Training students to peer coach for mental toughness

Many schools and colleges would argue that they do not have the resources to offer coaching to every young person who has completed the mental toughness questionnaire. A powerfully effective way of making this type of support available is to develop a coaching resource within schools and colleges. A number of studies have been conducted on the training of secondary school students to become coaches in order to support peers (van Nieuwerburgh & Passmore, 2012; van Nieuwerburgh, Zacharia, Luckham, Prebble & Browne, 2012; van Nieuwerburgh & Tong, 2013). Initial results point to increases in emotional intelligence levels in those students trained to be coaches. It seems that when these students support their peers in study skills, their own ability in this area also increases. One study showed that training students to become coaches improved their attitudes to learning (van Nieuwerburgh & Tong, 2013). Once trained, these student coaches could provide the additional resource needed to support their peers on their mental toughness. Based on the findings above, it is possible that there will be a positive effect on the mental toughness results of both the coaches and the coachees. This requires further research.

Coaching teachers for mental toughness

As noted in the introduction, one of the approaches to improving student performance and wellbeing is to directly target teachers through professional or peer coaching. The development of mental toughness for teachers is particularly important and necessary given statistics highlighting the significant levels of teacher stress (Kyriacou, 1987; Wiley, 2000; Kyriacou, 2001).

Grant, Green and Rynsaardt (2010) suggest some of the key challenges facing secondary school teachers in particular include stress, lack of resources, increased scrutiny and evaluation from key stakeholders, dealing with cumbersome bureaucratic systems, dealing constructively
with diverse student populations, and the need to display positive leadership behaviours while under pressure (MacKenzie & Marnik, 2008). In addition, a key challenge facing the secondary school sector is the retention of teaching staff (Quartz, 2003).

Given one of the key tasks of coaching is to assist individuals in their ability to cope effectively with challenges, it becomes clear as to why the development of mental toughness in a coaching setting can be a relevant and important initiative when it comes to teacher development and wellbeing. It is also noted that secondary school teachers can wield considerable influence over their students. Grant, Green and Rynsaardt suggest teachers are, in a very real sense, the embodiment of leadership (Grant, Green & Rynsaardt, 2010, p. 151). Not only do they provide direction, guidance, and feedback to their students, they also act as role models as they are often in front of their students for up to six hours daily (Grant, Green & Rynsaardt, 2010).

As mentioned earlier, research has shown that coaching can increase hardiness (Green, Grant & Rysaardt, 2006) in student populations and maintain hardiness in teacher populations who have undergone coaching (Grant, Green & Rynsaardt 2010). Grant, Green & Rynsaardt (2010) suggest that coaching may have a protective or preventative effect, as teacher coachees commit to engaging in the goal striving process over time, they overcome inevitable obstacles and challenges. They further suggest that overcoming such difficulties within the context of a supportive, goal-focused relationship with a coach is likely to develop one's self-regulation abilities and that the processes inherent in a cognitive-behavioural, solution-focused executive coaching approach are similar to interventions that have been formulated to build resilience (e.g., Maddi, Kahn & Maddi, 1998).

Whilst the provision of coaching for teachers can be delivered by external professional coaches, a school may also consider creating a team of “coaching champions” who have been trained in evidencebased coaching and provide in-house coaching to staff who request it. Coaching for teachers may be offered as a leadership development intervention, a broader professional development intervention or specifically utilised to enhance resilience and wellbeing. In any of these coaching scenarios, the MTQ48 can be utilised to assist with achieving the outcomes of coaching.

As noted previously (van Nieuwerburgh, 2012a) the MTQ report is a good basis for a coaching conversation or a more structured coaching
engagement. Van Nieuwerburgh (2012a) suggests that the introduction of the MTQ48 and the concept of mental toughness provide an opportunity for careful self-reflection and exploration and raise coachee selfawareness.

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