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Research on coaching in education: where can we find it, and what does it tell us?

In this blogpost Margaret Barr from Growth Coaching International shares an open-access compilation of research studies and other resources for coaching in education. She gives the background to the resource, some examples of its contents, and a note about its limitations. You are also invited to contribute if you wish. CollectivED work in partnership with GCI.

Coaching Resources

If you’re working on research-informed practice around coaching in education - by undertaking a practitioner enquiry about a coaching intervention perhaps – then you could be looking for previous research studies and other resources to see what’s already available globally.  You could be asking: What have others done?  What challenges did they meet and how did they address them?  What can we learn from others’ practice?  Or your focus may be practice-informed research – asking these questions in order to identify gaps in the literature so that your postgraduate study can make a useful contribution.

I’d like to offer an open access resource from Growth Coaching International (GCI).  Christian van Nieuwerburgh and I have compiled a list of resources about coaching in education – research studies, articles, books, websites and so on.  It brings together in one place, all the English-language research and other papers about coaching in education that we are aware of. Each entry is hyperlinked to the actual paper or an abstract, and the list is updated frequently, with the most recent version always available at https://bit.ly/References-for-Coaching-in-Education.   In this blog post, I’ll give the background to the resource, some examples of its contents, a health warning about the limitations, and an invitation for you to contribute, if you wish.

Where did the initial concept come from, and what does it contain?

The resource began several years ago as a 2-page list of resources, shared with students of an early GCI online programme about coaching in education. We realised it could be useful to expand it and keep it up-to-date, and ongoing detective work has resulted in the current 57 pages of research studies, literature reviews, think pieces, practice insight papers and resources about coaching in education.  We have included peer-reviewed journals, CollectivED working papers, other journals and coaching magazines, books, websites and reports. The size of this resource illustrates the huge level of interest in coaching in education in recent years.

What do the papers tell us?

The Global Framework for Coaching and Mentoring in Education (van Nieuwerburgh, Knight & Campbell, 2019) gives us a useful structure for looking at previous research and practice, and possibilities for the future.  As you will see from the illustration, it proposes four contexts within the educational environment where we might use coaching, mentoring, and coaching approaches. These are: educational leadership, professional practice, the student experience, and community engagement.  Critically, the centre of the framework highlights student success and well-being – the ultimate aim of our work.  Below, I’ll comment briefly on each context.

Educational leadership.  About 20 of the papers are empirical research studies on coaching for educational leadership. Recent studies show links between coaching and enhanced well-being as well as enhanced professional practice, for example Sustaining a Vital Profession, which also noted the potential to help maintain sustainability in the school workforce. That study also shows that coaching enables professional development, and this is also illustrated in a study of aspiring school principals in Australia where coaching was given as part of a leadership development programme.  There are implications for retention, and duty of care to educators.
Professional practice.  The papers cover a range of contexts for professional practice coaching, including many USA studies of instructional coaching for literacy and numeracy.  There are indications that being coached helps educators be more effective in their roles and enhances well-being.  Peer coaching is another area of interest especially with reducing budgets, and several studies have been published.  It’s notable that good coaching training supports the success of peer coaching. 
Student experience. Young people’s experience of coaching can include: coaching other students, being coached by an adult, and being coached by another student.  I’d like to highlight a couple of studies in particular. In 2009 Passmore and Brown conducted a rare longitudinal study of students being coached for enhanced examination performance, showing positive results.  And an interesting study of near-peer student coaching (van Nieuwerburgh & Tong, 2013) showed tangible benefits for the student coach, as well as for the student being coached.
Community engagement. While there have been studies of parents being coached and being trained to coach their children, published research in this area is scarce, and it would be good to see much more. There’s huge potential for using coaching to strengthen relationships in the broader school community.   
Student success and well-being is at the very centre of the framework.  While we don’t know of any published studies showing a direct causal link between teachers being coached and the success and well-being of their students, indirect links can be made and Devine et al. provided a succinct review of the state of play in 2013. As educators with a moral purpose to support the success and well-being of children and young people, I hope we see more research about the link between the coaching of teachers and the success and well-being of students.  

 
It’s a work-in-progress

The resource is far from complete, and I’ll share a few limitations with you.

English-languageAlthough the papers are set in contexts across the globe – Canada, USA, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Cyprus, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Qatar, Oman, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand – only English-language papers have been included.
Definitions of coaching. There is no agreed single definition of “coaching” and we have simply included papers where the term “coaching” was used. Because coaching is generally a confidential conversation, and many of the authors have not been explicit about the coaching methodology used, we cannot assume consistency of coaching approach (even when the terminology is consistent, eg many papers referring to “instructional coaching”), and this can pose challenges when drawing conclusions. 
Searching. Most of the compilation is list of entries in alphabetical order with each entry having hyperlinks to the original paper or its abstract, and searching is done through the “Find” function of the PDF. However, as the list of papers has gradually expanded (from 2 pages to 57 pages), it has become evident that it would be helpful to convert the resource to a searchable database with further categorisation and tags (eg contexts within the Global Framework for Coaching and Mentoring in Education, separate tags for peer-reviewed work, different education sectors, etc). That’s a project for the future.
Coaching in education only.  We haven’t included resources about generic coaching skills/models/approaches – only education-related papers.  And neither have we included mentoring-only papers or resources – a mentoring version is another project for the future. 

An invitation to contribute

If you use the resource, please do let us know if you notice any missing papers, any outdated or missing hyperlinks, or any other error or omission – in fact please share anything that would make the resource more useful to our colleagues in education. It would be wonderful to have your engagement with the project. Please contact me at mbarr@growthcoachinguk.com
 
 

References

Barr, M., & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (Eds.). (2020), Resources for coaching in education: Useful research and references. Growth Coaching International.  https://bit.ly/References-for-Coaching-in-Education

Devine, M., Meyers, R., & Houssemand, C. (2013). How can coaching make a positive impact within educational settings? Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 93, 1382–1389.

Lofthouse, R., & Whiteside, R. (2020). Sustaining a vital profession: A research report into the impact of leadership coaching in schools. Leeds Beckett University. http://bit.ly/SustainingVitalProfession

Passmore, J. & Brown, A. (2009). Coaching non-adult students for enhanced examination performance: A longitudinal study. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice 2(1), 54–64.

van Nieuwerburgh, C., Barr, M., Munro, C., Noon, H., & Arifin, D. (2020). Experiences of aspiring school principals receiving coaching as part of a leadership development programme. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching, 9(3), 291–306. 

van Nieuwerburgh, C., Knight, J. & Campbell, J. (2019). Coaching in education. In S. English, J. M. Sabatine, & P. Brownell (Eds), Professional coaching: Principles and practice, pp. 411-426. Springer. 

van Nieuwerburgh, C., & Tong, C. (2013). Exploring the benefits of being a student coach in educational settings: a mixed-method study. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Practice and Research, 6(1), 5–24. 

 
 

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Margaret Barr

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