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Three components of coaching

Whilst coaching is often viewed as a systematic process relying on the use of a coaching model such as GROW, there are two other elements that are crucial to the successful outcomes of coaching: the skills of coaching and a particular “way of being” (van Nieuwerburgh, 2014).

Skills of coaching

The key skills of coaching include effective listening, asking questions, clarifying, and giving feedback (Bresser & Wilson, 2010). Many teachers will already have these skills and it is useful to hone these given they are the foundation of good coaching.

Way of being

In implementing the skills and process of coaching it is important that a coach reflects on the “self” she is bringing to the coaching relationship. This “way of being” may be difficult to teach in a traditional sense (van Nieuwerburgh, 2014) and requires a commitment to self-awareness and self-management. Carl Rogers (1957) suggests that in a therapeutic setting, and we would argue similarly in a coaching setting, that there are three elements for success: congruence, unconditional positive regard for the coachee, and empathy. In a school setting, this would translate into the following:

• Congruence: In their coaching interactions, teachers (coaches and coachees) should be genuine, being open and honest about their feelings and thoughts.

• Unconditional positive regard: The coach should maintain a positive attitude to her coachee, remaining non-judgemental about what is raised during the coaching conversation.

• Empathy: Teachers must demonstrate empathy, trying their best to understand the situation from their coachees' perspective. For us, the “way of being” is the most important, foundational element needed for a mutually respectful, trusting relationship. When it comes to the coaching process, the GROW model or the ten-stage integrated, person-centred coaching approach proposed earlier in this chapter can be used. If we can combine the right coaching skills, an appropriate coaching process and the “way of being” discussed above, we will be able to create the ideal environment in which to address topics related to mental toughness and wellbeing.

It is acknowledged that there may well be a number of practical difficulties in bringing professional coaching into educational settings on a large-scale basis including the cost of such engagements. For this reason, schools should be encouraged to consider their particular unique needs and priorities. We would argue, however, that given the high levels of stress frequently associated with the teaching profession (van Dick & Wagner, 2001) that a priority is given to the provision of oneto-one coaching for staff in leadership positions. We would also suggest that further consideration be given to the widespread application of coaching for teachers and school staff more broadly. Evidence-based coaching that enhances mental toughness may also have the potential to reduce stress-related sick leave, increase motivation, and enhance the performance of teachers.

If external professional engagement is not possible, then another approach may be to invest in professional coaching training offered to a small group of coaching champions who can then provide in-house coaching to their peers. Whilst there are potential issues associated with this approach (i.e., lack of objectivity that an external coach can provide, lack of high level of coaching expertise etc.), this may be a viable option for many schools. In-house coaches may then provide one-to-one coaching and/or support teams within the school. Such champions would also be required to maintain their own professional development in coaching. Coaching champions can also assist with the creation of coaching cultures within schools. There is a growing body of evidence that coaching not only improves results for individuals but for organisations more broadly (e.g., Evans, 2011; Mukherjee, 2012). At an organisational level, resilience and wellbeing have been found to be related to positive organisational citizenship behaviours (Avey, Wernsing & Luthans, 2008). These are important factors in building healthy, efficient, and high-performing organisations (Luthans, Youssef & Avolio, 2007), and as such have direct relevance for school
cultures that play a significant role in shaping the citizens of the future. The UK's National College for Teaching and Leadership also concurs that “there is strong evidence that coaching promotes learning and builds capacity for change in schools” (Creasy & Paterson, 2005, p. 4). Van Nieuwerburgh & Passmore suggest that “successful implementation of coaching cultures within schools (based on proven coaching principles) can lead to improved environments for learning and conclude that this will mean better results for students, staff and the wider community” (van Nieuwerburgh & Passmore, 2012, p. 153).

Conclusion

Given the increasing research showing that mental toughness is a crucial factor in achieving academic outcomes and enhanced wellbeing (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2012b), it is important that schools and educational institutions more broadly identify evidence-based approaches to support the development of mental toughness in young people. The use of coaching as an applied positive psychology is one powerful intervention that research has shown to be effective. Coaching can be provided directly to young people via professional coaches, teacher-coaches or by their own peer-coaches. We have also suggested that a young person's mental toughness and wellbeing may be impacted on and enhanced by her teacher's own mental toughness and wellbeing. The investment in teacher development, resilience, and wellbeing is likely to positively impact on student development, resilience, and wellbeing.

This chapter has provided an up-to-date review of current research and practice in coaching in education, particularly relating to coaching for mental toughness, resilience, and wellbeing. We have made explicit the links between mental toughness and positive psychology and believe that this connection will be more broadly acknowledged over time and that mental toughness will be viewed as a key construct in positive psychology and a core component of a positive education programme in schools. We have argued that the aim of positive education is to not only enhance wellbeing but to increase mental toughness and wellbeing of both students and staff.

We have also provided an introduction to the coaching process with a step-by-step approach to providing coaching for mental toughness to both students and teachers. We have highlighted the importance of identifying the unique needs of a school and prioritising coaching
initiatives, which could range from the engagement of external professional coaches, to the training of a small group of coaching champions who then become in-house coaches within a school. We have also proposed that it may be helpful to train students as coaches, which can have both beneficial effects for the students they coach and the student-coaches themselves.

In conclusion it is our hope that coaching in education (for wellbeing and mental toughness) becomes more widespread in schools globally and ideally becomes part of larger scale positive education programme that integrates positive psychology and coaching (Green, Oades & Robinson, 2012). The overall aim of such programmes is to create flourishing students, staff, and schools.


 
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