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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: Consulting

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


September 10, 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.

Consulting: Consultants serve as information specialists and they may have valuable expertise to share with colleagues. Too frequently, individuals default to the support function because they believe it is quick, easy, and expeditious. Costa and Garmston write that “consulting skills include clarifying goals, modeling expert thinking and problem-solving processes, making suggestions based on experience, offering advice, and advocating” (11). A consultant needs to work towards developing self-directedness in his or her colleagues. If not, the colleagues will be unable to be resourceful without the direction of the consultant. The “expert” or the consultant “informs” about these best practices, research, or policies, and hopefully offers a menu of options instead of advocating for one. The consultant might say, “Here are some possible ways to do this. Which ones sound most promising to you?”

What might be some instances when you are asked to consult?

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

What are some ways you can seek permission to consult?

What might be some of the options you have to embed for self-directed learning?

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