Thursday, June 27, 2013

Am I in the way?

I have completed the first four days of the Cognitive CoachingSM Seminar (CCS), and I am still in the process of consolidating my understanding. In a previous post, I considered the stagecoach metaphor used in the CCS. Here, I want to address another metaphor - the cognitive coach as a mediator of thinking. From page 33 of the Learning Guide:
the mediator intervenes in such a way as to enhance another person's self-directed learning (Costa & Garmston, 2002).
When this is combined with the Four Support Functions (coaching, consulting, collaborating, and evaluating), it requires the cognitive coach to determine what sort of stance he or she ought to take to facilitate another person's thinking.

When we encounter someone with an issue, our typical response is to try to fix it. That is, we get between the person and the problem. To counter this habit, the default stance taken by a cognitive coach is to step back; this provides the person with the space to own the problem and the cognitive coach a sense of perspective. Then the cognitive coach can more easily support the individual in making choices about the path to take and becoming empowered.
Sometimes, the person with the issue is stuck and unable to see any path forward. Given an explicit request for help, the cognitive coach takes on a different stance - consultant. (This is what most people mean when they think of coaching in education.) The cognitive coach steps into the path and provides whatever leadership he or she has to offer. The support might be a model ("If it were me, here's what I might do.") or a menu ("Here is a list of things others have used in similar situations."). As soon as the person becomes unstuck, the cognitive coach once again takes a step back and returns to a coaching stance.
When two people are working together as equals, then the cognitive coach stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the other person. They face the problem together, with each contributing 100% to the effort of obtaining a solution. This support function might be appropriate when co-teaching a class.
In the final support function, evaluating, the cognitive coach stands out of the way and observes the individual's performance. A shared set of standards are used to monitor the individual's progress toward a solution. If the same person is doing the coaching and the evaluating, then his or her role in every situation must be well-defined. Furthermore, trust must be established if this shifting of roles is going to work.


Teachers who have gone through the CCS have told me that awareness of these support functions and the ability to move between them improved their instruction. They stress that thinking like a cognitive coach has helped them to focus on supporting the development of self-directed individuals. Mostly, this entails not standing between the students and their learning.

#TeachingReminder: Get out of the way!

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