26 SES 12 A, Exploring The Selection, Training, Coaching And Data-Use Of School Leaders
Over the past several years, coaching has been increasingly reported as the type of school leadership development intervention that is gaining momentum and popularity (Aas, 2016). In many countries, coaching is a part of national school leadership programmes (Aas & Törnsén, 2016; Hansford & Ehrich, 2006; Lumby, Crow & Pashiardis, 2008; Robertson & Earl, 2014). While most of the reports on coaching for school leadership development in such programmes concern individual coaching or peer coaching (Aas & Vavik, 2015), Aas (2016; 2017) and colleagues (Aas & Flückiger, 2016; Aas & Vavik, 2015; Flückiger et al., 2016) argue for the power of group coaching for the purposes of development. With an increased interest towards the emergence and development of coaching integrated into school leadership programmes, further attention is warranted to the theorising and practice of coaching. Whilst there seems to be a consensus that coaching promotes professional development for leaders in several ways (Mavrogordato and Cannon 2009, Silver et al., 2009, Huff et al., 2013, Robertson and Earl, 2014 & Goff et al., 2014), little is known about what happens inside coaching sessions. This paper reports from a study of group coaching integrated into a National Principal Training Programme in Norway, which aims to promote reflections on personal agency (role clarity and self-efficacy) (Aaa & Vavik, 2015). In this paper, we set out to investigate the first step of group coaching sessions and the topics for coaching. In particular, we explore evolving changes in the topics and discuss how the changes may become influential to leadership development and leadership practices.
In the study, the definition of coaching is inspired by Robertson’s (2005) peer coaching and is seen as a learning relationship between a group of school leaders who are ‘equally committed to facilitating each other’ s leadership learning development and wellbeing (both cognitive and affective)’ to gain a greater understanding of the role and the work as school leaders. Robertson definition offers asymmetric collegial relation between the coach and the coachee. The theoretical position builds on the argument that leaders’ personal reciprocal learning relationships will influence their leadership practice. The critical reflection on practice and the process of change (Robertson 2009) is central. In other words, school leaders being active and involved in development processes in their school is crucial to their own and their schools' learning and for remaking practices. This corresponds to practical action research (Kemmis, 2009), building on collaborative and self-reflective principles through which practitioners remake their practice for themselves. The group coaching builds on principles for practical action research, and it may be called a practice-changing-practice and as such a mode of learning for school leadership development. Practices that shape other practices can be described as ‘meta-practices’, and group coaching might thus be thought of as a meta-practice. According to Kemmis (2009), a meta-practice can be a process that animates and urges changes in practice, understandings and the conditions of practices through individual and collective self-reflective transformation. Kemmis (2009, p. 463) claims that transforming practices means transforming what we do; transforming understandings means transforming what we think and say, and transforming the conditions of practice means transforming the ways we relate to others and to things and circumstances around us. Kemmis (2009) speaks of these three things as ‘sayings', ‘doings', and ‘relatings’ and maintains that each one can be transformed, but each is always transformed in relation to the others. In the current paper, we use Kemmis’ (2009) concepts understandings, doings, and relatings to investigate the research question raised.
The Norwegian authorities, influenced by the OECD project “Improving School Leadership’, launched a nationwide education programme in 2009 for newly appointed principals to improve their qualifications as leaders and to support national policies. The programme, which now is offered by 7 providers (universities and colleges) with school leaders as the target group, is built around five themes on curriculum that the Norwegian Minister of Education and Research tendered for: students’ learning, management and administration, cooperation and organization building, development and change, and the leadership role (Hybertsen et al., 2014). In this paper, we draw on data from the first of three group coaching sessions as a part of the programme offered by the Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) in 2018/2019. The theme of the coaching session, which is linked to the structure and content in the leadership programme, was the clarification of expectations for the leadership role in development work to be carried out and led by the school leaders in their respective schools. The coaching session requires students to do preparatory work. By using 360-degree interviews and ask for feedback from superiors, other employees and, if possible, persons at the same level in their schools, the school leaders get a picture of how they are perceived as leaders and what expectations others have to their leadership role. Based on the interview the school leaders must write a report in which they summarise and interpret the interview data to identify the various expectations, the tensions among them and the emotions revealed in conducting the interviews as well as point out one to two challenges in their leadership role as topics for the coaching. The report must be brought to the coaching session and provided to the coach in advance. In the group coaching, the students meet for a whole day in groups of six, and an experienced and trained group coach leads the session. Every student is in focus at a time, and the other students serve as co-coaches. A qualitative collective case study approach (Stake, 1995) is used to investigate the first step of the topics for coaching and evolving changes in the topics. The data consisted of documents from the twelve school leaders’ reports from the 360-degree interviews and observational data gathered from observations of the coaching of the twelve school leaders. The data are analysed using content analysis (Berg 2001, Neuendorf 2002).
Preliminary results show that the school leaders bring a great variety of topics for coaching. Several school leaders are preoccupied with their role and challenges related to how to manage to clearly communicate authority without destructing a good relationship with the staff. More specifically this comes to the surface when discussing how to approach “the difficult conversation”. Overall, the school leaders seem to be highly aware of their crucial responsibility to be a driving force for developing their schools. They also display much attention to how they, through leadership style, a focus of priority, disposition of time, and communication, may affect the relationship with their co-leaders and staff. Moreover, the results show that transformational changes in the topics the school leaders brought to bear as challenges evolved through the ways the school leaders framed and reframed the challenges with support from the coach and the co-coaches. The challenges became fare more manageable and the school leaders’ understandings of how to approach the challenges in practice through new modes of action evolved. Since group coaching can lay the groundwork for transformational changes in the ways school leaders think, speak and act in relation to their interpretations of how they are perceived as leaders and what expectations others have to their role as leaders, more awareness of group coaching should be fostered when it comes to research and school leadership development. This research piece indicates the need for more research that can enhance our knowledge about what happen in group coaching sessions as a part of educational leadership programmes, especially regarding the critical moments of changes that may become influential to leadership development and leadership practices.
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