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Why Coaching in Education is a Big Win

I had been in the field of education for 12 years prior to joining APEC Schools. I have taught in several schools both here and abroad and in both the elementary and secondary levels. I had been a classroom teacher, a class adviser, a subject coordinator, and a teacher trainer. I could really say that I have done much in the academe that it is so easy to believe that we have tried almost everything with regard to improving the quality of the field. That was until I was introduced to Coaching.

I was first introduced to coaching through interactions and research in APEC Schools. We are fortunate to be managed not only by educators, but by people from various industries. And from them came the knowledge that once previously is only known from the world of business – they knew about coaching.

Our leaders were coached and in their own rights were coaching as well. They used it in their past companies in handling their people. They were also professionally developed using the same approach. They knew it worked and the benefits attached to it.

So when the idea of coaching was raised to me as a professional development tool for teachers, I got interested. This has not been done in any other educational institution just yet. To give a bit of background, most schools use the feedback approach. This approach is usually done after class observations by supervisors. As a general framework for this approach, the supervisor (1) asks what teachers think they did and didn’t do well, (2) shares what they think the teacher did and didn’t do well, and (3) decides on next steps.

This was the standard practice and APEC Schools did subscribe to this as well. And even if there are advantages, we recognised some downside to it, namely:

  1. It puts the supervisor as the expert, not the teacher.  This is an issue of empowerment.
  2. Its focus is narrow.  It dissects a very specific classroom scenario.  This is an issue of efficacy.
  3. It often makes teachers defensive.  It requires a very open teacher to not take the feedback personally.  This is an issue of motivation.

Given the disadvantages, we felt that the time was ripe for change.  To push for better quality of education, we have to push for better quality of teachers. We are already offering  them various skills training, professional development courses, support and supervision.  But there is one aspect that is sorely lacking – teacher empowerment and a mentality for self-direction. These things could not easily be honed through training and mentoring. So what is the solution? Coaching.

Believing in the power of Coaching, we took the leap and started our journey back in 2018. As a school, we didn’t have the budget so we had to find a way to make it more affordable.  We knew that a big chunk of what can cut the cost is if we do it internally.  So we “DIYed” building our coaching culture.  Here’s what we did.

  1. We assigned one person to attend the expensive coach training and have this person lead the coaching program of the school.  This person, in turn, trained our academic managers on coaching.
  2. We included coaching in the expected interactions types with teachers.
  3. We partnered with coaching institutions like Haraya Coaching to provide additional pro-bono coaching sessions to our teachers.

It has been five years since we started coaching in our school.  We are now in what Reza Rahmani, PCC, calls the embedding phase.  It is in this phase that organizations roll out coaching processes and programs. It is also in this phase that coaching is experienced not only by select leaders but by other members of the organization.  In our case, those are the teachers.  And though we are not yet at the transforming phase, which is the phase where coaching is more integrated in the organization’s system, we are already seeing results.  

  • Improved leadership.   Through coaching, our leaders found a new way to support teachers.  No longer is feedback their default.  No longer do they see themselves as experts.  They have transitioned to seeing their teachers as the more knowledgeable, more accountable person in the conversation.  Coaching became their way to support teachers more genuinely and effectively.
  • Increased empowerment of teachers.  Through coaching, teachers became more accountable.  Once the answers started coming from them instead of their supervisor, they owned the actions more.  They became empowered to drive the change they want to see in the classroom.  This practice directly impacted quality of delivery which has consistently earned highly in the organization’s Performance Assessment KRA.
  • Increased engagement.  The results of the 2021 Employee Engagement Survey showed a remarkable increase in overall employee engagement which is 5 points significantly higher than the 2017 results.  This score is further broken down into 90% favorable score on Training and Learning and 91% favorable score on Wellbeing.  It is to be noted that the Training and Learning score is significantly higher than the Education norm.

And to top it all off, very recently, we were recognized by ICF Philippines by bestowing upon us the inaugural 2022 Prism Award. This is a confirmation of the coaching culture we built in APEC Schools.  It is a milestone in our 5-year journey.  But it is not just a win for one school.  It is a win for the whole academic community as…

  1. It confirmed that coaching can be built and used in the education space.  Coaching is no longer a tool of companies.  It is also a developmental  tool of academic institutions.
  2. It showed that coaching can be affordable.  There are ways to make it less expensive.  Academic institutions can afford the investment.
  3. It proved that we can reinvent processes in education.  We can change practices that no longer work.  We can be more intentional in choosing techniques and tools to support our teachers.   We can be progressive. 

Given this meaningful journey of our institution, we can point out that coaching in the field of education works. It is an approach that, frankly speaking, should have been used for teacher development decades ago! We could have saved years on managing teacher burnout and lack of motivation.  We could have honed earlier on empowered, motivated and happier teachers.

As such, we want to encourage educational institutions to adopt a coaching culture as this could really be that transformative shift  we are all looking for.  Coaching in education is a big win for us.  Make it a win for you too.  

I have been in education for 20 years.  Admittedly, I have not seen everything, but I have seen a lot. And I am so blessed to have seen the day that coaching is used in the education space. Its not everyday you can say that you are a part of something done for the first time, but here I am – I am part of an institution that supports teachers through coaching and who develops their managers to be coaches. I have always been proud that I am an educator and now I am also deeply honored to be a coach. 

Mary Ann Barcelon, ACC
APEC Schools