Transformative Talk: Cognitive Coaches Share Their Stories

Authors: Carrie Usui Johnson and John Matich, Training Associates and members of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

In our chapter titled We Don’t Fix Teachers: Managing Outside Expectations and the Integrity of Cognitive Coaching, from the book Transformative Talk: Cognitive Coaches Share Their Stories, edited by Gavin Grift, we explore three common misconceptions about coaching.
Developing the identity of a mediator of thinking in order to be a Cognitive Coach is a complex and deep process. And yet, as Garmston and Costa highlight, this identity is critical in having a coach use the skills, tools, and strategies they have learned through a Cognitive Coaching seminar. In order to understand and manage the complexity of this work, misconceptions, assumptions, and tensions must be explored. Based on our experience, we propose exploring the following three misconceptions we have found as challenges to creating a sustainable Cognitive Coaching community.

Misconception #1 – Expertise in the classroom is the main indicator of expertise as a Cognitive Coach.
While content and classroom expertise are important characteristics for a Cognitive Coach, how a Cognitive Coach uses or doesn’t use that expertise to support the thinking of their coachee is even more important.

Misconception #2 – Coaches trained in Cognitive Coaching need professional learning focused mainly on the content they support or a “training for trainers” model rather than continued development of their Cognitive Coaching identity through focused rehearsal with coaching skills, strategies, and tools.
The assumption that one’s learning around coaching ends at the conclusion of the eight-day Seminar presumes that it is a set of behaviors that can be adopted in a rote or mechanic way. In order to develop one’s Cognitive Coaching identity, it takes intention rehearsal, reflection, and feedback.

Misconception #3 – Directors, Managers and/or Supervisors of Cognitive Coaching communities do not need to be Cognitive Coaches or learn alongside their coaches
If we want to see our coaching communities use Cognitive Coaching with their teachers and students in meaningful ways, our coaches need their leaders to support their thinking and identity development in similar ways.

In this Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey, we would like to hear from other Cognitive Coaches. What are some ways in which we might manage and clarify these misconceptions?