A Research Paper By Evgenia Videnmaier-Zink, Life Mindset Coach, HUNGARY
Coaching is referred to as a helpful relationship within the context of proper collaboration (Devine et al., 2013). Research indicates that coaching is a useful tool for personal and professional development, improving efficiency, productivity, goal attainment, and leadership capacities and qualities (Aboujaoude, 2020; Patti et al., 2015; Teemant et al., 2014). The leadership development of educators/teachers is becoming increasingly critical as a means of ensuring that their teaching practices remain relevant, engaging, and based on current research regarding best practices. Appropriate coaching can help educators to access learning experiences both by themselves as well as helping them to create a better learning environment for their students (Devine et al., 2013; Matsko et al., 2020).).
Given that several research studies have argued for the effectiveness of coaching in an educational setting (Grant et al., 2010; Robertson, 2008; Van Niewerburgh, 2018), it is imperative to explore why coaching is so essential for educators and the role of the educator in this context, as well as understanding the components that lead to more effective coaching. Furthermore, it is critical to explore the particular kinds of coaching that are potentially more successful in generating positive, effective outcomes for leadership development in educators. Creative coaching is one such coaching strategy that is attracting increasing attention as a potential coaching method to boost leadership and professional development (Lynch, 2001; Lawson, 2007); however, thus far there has been little research exploring the potential role that creative coaching may play in an educational context for educators.
Moreover, there is increasing research that emotional intelligence (EI) is an integral element of coaching, affecting both coach-coachee interaction and the success of coachee goal attainment (Kim et al., 2016). Some authors, such as Bowkett and Percival (2010), detail the practical use of creative coaching and emotional intelligence to enhance the professional development and leadership skills of teachers in the classroom; other studies indicate that improving the emotional intelligence of teachers can generate better learning outcomes for students in their classrooms (Nelson et al., 2005).
However, there remain very few empirical studies evaluating the effectiveness of creative coaching and the use of emotional intelligence by a coach to boost coachee (teacher) outcomes and goal attainment. There is also a paucity of qualitative research exploring teachers’ perspectives of creative coaching for leadership development. Therefore, there appears to be a gap in the literature that needs addressing if teachers and educators more generally are to become leaders in their field and harness best practice teaching methods to improve the learning of their students.
Coaching With Creative Methods Aims, Objectives, and Research Questions
Given the gap in the research regarding the use of creative coaching and emotional intelligence to enhance leadership in educators, this study aims to explore the use of EI in creative coaching of leadership to teachers. Moreover, it aims to investigate teacher perspectives of the use of EI and creative coaching to aid their professional development.
The main objectives of this study are, therefore:
- To explore the components of creative coaching;
- To identify the relationship between creative coaching and leadership;
- To understand how important emotional intelligence (EI) is in creative coaching;
- To investigate the use of EI by creative coaches to assist the leadership development of educators;
- To explore teacher perspectives and experiences of the effectiveness of both EI and creative coaching to assist their teaching practice.
The research questions for this study are as follows:
- How can creative coaching support personal and professional growth in educators?
- What is the relationship between coaching and EI for educators?
- How far do educators perceive there to be a relationship between creative coaching and leadership?
- How important and effective do teachers perceive both EI and creative coaching to be in assisting their teaching practice?
A literature review was conducted to explore the role of the educator in greater depth to gain a better understanding of how they can affect their students and to give context to the importance of coaching and its necessary components in subsequent chapters. It was found that the role of an educator includes instructing students and supporting them to achieve their academic and learning potential (Kretlow, Wood & Cooke, 2011). The general and primary responsibility of educators therefore not only includes following the curriculum but requires that they also hone specific instructional strategies to improve student achievement in the classroom (Kretlow, Wood & Cooke, 2011).
The literature review then explores the importance of professional leadership development for educators, in which it was found that content knowledge, personalized training, hands-on approaches, and interactive methods (including coaching) were essential (Crawford et al., 2017). The use and importance of coaching for educators were explored, a critical feature of which was found to be reflection and action with over 20 hours of contact time (Bakhshaei et al., 2019), as well as data-driven coaching (Crawford et al., 2017), instructional coaching and a learner-centric approach (Robertson, 2008), which provided better outcomes for students (e.g., Cornelius, Rosenberg & Sandmel, 2019; Kudliskis, 2019; Moreno-Murcia et al., 2019; Robertson, 2008). The literature review also found that coaching was beneficial in an educational context. This chapter then revisits the gap in the literature to strengthen the rationale for the present research.
The current study adopted a constructivist paradigm, given the assumption that there is no sole realism regarding teachers’ perceptions of the impact of emotional intelligence and coaching leadership on teaching practices (Elliott et al., 2000). A mixed-methods approach was adopted to enable different viewpoints, perspectives and insights to be gathered, including both secondary data collection and primary data collection. The secondary data consisted of a literature review to explore creative coaching and EI in greater depth, and qualitative, semi-structured interviews and open-ended questions in a survey were utilized to gain the perspectives of educators.
This study required specific participants: educators that had received coaching to progress into a leadership position. 12 participants for this study were found through contacting a range of teacher and coaching unions and groups, such as Coaching 4 Educators (a group on the social media site LinkedIn), as well as contacting various international schools that the researcher had previous contact with and peers with teaching experience and placements at the researchers’ university. Interviews were conducted over zooms and surveys were emailed to participants. Transcripts and questionnaire results were analyzed using Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). All ethical guidelines were adhered to throughout, and the potential limitations of the method are highlighted, including researcher subjectivity, lack of generalizability, and the impact of COVID (small sample and the wish for some participants to complete survey responses instead of interviews).
