Establishing the right conditions for coaching and mentoring programs helps ensure these conversations play an important role in a school's improvement agenda.
In an article published in Teacher, Professor Kathryn Moyle, Research Director at the Australian Council for Educational Research, explores the common themes that are emerging from a program of semi-structured coaching and mentoring conversations used by seven school principals located in a variety of remote and urban contexts in the Northern Territory.
'The main focus of coaching and mentoring conversations for school improvement is to build the competency and capability of teachers, so that they can take steps towards achieving the school's strategic vision and priorities,' Professor Moyle writes.
'This approach to school improvement requires an environment of trust and a culture of ongoing or continuous learning and risk-taking by the school leadership and staff.'
Other necessary foundations for effective coaching and mentoring conversations outlined by Professor Moyle include collegiality, clear pedagogy and student assessment expectations, and completion of an accredited coaching or mentoring training program by the principal and the leadership team.
'Where these conditions have not yet been established, the principal and school leadership team have to build the capacity of the staff within the school in order to build a culture suitable for coaching or mentoring conversations to be used,' Professor Moyle writes.
Professor Moyle advocates the use of school-based data to inform the achievements and future direction of coaching and mentoring conversations, as this kind of information contributes to shared understandings of the outcomes to be achieved through the implementation of specific strategies. Targeted professional development however, may also be required to ensure that teachers know how to interpret data about their students.
According to Professor Moyle, when coaching and mentoring approaches to school improvement are valued they are embedded into performance and school development policies, meaning that performance development plans are explicitly linked to coaching and mentoring, and school improvement.
'Gaining consistency of pedagogical approaches across the school requires a whole-school approach,' Professor Moyle writes.
'A whole-school curriculum plan and associated policies provide teachers with structured guidance about what it is they are expected to do.'