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Teacher or Student Led?

Coaching cartoonThere has been so much debate about the style of lessons that should be used to ensure all our young people get the learning and the results they need.

Everybody seems to have been jumping in – Michael Gove, the Blob, Ofsted, Teaching unions and most importantly school leaders and teachers. The only people we don’t seem to hear a lot from are the students.

Should lessons be teacher led or student led? Should they be focused on learning by rote or through discovery? Should students be told all the information and spoon fed or be expected to find solutions for themselves?

Well I think the answer is coaching, which is a much misunderstood skill for schools.  Both for lessons and for school leadership.

Coaching is both a skill and a philosophy.  It is the way you choose to do things?  In the case of lessons it isn’t about being student led but it is about understanding the interests and aims of the students and being on their agenda as well as your own.

All lessons will be teacher led, whether they are delivered in a fully autocratic or delegated style.

Is it a good idea to involve students through questioning and asking them to generate solutions? In my view yes.  Is it also good to share information and demonstrate how to do things in lessons? Absolutely. And adopting a coaching style allows you to do both of these.

Coaching is not fluffy – its purpose is to raise awareness in others and then to encourage them to take personal responsibility for delivering whatever needs delivering. Done well it leads to outstanding performance in others.

To help explain this we use the coaching dance.  Created by our co-founder Olympic Gold Medalist David Hemery CBE, it shows just how great leaders and teachers can move between asking and telling.

The key is to always start and finish with the other person.  What is it that the student (or teacher or support staff member, if you are their leader) wants to achieve and what are they going to do to achieve it.

How do you feel when you are constantly told what to do and not involved by others? Perhaps disengaged and in the longer term you will start to do less and push back.  Yet when you are involved and feel part of something you tend to give much more effort and contribute more fully.

Yet in schools we see coaching primarily thought of as a tool for observed interviews and co-coaching and as an initiative. We see many schools with a negative view of it because of the poor way it has been implemented.

If you are looking for a solution to build and sustain outstanding performance across your whole school then take a look at coaching and how you can use it to create a high performance culture.

If you are interested in seeing a little more about coaching then you can see a recording of a live on-line training session we did – it’s around 55 minutes long and takes you through the 5 Steps for Building a School Wide Coaching Culture. You can see it here.