Secondary Research Findings
The secondary research findings focused on creative coaching, by defining creativity (a novel technique wherein a coach guides, encourages, and assists individuals in the exploration, identification, and development of their creative skills followed by training to implement these across relevant situations and environments), comparing it to traditional coaching, and explores the different techniques used in it. This includes Conversations with Walking, Symbol Utilisation, Mediating Objects, Narratives and Story Telling, Fiction, Art, and Photo-elicitation (Park, 2020).
It then reveals the pre-requisites of creative coaches (their desirable characteristics) as found in the literature. These include communication, cultural competence, participation and collaboration, self-reflection, openness to feedback, and emotional intelligence (EI). Goleman’s (1997) mixed model of EI is used to outline the skills and competencies of EI, which include: self-awareness, empathy, social skills, self-regulation, and motivation/passion. These competencies are then discussed in turn in greater depth, linking them each to creative coaching for leadership. It was found that each of these components of EI leads to optimum and effective creative coaching practice, especially with regards to teaching leadership to educators.
Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of EI in the creative coaching of educations on leadership development are explained. The advantages include: the ease with which it can be taught and learned by others, given the simplicity of the models, which mean that they can be learned and passed onto others (e.g., students in the classroom); EI may also reduce bullying and harassment incidences in school through honing self-regulation and empathy in students (Nightingale et al., 2019); conflict resolution; EI also allows an individual to regulate and manage their emotional and physiological well-being; and finally, EI skills allows for critical self-assessment, to recognize and manage emotional triggers in both themselves and others.
The disadvantages surrounding the development of EI in educators via coaching include the absence of standardized or certified assessments or tools to evaluate the effectiveness of EI as practiced by a coach or leader; the lack of credible research evaluating its effectiveness; and the fact that becoming competent in EI as a creative coach and/or a teacher/leader could lead to the misuse of EI to manipulate the emotions of others.
Primary Research Findings/Discussion
Most participants did not have experience with creative coaching, but coaching more generally. The findings of the primary research (interviews and survey responses) can be seen in the table below:
Coaching for Transformative, Self-Driven Change
Supporting Personal and Professional Growth
Adapting Coaching Approaches
Coaching as Reinforcement of Motivation
EI as a Necessary Challenge in Teaching and Leadership
EI as a Fundamental Baseline
EI for Greater Outcomes
EI as a Necessary Challenge in Teaching
Working Together for Better Outcomes
Relating to Self and Others
A Champion of Self and Others
Each of these sub-themes is discussed:
Theme 1: Coaching for Transformative, Self-Driven Change
Sub-theme 1.1: Supporting Personal and Professional Growth
The majority of the participants described coaching as contributing to their development in numerous ways as educators, including personal and professional growth. Other participants also discussed the benefits of coaching for them, from helping them to ‘achieve their goals as teachers, finding coaching to be a process that supports their ‘thinking, planning and reflecting’ and gives them ‘fresh perspectives and advice that can assist teachers both in the present/short-term as well as ‘for years to come.
Sub-theme 1.2: Adapting Coaching Approaches
Participants often referred to the beneficial practice of tailored approaches in coaching to meet their unique needs, in a person-centered approach, leading to helpful ‘focused help’. Some had the experience of creative coaching strategies, however, including walking conversations and story-telling, and found them useful.
Sub-theme 1.3: Coaching as Reinforcement of Motivation
Some participants described the necessity of the coaching program being self-driven or directed, that is, boosting motivation in an educator so that they can work on themselves and their own professional development further.
Theme 2: Emotional Intelligence as Fundamental in Teaching and Leadership
Sub-Theme 2.1: EI as a Fundamental Baseline
EI has been described to be a fundamental baseline for teachers educators, as it is important for effective interaction between educators and students and colleagues and it appears from the participants’ responses that it is also fundamental to academic and professional growth. The view that coaches ‘should’ use EI with coachees was not shared by every participant, although there was general agreement that coaches required it.
Sub-theme 2.2: EI for Greater Outcomes
The participants described that EI is beneficial for greater outcomes for the students. The participants expressed that if they can read their student’s emotional states, understand their reactions and stress levels when they are understanding and compassionate, this is reflected in their student achievement. It also boosts leadership skills in educators.
Sub-theme 2.3: EI as a Necessary Challenge
The majority of the participants answered that teaching is challenging, requires time, energy, commitment, self-reflection, and motivation.
Theme 3: Working Better Together
The final theme that was prevalent throughout the data was that of working better together, benefitting one another through greater support and collaboration, which in turn could benefit themselves and be passed on to others through feeding forward what had been learned. It involved the sub-themes of relating to self and others, championing self and others, and feeding forward.
This chapter takes each research question in turn and uses the findings to answer them.
The findings of the secondary research indicate that creative coaching can usefully develop personal and professional growth. However, the primary research revealed that the educators in this study had rarely received ‘creative coaching’, although some admitted that they used story-telling and walking with conversations. Moreover, the educators did reveal limits to their ability to implement or attempt any changes that they may have gained from a coaching experience due to lack of time, resources, budget, and ‘systemic issues’ that prevented them from trying novel approaches.
This study revealed that EI is an integral component for successful coaching, although some participants did perceive this as a challenge, requiring time, dedication, and self-motivation. Whilst some participants indicated that coaching had assisted them in becoming better leaders, this was not directly related to creative coaching. However, some asserted that coaching had not impacted their leadership skills. I was perceived to be fundamental in assisting teaching practice, helping them to become better teachers and colleagues.
Finally, recommendations are made both for future practice and research in this area.
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