Differentiated Coaching: Developmental Needs of Coaches

Jul. 01, 2014

Source: International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2014, p. 237-254.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reports on a case study of a school that had ongoing coaching for up to six years. The study focused on coachees’ perspectives, in particular what factors allowed them to achieve their set coaching goals (e.g. improve student reading, writing, speaking and listening, and math).

The participants were 22 teacher coachees from one primary school in Victoria, Australia.
They were asked to complete an online questionnaire about their coaching experiences, speculating about why some goals (related to improving student reading, writing, speaking and listening, and math) were more achievable than others.
Constructivist grounded theory (CGT) framed the research to ascertain why coachees believed some coaching goals were more achievable than others.


The investigation into longitudinal coaching (one to six years) indicated how coaches positioned themselves or peers, when reflecting on and seeking to establish why some coaching goals were more achievable than others.
A key finding was that coaching goals were deemed attainable when they aligned with coachees’ specific focus, which was reflected by the six core themes that emerged: Pragmatic I, Pragmatic We, Student Driven, Team Driven, Data Driven, Research Driven.
The seventh theme (temporality) indicated that over time coachees’ dominant concerns shifted to become less of a focus with other overriding needs emerging. The findings suggested that if there are not differentiated coaching models, based on developmental stages, there is a risk of not recognising coachees’ dominant concerns, leading to an inability to develop all staff capabilities.
For coachees to successfully achieve their coaching goals, consideration needs to be given to aligning the individual’s personal and professional development needs over time. Specific coaching needs and measures of success appeared to shift over time and consequently coaching programmes in schools might consider differentiated models, rather than adopting a single method.

The authors suggest that a single method of coaching, such as instructional coaching underpinned by a behaviourist focus, may not facilitate progression from Pragmatic I to practices that are Research Driven. What this investigation suggested, however, is that we need to know more about coachees’ developmental needs over time and how this knowledge could inform the creation of a coaching culture in schools.

Commonalities between coaches
Whether involved in coaching for one or six years, some commonalities remain for all coachees but to varying degrees. Those commonalities were: the pragmatics of teaching; a focus on students; a need for discussion and reflection; time for coaching; personalised coaching and developing professional capabilities (human, social and decisional capital). Coachees of three years (as a group) had significantly more overlap with others, when it came to common concerns. Three years could be professionally symbolic in the development of teacher coachees’ identities. They share some of the concerns, as noted in the previous section, with first and second year coachees. They appeared to be moving away from needing an instructional model of coaching; however, it is questionable whether their developmental needs would align with, for example an executive coaching model, since this would require higher levels of reflective inquiry. This would also require more autonomy in choosing goals. Increased reflexivity and autonomy could further encourage evidence-based practices that might lead to more holistic evaluations regarding intervention effectiveness. Both of these elements might also enable these coachees to consider drawing on research to guide their future goal setting.

The study suggests the developmental needs of teacher/coachees might be advanced through differentiated coaching. The coachees’ perceptions about successful coaching goal attainment suggests that creating a coaching culture is connected to meeting diverse needs and that teachers’ pedagogical learning is recognised as an ongoing process.

Implications of the findings are that instructional coaches within schools may need to be more cognisant of the developmental stages and therefore differentiated needs of teacher coachees. This is particularly so if the aim is to promote sustainable pedagogical improvement.

Updated: Mar. 08, 2016