Designing Professional Development/Coaching
Coaching in Professional Development
Coaching in Professional Development is the process where a "coach" interacts with a "coachee" in a very personalized manner to improve the coachee's performance in a particular skill or area. The key to coaching is that it is focused on a particular skill or action-oriented outcome. In that way, it is very different from counseling or mentoring which are more focused on the over-all well being and general development of a person.
Types of Coaching
- Peer Coaching - The coach is typically a colleague in the same or similar field. This person is considered to have enough experience to offer support and suggestions to the coachee.
- Expert Coaching - The coach is typically considered an expert or someone with more experience and thus is qualified to provide assistance.
Process of Coaching
Typically, a coaching program has regularly scheduled meetings that focus on a predetermined goal and agenda. Often, a coaching program is part of an organization's formalized professional development or management structure. An example would be a teacher needing to learn how to integrate Moodle into their teaching methods. A coach would work with the teacher to understand his/her teaching needs and style, highlight certain tools available within the Moodle environment, and then assist the teacher in integrating those tools into the teacher's methods.
A key factor in differentiating coaching from traditional professional development is that the coachee (the teacher in this case) is the driver of change. The coach's role is to listen, suggest options, and then support actions that are viewed by the teacher to "fit" within their "teaching style". The benefit to this type of coachee-driven change is that the coachee acquires a degree of ownership in the change process and is therefore more invested in being successful. The coach is simply a catelyst for change that was already within the teacher's abilities and beliefs.
Requirements for a Successful Coaching Program
Dede [Dede, Honan, & Peters, 2005 ]  notes in his book that "Coaches may be more experienced colleagues in the same school or experts from outside, but they need to appear with some regularity and to provide specific, constructive suggestions about revisions toward improved practice."
Dede [Dede et al., 2005]  also notes that coaching must occur in an environment where administrators and other people leadership positions must be open to new practices and change. Otherwise, all of the efforts of the coach and coachee will not be supported and change will not happen.
Challenges of Coaching
Dede [Dede et al.]  notes that there are several challenges to implementing a coaching program within a school or organization:
- Lack of qualified coaches - Often, expert coaches are scarce. This is particularly true when coaches are need to implement new curriculums, technologies, or skills across large organizations such as schools.
- Cost of travel - When coaches within an organization are scarce, sometimes coaches from outside the organization are brought in to provide assistance. However, when bringing in outside help, there are additional costs such as travel. This can be a significant burden to some organizations, particularly schools that are often under strict budget constraints.
To address some of the challenges inherent to a successful coaching program, some organizations have ventured into the realm of internet-based coaching. By accessing remote coaches over the internet, the problems of a lack of local qualified coaches and traveling expenses are eliminated.
One example of an online coaching resource is WIDE World, an online program that offers online courses for teachers and support resources. One of the programs features is: "Team-Based with Coaching. Systemic change requires coordinated effort from all stakeholders. Expert coaches help teachers, leaders, and specialists work in teams to develop a common language for defining and achieving shared goals."
A significant advantage of internet-based coaching is that local coaches can be developed through an initial investment in Internet-based coaching.
- http://humanresources.about.com/od/coachingmentoring/a/coaching.htm - A good description of coaching strategies and techniques in an HR environment
- http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=coaching+teachers&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart - Google scholar search on Coaching Teachers
- http://www.merga.net.au/documents/MTED_6_Olson.pdf - A study about effect of coaching on teaching mathematics
- http://fno.org/Oct01/coaching.html - A book about using coaching in teaching technology to teachers
- Dede, C., Honan, H., & Peters, C. (2005). Scaling Up Success: Lessons from Technology-Based Educational Improvement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- WIDE World: Program Overview. (2010). In WIDE World at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from http://learnweb.harvard.edu/wide/en/prog/index.html