How teachers support each other...Using a coaching model

This article originally appeared in the 2018 UNSW Education Students Society magazine.

Teaching is a profession that ignites the future! There is little that compares with knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life. With plenty of enthusiasm and good intentions, teachers embark on a teaching career to make a difference. How then, might teachers build on these good intentions and continue to make a difference throughout their career?

One key ingredient that contributes to success and wellbeing in teaching is the opportunity for teachers to reflect, collaborate and support each other through various forms of professional learning. One recent study (1) points to coaching as a “promising alternative to traditional models of professional development”.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a non-judgmental conversation between a coach and coachee whereby the coach uses skilful listening and questioning to facilitate the coachee’s goal-setting and self-directed learning. These kinds of learning conversations can take place between school leaders and staff and, in particular, between teachers in peer-based conversations - where colleagues work collaboratively using a coaching approach to focus on enhancing each other’s teaching practice.

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
~ John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance

Coaching can sometimes be confused with mentoring and although they share similarities, a coach, unlike a mentor, does not necessarily need to be a more experienced or a more qualified professional. Coaching is less about advising or directing - rather, it’s about facilitating, clarifying and deepening the coachee’s thinking.

A coaching conversation works best when someone has a situation that they would like to see change and they are prepared to do something about it.

A coaching approach to such a situation with a colleague would use good listening and insight provoking questions and would...

  • explore in some detail what the person wanted instead of the current situation
  • help uncover what resources, both internal and external, which might be accessed in order to move towards the preferred future
  • clarify a range of possible ways forward
  • help identify and commit to small step actions

The GROWTH Model (2) below is one simple guide to a coaching conversation.

Of course, a framework like this is just an idea unless it is put into practice. Give it a try! You might just find some surprising insights emerging.


  • (1) Kraft, M.A., Blazar, D., Hogan, D. (2016). The effect of teaching coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Brown University Working Paper.
  • (2) Campbell, J. (2016). Framework for Practitioners 2:The GROWTH Model. In C. Van Nieuwerburgh, Coaching in Professional Contexts (pp. 235-239). London: Sage.

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