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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Distinguishing the Role of the Coach

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


November 24, 2014

When the role of the coach is unclear, confusion occurs and trust is compromised. Lost trust is difficult to regain.

Finding 5. The coach’s role must be non-evaluative and clearly distinct from administrative functions. Costa and Garmston (2003) describe evaluation as a fourth support function. It is,

…the assessment and judgment of performance based on clearly defined external criteria or standards. (p. 10).

This support function lives in the purview of an administrator, not that of a coach. Some systems expect the coach to do both. That structure erodes trust and effective coaching. Coaching is about growth; evaluating is about judging performance. It is difficult to trust a coach who is also given the responsibility to make judgments that affect employment and job security. Even when the functions are delineated, some principals ask coaches to provide data for evaluation. When that line is crossed, the coach loses effectiveness. The coach should hold the three support functions of Cognitive CoachingSM, collaboration, and consulting sacred.

How are coaches communicating their non-evaluative role in your system? How do principals support coaches in ensuring their roles are distinct?


Costa, A. & Garmston, R. (2003). Cognitive coaching: A foundation for renaissance schools. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.

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