Coaching Emanates from the Relationality

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Rob Thompson
Coach, United Kingdom

Coaching Emanates from the Relationality

Working as a coach in English education I have for a long time seen coaching repeatedly come and go as a mode of professional development in schools. I don't mean that it's 'gone'; it rather waxes and wains quite rapidly after being introduced. Whilst of course there are counter-examples where coaching embeds successfully across an organisation, this is not yet the norm and yet it has so much to offer - particularly at the moment in our era of great uncertainty and upheaval during the CoVID crisis.

One of the issues, which it may be argued is current across all coaching fields, is the lack of conceptualisation that yields useful indentifiable characteristics of coaching that go beyond just its purpose. Ask yourself the question 'what is coaching?' and try to answer this in terms other than its function or the more generally accepted indentifiers like 'non-directive', 'non-judgemental', 'collaborative', 'dialogic' etc.
Perhaps one of the issues is that a clear identity or definition of coaching just isn't possible. Coaching is often associated with other fields and disciplines such as coaching psychology, mentoring, teaching and adult learning and is often prefixed with additional 'rules' that attempt to describe it more definitively as a process such as instructional-coaching, peer-coaching, neuro-linguistic-coaching, cognitive coaching etc. To an external observer this might appear to avoid the nature of what the 'coaching' is - or moreover make assumptions that we all know what it is, or that it is transferable as an 'it' into any situation. So, I am really interested in the 'it' but wonder if rather than there being any possibility of defining and describing it as a separate entity.

I think COACHING EMANATES FROM THE RELATIONALITY (see Cronin and Armour (2017)) of the situation in which it is enacted. This includes:
- Internal coach-coachee relationships
- Relationships between the organisation and external bodies (e.g. in schools a national external inspection system)
- The structure versus agency debate (e.g. in Priestley, Biesta and Robinson, 2015)
- Participant lifeworlds and perezhivanie (e.g. in Roth and Jornet, 2016)
- Adult learning (e.g. from Knowles, 1970)

So I offer an alternative perspective that coaching can therefore never be a 'thing' that is applied to a situation, but rather it is something which emanates from the inter-relationality. It is therefore always unpredictable. The more we as coaches are able to learn about the human condition, the more we are able to understand the complexities of dialogic interaction and that it really is that - a two way exchange of meaning, not a conveyor belt to achieve organisational goals.
If coaching in education does have an identity crisis I personally think it really matters - but this should drive us on to learn more about what 'it' is.

⇨ How do you continually learn about what coaching is?

Cronin, C. and Armour, K. (2017), '"Being" in the Coaching World: New Insights in Youth Performance Coaching from an Interpretative Phenomenological Approach', Liverpool John Moores Research Online.
Knowles, M. (1970), 'Andragogy: An Emerging Technology for Adult Learning', in The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy. Cambridge: Cambridge Book Company
Priestley, M., Biesta, G. and Robinson, S. (2015), 'Teacher Agency: What is it and Why does it Matter?'
Roth, W. M. and Jornet, A. (2016. 'Perezhivanie in the Light of the Later Vygotsky's Spinozist Turn', Mind, Culture, and Activity. Routledge, 23(4).

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