Friday, June 14, 2013

What kind of coach are you?

I began Cognitive CoachingSM training this week. In order to consolidate my new understandings, I thought I would share with you some of what I have learned. This seminar is comprised of eight, day-long sessions (we have only had two thus far), so I anticipate that this will be a series of posts. In this one I want to focus on what it is like to be a Cognitive Coach.

The seminar started with a simile (one of my favorite ways to begin learning something new): "Cognitive Coaching is like ..." When I first heard this I immediately thought of an athletic coach. I coached basketball, football, and volleyball for several years when I was teaching at Grant Public Schools, so it was natural that I would think of Cognitive Coaching from this perspective. I have even used the athletic coaching analogy in professional development sessions when explaining instructional approaches like differentiation or the gradual release of responsibility.

Unfortunately, athletic coaching is not always seen in a positive light.

Even if you get rid of the abuse, athletic coaching usually entails one person, the coach, telling other people how do to something. I remember saying to my players, "If you can't run this play the way I've drawn it up, then I'll find someone who can." While having everyone on the same page might win games, it is not an effective way to support cognitive development.
The mission of Cognitive Coaching is to produce self-directed persons with the cognitive capacity for high performance both independently and as members of a community.
 Consequently, the simile Cognitive Coaching uses is a stagecoach.

The idea is that the Cognitive Coach conveys whomever is being coached from where they are to where they want to be; this is a key difference from the typical coaching approach because the person being coached chooses the desired destination. The coach simply supports the valued individual's move from here to there.

While Cognitive Coaching is only one of four different support functions, it is the initial stance taken in any interaction with the understanding that the coach can adjust to consultant, collaborator, or evaluator if it becomes necessary. I will discuss the differences between these supports in the next post.

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