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Benefits of coaching



Evidence of benefits of coaching

Coaching is recognised as being an effective way of supporting executives through change (Lyons, 2000). It has been proposed as a way of supporting the school system (Neufeld and Roper, 2003) and there has been some success in introducing it to Leeds Met to support staff development and management training (see Hilpern, 2009).  


We see coaching as an appropriate approach to underpin all leadership activity within a university, from senior managers, who are leading the organisation, through middle managers, who are leading Faculties, Services, Departments and course teams, to academics, who are leading students, and students themselves, who are responsible for self-leadership and who are being developed as future leaders. In Covey and Gulledge's (1992) terms, these equate to opportunities for coaching at all four levels: organisational (directing vision and strategy), managerial (formal line management), interpersonal (relationships between members of the organisation) and personal (self management and self leadership) (Covey and Gulledge, 1992; Covey, 1992).


Although there is a need for further research to provide evidence of the impact of coaching on leaders in organisations (see Passmore and Gibbs, 2007), the evidence that exists is highly positive. Although this is largely drawn from business environments, it is very relevant to the University context, which shares a similar level of complexity, rapid change and, increasingly, commercial imperative, with such organisations. A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2011 (CIPD, 2011) showed that leadership coaching is used widely in business, with 77% of those companies that responded, using it. An earlier CIPD survey (CIPD, 2004) found that 90% of companies using coaching found it beneficial, not least in the way that it embeds learning back into the workplace. Another survey, conducted by Clear Coaching in 2006, that included a number of large organisations such as Tesco, CPW, Coca Cola and Nationwide, showed real benefits for coaching, including increased perception, better awareness of others, increased motivation and better working relationships in those coached. Some 23% also noticed an increase in revenue, although this had not been the purpose of introducing coaching. In the same survey, 93% of companies said that they would use coaching again, with only 7% saying they saw no positive benefit to it (notably those without management involvement in the process). A study by McGovern et al. (2001) that asked 100 executives to quantify the impact coaching had had on their business found a reported return on investment of 545% (i.e. for every pound spent on coaching, £5.45 was brought into the company as a result). 


In terms of evidence specific to higher education, coaching to support learning is already recognised as valuable in some disciplines, notably in the education (Showers, 1985; Simkins et al, 2006) and health (Asghar, 2009; Foster-Turner & West, 2008) professional areas. Coaching has also been shown to benefit individuals returning to learning, increasing their reflective practice, self-awareness, choice, and responsibility (Harrington, 2009).  


Summary of benefits seen though PC3

Our case studies and videos provide evidence of the rich benefits of introducing coaching for learning. What follows is a brief overview of some of the benefits we have seen. 


The first group to have benefited is students. Evidence from the Sports Management module indicates an improvement in the quality of the assessment in the year that coaching was introduced. Staff also noticed students becoming more engaged in their learning and, as a result, increasing their grades. Students were asked to use coaching to support each other as they developed their assessed learning outcomes. Less outgoing students were able to participate in the coaching, allowing them to be more active and engaged. Initially the students focused only on these learning outcomes but later they started to apply the approach to the whole module and then to other modules . Several groups developed their peer support to other areas of the curriculum and to other life events, for example, going for interview . The students themselves reported that the process helped them to “self-coach” in other situations - that they began to ask themselves questions as they were learning. They have noticed a change in the way they interact in class, making them more reflective than they had been previously. One student has chosen to do a dissertation on the impact of coaching; others have included it in assessments in other areas (for example, one group of students did an assessed presentation on a different module on how coaching could be implemented in other areas of the curriculum.   This is also supported by feedback on coaching on the PLC module, which was described as being empowering and increasing confidence. One student took the model further and introduced it in their school as a way of helping staff support each other.


Staff using coaching within their curriculum saw better engagement with students and a reduction in the time they personally spent supporting students, as the peer coaching became established. Even staff who felt they needed more expertise in coaching, felt the approach had huge potential. However, the initial investment of time in coaching Level 1 students was significant though worth the effort for the benefits seen. Our staff development events have introduced more than 70 members of staff to coaching principles.  The project has worked in more depth with 11 of these to make use of coaching in some way. Some staff have also gone on to undertake more in depth coaching training outside the project. Those who have used coaching with their students report very positive results as seen in the case studies. Our staff guide on Personal Student Support includes a summary of some of the benefits we have seen for students in their own words. 


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