An exploration of the potential of creating a coaching culture in a primary school

Rees, Clare Marian (2020) An exploration of the potential of creating a coaching culture in a primary school. DProf thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The aim of this research is to explore the potential that coaching, as a leadership style and process of professional growth, could have in a school. As educationalists and policy makers in the United Kingdom (UK) debate the increasing challenges that schools face, organisations such as the Department for Education (DfE) and Office for standards in Education (Ofsted), are also questioning the contribution that stringent accountability measures, experienced in many UK mainstream schools, and often linked to the term ‘school improvement’, have had on schools. This study explores alternative approaches to leading, teaching and learning, that promote an integrated model of continuous professional growth, as part of the solution to the many problems that schools face.

The research findings suggest that building a culture of trust and resilience amongst practitioners is about getting the ethos right; something that starts with the style and tone of leadership. The findings show that it was through seemingly insignificant daily rituals between practitioners, identified by one participant as ‘little conversations’, that deep and trusting professionalism began to build a momentum towards what is described as ‘collective teacher efficacy’ (Goddard, et al., 2000). The research explores how deep trust can also lead to high levels of ‘discretionary effort’ (Buck, 2017, p19), the vital component that can take a school from good to great.

The term ‘little conversations’ used by one of the participants, was identified as a contributing factor to deeper practitioner reflection, in a culture of openness and professionalism. Throughout this study I explore the connections and parallels between effective teaching and the best approaches to professional growth, moving away from a more traditional command and control leadership style, holding practitioners to account through performance management largely based on data.

Ethical considerations were carefully researched before and throughout the project; particularly my role as both insider researcher and head teacher and the issue of power relations. Throughout the data collection and project write-up, due to the on-going nature of ethics, these considerations were returned to day by day, considering each participant individually. The ethical considerations have been of paramount importance to me as a researcher, so that they would not affect the integrity of the research findings.

The data collection was a combination of 1-1 semi-structured interviews with senior leaders based on The Skilled Helper model (Egan, 2007) and focus groups of teachers using the Appreciative Inquiry model, (Cooperrider and Whitney, 2005) over a 15 month period. Senior leaders were invited to use reflective journals as a means of identifying key moments between coaching sessions, to explore in greater depth in future sessions. The data from the 1-1 coachees and focus group participants was transcribed and evaluated for emerging themes, culminating in an evaluation or ‘convergence’ of viewpoints from both groups.

The findings of this small scale ethnographic study have implications for leadership development, recruitment and retention of staff, and the workload, well-being and professional growth of practitioners. The study concludes with a detailed contribution to national practice. This includes the recommendation to move away from a focus on stringent accountability measures, linked with school improvement, towards a more humanistic, integrated model that invests in career-long professional growth. The research suggests that government investment in promoting a coaching culture of professional growth, across maintained schools in the UK, could transform relationships and outcomes, for the benefit of all.

Item Type: Thesis (DProf)
Keywords (uncontrolled): leadership, followership, culture, trust, professional growth, coaching, change, reflection
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education > Education
A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 33779
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2021 16:45
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 18:12

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