reinforcement throughout the process.
Mentoring - comprises very much the same skillset as coaching, but in the context of a longer-term relationship. Whilst there may be a tendency to regard mentoring as the preserve of those in the post-academic world, the length of many undergraduate and postgraduate courses imbues the educator-student relationship with many of the longer-term characteristics of mentorship.
Value and Relevance
Coaching and mentoring allow the individual to focus on their achievements and to self-evaluate any gaps in their knowledge or skills. The teacher becomes the facilitator of learning, providing guidance and leadership to help their students to achieve. The responsibility of success – or failure – remains firmly with the individual student.
Coaching a student helps them to visualise what they want to become, to see what success looks like and to help them develop their mindset in support of achieving their objectives. The ability to coach and mentor remains essential in further education and is clearly critical from nursery through to the secondary education years.
There has been a great deal of research and development in coaching disciplines. In today's educational establishment, coaching and mentoring skills are high on the list of priorities in attracting and retaining the very best educators.
In 2010, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (now the Department for Education) published a report recommending that all teachers should be qualified to masters' level with an education masters degree (MA Education), in order to improve teaching standards. Whilst this has not yet become compulsory, it is certainly worth determining whether an masters degree in Education would improve your own teaching skillset. It would allow you to engage with up-to-date knowledge and recommended best practice, in addition to which it will almost invariably improve your career opportunities and marketability, particularly at senior level.
Learning to teach more effectively, understanding current methodologies and what is shaping the future of education, with the opportunity to examine modern theory, research and policy cannot be overvalued. Global trends are changing, and it is all too easy for education professionals to continue to use the same teaching and learning strategies they have always used. It can be difficult to manage further learning as a teacher, whilst continuing to work full-time with a heavy workload. Thankfully, online options are now available to help maintain the balance.
Your time spent should perhaps be seen not merely as an investment in your own CPD, but also as further enhancing your students' opportunities for success. Crucially, you can immediately apply theory to your day-to-day professional practice and see the results.