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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

The Four Support Functions: Coaching

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


September 24, 2018

In the 3rd edition of Cognitive Coaching: Developing Self-directed Leaders and Learning (2016), Costa and Garmston “distinguish four functions intended to support teacher development: evaluating, collaborating, consulting, and mediating/coaching” (9). The authors assert that the “skillful coach will ultimate default to Cognitive Coaching as it is most likely to support self-directed learning” (9). With the new school year starting, professionals will need to make decisions about who they want to be as they serve students and colleagues. The Adaptive Schools Focusing Questions would serve as reminders: Who are we? Who do we need to be?; Why are we doing this?; Why are we doing this, this way? Professionals need to be clear about their intentions before selecting a Support Function. This month’s Sustaining the Journey will look at each one of the Four Support Functions.

Cognitive Coachingsm: The intention of Cognitive Coachingsm is to “transform the effectiveness of decision making, mental models, thoughts, and perceptions and habituate reflection” (13). At the heart of Cognitive Coachingsm is self-directed learning that encourages individuals to be self-managing, self-monitoring, and self-modifying. There are four maps that a coach can utilize to mediate thinking: planning, reflecting, problem-resolving, and calibrating. A coach’s tools include rapport, paraphrasing, posing questions, and full attention listening skills. Garmston and Costa assert that “Cognitive Coaches focus on the thought processes, values, identities, and beliefs that motivate, guide, influence…” (14).

An important capability is to know what support function to use at appropriate times. At the heart of that decision is to promote self-directedness in the individuals that we support.

What might be some instances when you might coach a colleague?

How might you make your intentions clear and signal your role with explicit behaviors?

What are some ways you might seek permission to coach?

How might you make Cognitive Coaching your default support function?

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