In this #PLtogether Lounge Talk, Christian van Nieuwerburgh talks about the top 3 skills instructional coaches need and a conversational framework for effective teacher coaching.

Watch the conversation above or read the transcript below.

Why Playback and Follow-Up are Key to Your Teacher Coaching

– Welcome to another #PLtogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform that streamlines feedback to teachers. Today, we’re talking with Christian van Nieuwerburgh. He’s a professor of coaching and positive psychology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. And he’s also the author of multiple books including, “An Introduction to Coaching Skills: A Practical Guide,” and a forthcoming book that’s called “Advanced Coaching Practice,” that’s co-authored with David Love. Christian, thanks so much for joining us.

– Lovely to be here in the lounge Adam.

– Well, let’s talk to the coaches that are in the lounge with us here about the really the big picture of being a coach and kind of how you orient yourself in the world of coaching. And I know that you say that the heart of coaching is creating encouraging and supporting conversations. But I also know that you kinda have some meat underneath that and it kind of anchors around the ideas of having some skills and some frameworks for being a coach. So let’s start in the zone of the skills as a coach. Maybe I’m new, maybe I’m new to your work. What are some of the skills that I should be thinking about developing in an active way as a coach?

– Thank you, Adam. You’re absolutely right. For me, coaching is about creating ideal environments in which good learning can take place. So the first thing that’s needed before we even get to skills or frameworks is a desire by the coach to support others to get better. So that’s, if we’ve got that then the skills and the framework, we’re just kind of adding a little bit to that’s the core thing. So for all the coaches, listening to this thank you for have bringing that which is you’d like to support others, to grow, to develop and to flourish. So three things I think are needed. One is a set of coaching skills. So that’s what I’ll just go through quickly now. The first skill is listening, but listening in a way that encourages thinking. So it’s high quality listening that when you’re coaching someone else they feel listened to and they feel valued. So that’s the key skill, listening to encourage thinking. The other thing is asking questions, powerful questions. Now of course, teachers and educators are gonna say we know how to ask questions, but in coaching the purpose of the questions, it’s a little bit different. Normally we ask questions because we want answers. But in coaching, we develop the skills of asking questions that provoke new thinking, so that’s another skill. So active listening, asking powerful questions. Now these other skills, paraphrasing and summarizing I think they’re underrated and I think the very important. So when we’re coaching somebody else, obviously we’re there. We’re listening to them, we’re asking questions, but paraphrasing and summarizing our key coaching skills because one paraphrasing and summarizing allows the coach to play back what they’ve heard. And often as you know, Adam that’s interesting to hear it back. Somebody saying to me, okay, so Christian what’s really important for you is student engagement. So that’s great for the coachee, the person being coached. But the other thing it does is it provides evidence to the person being coached that the coach has been listening. And that’s what I say about listening. It’s not enough to listen as a coach, you have to provide evidence. So what I’m looking for is the person being coached believes beyond reasonable doubt that the coach is really listening to them. So that’s what paraphrasing and summarizing are important. And the last one, this does relate to feedback, Adam and I know that’s something but your organization’s really interested in. I would say the skill of noticing is very important for coaches. So coaches need to notice what’s happening before they can give feedback, but also we need to notice what’s happening between the coach and the coachee. We need to notice, oh, you know what this person I’m coaching seems to be a little bit guarded or I need to notice that the person I’m coaching doesn’t really like to talk about this topic or I need to notice that they’ve got great strengths in something. So those are the key skills I would say of being an effective coach.

– It’s funny as I hear you describing this, I am mapping my role in this conversation and kind of identifying the constant tension I’m feeling by listening, wanting to ask you more and also battling that desire to ask the next question and suddenly realize, Hmm, this is very similar to the needs that you’re are describing. I hope that I can encourage thinking in this conversation, but at least I think I’m keying into that tension in a new way, even recognizing in just an everyday conversation that we’re inclined to just kind of steamroll forward as one side of the conversation to the next thing on our agenda. Unfortunately, we do need to steamroll a little bit here because we have limited time. So thank you for those kind of skills and those definitions. I think the next piece that you described are the frameworks for the coach. And, what do you mean by having a conversational framework? Is this as narrow as a kind of stepwise way to proceed through a conversation or are these kind of highlight themes that you should be looking to kind of light up as you’re working through a conversation as a coach?

– Great, well I like it to probably the second. I like the way you’ve presented that, making sure we touch on a number of things and the reason I’m pretty committed to this idea of the need to have conversational frameworks is because for me coaching is a conversation but it’s not just a conversation. Coaching is actually a managed conversation. So if we’re gonna manage anything, I would say we need to have a framework or a process. That’s what I’m arguing. I’m not saying we must rigidly follow it every time but what are the things we need to highlight? Like you said, first of all we need to know what is the desired outcome, because that’s what’s gonna motivate the person we’re coaching. So what is it that’s motivating them to have a conversation about change? So we would call that the goal, we start with the goal. Then the other thing we need to know is in relation to the goal, where are you now? What’s the current reality, if you like because that allows us to see the gap between where we want to be and where we are now, it’s a very important gap. That’s the area we need to be working in the gap between I’d like to be there and I’m here now. Of course, that takes a little bit of self awareness for me to know, this is what I’m hoping for and this is where I am now. And then the other two key stages are the option stage which is if that’s the gap and you want to make some progress what ideas do you have for moving towards that? So that’s the options. For me in coaching Adam, it’s important that all of these options come from the person we’re coaching, they need to come up with those because these are the people the people we’re coaching are the people who are gonna be doing the work. So I think it’s very helpful for them to generate their own ideas. And the final thing to highlight is gaining a commitment for one small step. So the end of the conversation would be, you’ve talked about all of these different options which one do you think is gonna be most successful and what are you gonna do before the next time we meet? And in my view Adam, coaching shouldn’t be one off conversations. Coaching should be followed up. So we’d have a conversation today for example, you set a goal, you say I’m gonna do this one thing. It’s very important that we meet again, just check in how did that go? Did you manage that? What’s the next step? So for me, coaching is a series of related conversations. So I think, once somebody has the inclination that they would like to support others, that’s what I mean by way of being supportive, curious, encouraging. But once we’ve got that I think it helps to have a conversational framework like the grow model or the growth process that we talk about on the one hand. And the other thing is a set of skills. These are just normal conversational skills but they’ve been honed for use in coaching.

– Well, Christian, that is a helpful introduction to how you think about coaching. We do need to take a short break. So we’re gonna pause here. If you have found this video shared on social media or maybe a colleague sent it to you via email and you’re curious what we talk about next make sure to head to for the rest of this conversation, as well as many more. Christian thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you.