Posts Tagged ‘questioning’

Taking on a leadership role this autumn? (Part 1)

August 7, 2012

Whether you’re taking on a new curriculum area, a key stage responsibility, leading a specific project, becoming head of department, assistant head, deputy head, or head this autumn, you’ll no doubt have already started thinking about (if not planning too) what you’ll be doing.

So how will you ensure a successful start?

Whatever role you are taking on, there are 3 key things that I believe will help to ensure you make a successful start. This blog looks at the first one.

1. Clarity

Making a good start involves having clarity from the knowledge of what’s expected of you. The number of senior leaders I’ve worked with over the last few years who have had that clarity about their leadership role have been outweighed by those who haven’t. In the hussle and bussle of school life, where everyone has their own list of jobs, it’s easy to assume that colleagues and team members know exactly what is expected of them.

So, some key questions to consider …

  • How clear are you about your new role?
  • How clear are others about your role?
  • Do you have a job/role description?
  • If this is generic, where can you get further clarity about what is expected of you by all stakeholders?

If you have some flexibility with the role, and can mould or create it as you see fit,  identify what you want to achieve … for yourself, the year group, key stage, curriculum, the school … and set yourself some goals for the year. Then break these down into manageable chunks for each term. Ensure you are clear about what a successful year/term will involve.

  • What do you need to do?
  • What do you need others to do?

Linked to this is setting the success criteria. What will a successful start look, feel and sound like. Identify these from the start, then you know what you’re aiming for, and there is less chance for misunderstandings and disappointment further down the line.

Finally – being really clear about your leadership role will be time-saving in the long run. It will reduce the time spent re-doing things, smoothing over misunderstandings and spending time doing things you didn’t need to do in the first place!

Part 2 looks at communication. In the meantime I’d welcome your comments on this topic 🙂


Asking great questions!

February 9, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 9

Continuing the coaching theme for International Coaching Week, today’s blog discusses the benefits of questioning.

What makes a really great question?

Short answer: That would depend on the person being asked and the context.

Longer answer: Great questions

  • come from a place of understanding (from listening)
  • challenge the person being asked (in a supportive way)
  • elicit learning from the recipient
  • can consolidate and clarify
  • create those “Wow, I never realised that about myself” moments

Whether you’re a team leader or manager coaching a team member, peer coaching, or an external coach with your client, asking the right questions is part of the recipe for coaching success.

Usually, you know when you’ve asked a great question because it will result in:

  • a sustained period of comfortable silence – because you’ve made the person think
  • a response of “that’s a good/great question!” (It does happen!)
  • sharing of some new pertinent information, which helps the person make progress

So what have been really great questions you’ve asked your co-workers, team members, etc?

I think it can be hard to answer this without the additional background that puts them in the appropriate context. However, here are a few I’ve had success with ….

1. How do you know?

2. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

3. What’s stopped you doing more than you’ve done so far?

4. If you were an expert in this area, what would you do now?

5. What would make an excellent next question to move you forward?

6. What else?

Often the simplest ones are the best!

This is not an exhaustive list because I’m inviting lots of suggestions from you! So please add to the ones above using the comments box below. Thanks.

Also, I’d love to hear about the impact the questions had on the person being coached (or mentored).

(Photo courtesy of jscreationzs)

Coaching for Kids – Part 2

November 18, 2010

In this blog, I continue where I left off in Part 1 and look at exploring targets further for maximum benefit.

So you’ve set the target with the child, what’s next?

Part 2 – Exploring targets

I remember setting maths targets with my Y5s. My general policy would be to have their targets in their maths books (or on cards on their tables). I would periodically remind them of these, or tell them at the beginning of a lesson that we would be focusing on their targets, when relevant. I would also use opportunities during 1-1 dialogue to see how they were progressing with the targets. Letters would also go home to parents to inform them of the targets, and when they’d been achieved, along with a suitable celebratory certificate!

Knowing what I know now, I don’t think I went far enough in helping the children work towards their targets. Today, when I work with children on their targets I am reminded of the quote: “A goal properly set is half-way reached” (Abraham Lincoln). So how can we help children explore their targets more fully to give them the best chance of achieving them?

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Ask them to say what they think their target means

Giving them an opportunity to put it in their own language not only helps you understand their perspective of the target, and eliminate any misunderstandings, but helps them take more ownership of it.

2. Break their target into smaller chunks

For example: Target “To learn the 6 times table”

Step 1: Learn half the multiplication facts (let the child choose which ones!)

Step 2: Learn the remaining half

Step 3: Learn half the corresponding division facts (discussing links between the two)

Step 4: Learn the remaining division facts

Of course, Steps 2 and 3 can be interchanged, and this is only my example. You may have your own way of teaching the various multiplication/division facts. The point is to make the targets easier to learn and less daunting (depending on the size of them!)

3. Set suitable time scales

This is closely linked to step 2 and needs to be expressed in appropriate ‘time’ language for their age group.

If their target is for the term, for example, after breaking it down into smaller chunks, link these to specific time frames.

4. What resources / support do they need

Ask the child what they can already do / what they already know that will help them work towards their target. Follow this up with asking what else would help them achieve their target. It might be about having some specific resources, a friend to help (e.g. with a behaviour-related target), opportunities in lessons to practice / showcase their developing skill, or something else.

5. Identify rewards / incentives

Ask them to think about a suitable reward for achieving their target. Would a certificate be a good idea? A letter to their parents? Extra time on their favourite PC program?

For example: Whilst presenting certificates in assembly is good to highlight success, it may not hit the mark for every child. Some may be daunted by the attention and prefer some ‘quieter celebration’.

Part 3 will focus on monitoring targets.

If you’ve tried any of the ideas in this blog or Part 1, I’d love to hear about them.

Coaching for Kids – Part 1

October 5, 2010

To mark the start of my daily “Coaching 4 kids” tips on Twitter, I’m combining these with a set of blogs on the topic of using coaching with children.

Being a coach with a background in education, I guess you could say it’s a natural step to be interested in how using coaching skills can help children in school. Following a recent pilot study to explore this further, results have been positive. These blog posts will share and discuss these further.

Part 1 – Setting Targets

Coaching in schools lends itself very nicely to helping pupils work towards their individual targets, whether these be SEN targets, linked to IEPs, or core subject targets linked to raising attainment. As coaching is about empowering the ‘coachee’ (in this case the child) to be accountable for their own development, it’s useful to encourage the child to take ownership of the target. So if you’ve set the target, you could encourage ownership by getting the child to see the personal benefits for them:

  • how will achieving this target help you?
  • when you reach this target, what will you be able to do (better)?

… And encourage them to see the wider picture….

  • what else will you be able to do as a result?
  • what other positive things could this mean for you?

Try to keep the questions broad and not too leading. There may be some little gems of information you can get on areas of development / self-reflection you hadn’t realised were going on for the child … as I happily discovered during my pilot study research! (More of this in a separate blog.)

If you want the child to set their own targets (for a given area), some questions you could ask include:

  • So what do you want?
  • What would be a good target for (maths/your behaviour) which would help you?
  • What would be a good thing to aim for? (in the context of a conversation on a particular area)
  • If you could pick a really great target to work on, to help with your (literacy/spellings), what would that be?

Ensure the targets are positively worded; focus on what they want, rather than what they don’t want. (You get what you focus on, so make sure it’s positive!)

Part 2 will focus on exploring the targets further for maximum benefit.

As usual, I’d love to hear about your experiences with the topics I talk about, so if you’ve got some experience with using coaching in school with children, or have any comments/questions about this blog, please get in touch.