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Extra Credit: Building a Coaching Culture at Isikkent Schools

January 13, 2014 • BUSINESS & INNOVATION, SPECIAL FEATURES, Unprotected Post

A growing number of schools are using coaching to enhance teachers’ abilities to implement curriculum, manage their classrooms, and communicate effectively with students, parents and one another. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the leading global organisation for coaches, and this article explores how the ICF helped Turkey’s Isikkent Schools to lay the groundwork for a program that went on to impact the lives of everyone affiliated with the Isikkent community.

The administrators, teachers, students and parents affiliated with Turkey’s Isikkent Schools take pride in being part of a learning community that stands out from the crowd.

Established in 1998 within a nonprofit foundation, Isikkent Schools provide a unique learning environment that brings students ranging from preschool through grade 12 together on one campus—an organisational model seen infrequently in Turkey. Isikkent is also set apart by its mission: In a nation where most students are taught to measure their success and learning by their exam scores, Isikkent’s teachers and administrators pride themselves on educating young people holistically. With a creative, inquiry-based approach to teaching; a high premium on global citizenship; and a commitment to ethical speech and behavior, Isikkent Schools strive to develop young people into highly motivated, self-aware and thoughtful adults passionate about lifelong learning. Given the desire of Isikkent’s leaders to innovate in service of student development, it’s no surprise that the school joined Turkey’s coaching movement in 2008, at its very onset.


Adding Coaching to the Curriculum

The application of coaching in the educational setting is nothing new: Since the 1990s, coaching has been a key component of many schools’ faculty-development plans. In addition to contracting Leadership Coaches and Executive Coaches to support the growth and development of administrators, a growing number of schools are using coaching and coach-skills training to enhance teachers’ abilities to implement curriculum, manage their classrooms, and communicate effectively with students, parents and one another. An extensive body of research on Educational Coaching shows that coaching empowers teachers to understand and implement new instructional practices and strategies, in turn resulting in heightened student engagement. However, the leaders who spearheaded Isikkent’s innovative program wanted to extend coaching’s impacts beyond administrators and teachers, instead laying the groundwork for a program that went on to impact the lives of everyone affiliated with the Isikkent community. Today, coaching at Isikkent is more than just a student- or faculty-development service: It is the foundation of the learning community’s culture.

The application of coaching in the educational setting is nothing new: Since the 1990s, coaching has been a key component of many schools’ faculty-development plans.
In recognition of Isikkent’s exceptional use of coaching, the International Coach Federation (ICF) awarded the school the 2013 ICF International Prism Award. The Prism Award honors organisations that have achieved the highest standard of excellence in the implementation of coaching programs fulfilling rigorous professional standards, addressing key strategic goals, shaping organisational culture, and yielding discernible and measureable positive impacts. (Learn more about the award at Coachfederation.org/prism.)

Implementing a professional coaching program demands significant buy-in from an organisation’s leadership, as well as the willingness of individuals at all levels to invest substantial time and funding. Members of the Isikkent community were more than ready to make this investment, with highly supportive administrators allocating 24 percent of the school’s professional development budget for coach training for teachers. In 2009, school leaders contracted an ICF Credential-holder and an ICF-accredited training program to provide training and Mentor Coaching. All teachers participated in a two-day-long induction course that introduced them to the ICF Code of Ethics and Core Competencies and addressed several coaching skills applicable to their work in the classroom. At the conclusion of the induction course, interested teachers were given the opportunity to enroll in a full coach-training program. More than 40 teachers took advantage of this professional-development opportunity.

Isikkent’s coaching committee, established by coach-teachers in the school’s first graduating coach-training class, helped develop an infrastructure for the program. In addition to adapting the ICF Code of Ethics to form a cornerstone of the school’s culture, committee members revised commonly used coaching questions to suit different age groups. The coach-teachers collaborated with members of Isikkent’s information technology department to develop an electronic coaching log that they could use to document their coaching sessions while ensuring 100-percent confidentiality, and they also developed an initiative to market coaching to Isikkent students, teachers and parents, ensuring that it would be perceived as a positive—not remedial—intervention from the outset. As a result, when Isikkent’s corps of coach-teachers began providing services, they did so with the full buy-in of the school community.

 

 

Coaching is available to anyone in the school community who requests it. The program is closely aligned with Isikkent’s guidance services, and with a parent’s permission, students are encouraged to schedule sessions with coach-teachers. Topics covered during coaching engagements have included goal-setting, planning for the future, interpersonal communication and conflict resolution. The coach-teachers also coach Isikkent teachers and parents on a voluntary basis. Additionally, six coach-teachers are trained to administer Parent Effectiveness Training with an eye toward developing “coach-like parents” who are skillful at giving feedback, listening actively and asking powerful questions.

All of Isikkent’s teachers and support staff have completed several hours of coach-specific training in order to better understand and support the school’s coaching culture, and coach training is integrated into Isikkent’s new-teacher orientation. They’re encouraged to apply their coaching skills to interactions with students, parents and colleagues.


Proof in the Numbers

Isikkent’s leaders say their investment in coaching has paid off, with impacts that have exceeded their expectations. Students who have received coaching report improvements in their conflict-resolution abilities, capacity for setting and reaching goals, and cooperation and communication with peers. Teachers who have sought coaching provide similarly positive feedback about the experience, citing enhanced communication with students and parents and improved goal-setting abilities as benefits of coaching. Meanwhile, the parents who have learned coaching skills through Parent Effectiveness Training report that, as a result of the program, they’re more able to articulate their needs to their children, more inclined to resolve conflicts with their children through compromise, and more likely to approach conflict with an eye toward protecting the relationship (versus “resolving problems the way I like”).

Students who have received coaching report improvements in conflict-resolution abilities, capacity for setting and reaching goals, and cooperation and communication with peers.
Disciplinary problems in Isikkent’s middle and high schools have declined sharply since the introduction of coaching. In the 2008-’09 academic year, the middle school reported carrying out disciplinary actions against approximately 16 percent of the student population. In the high school, administrators reported disciplinary action against 26.5 percent of the student population. By the close of the 2012-’13 school year, however, these averages had fallen to 2.08 percent and 4.74 percent, respectively.

Isikkent’s coaching culture has brought the school closer to its goal of achieving International Baccalaureate accreditation by fostering traits aligned with the IB Learner Profile, such as curiosity, open-mindedness and compassion. It has also empowered students to achieve their own goals for the future, with a whopping 94.1 percent of students in Isikkent’s 2013 graduating class earning admission to one of their top-5 university choices and 70.6 percent of students gaining acceptance to their first-choice school.

Isikkent’s leaders also point to the school’s enrollment numbers as quantitative evidence of the impact that coaching is having on the school’s culture. Enrollment has climbed steadily since Isikkent’s coaching program launched in 2009. At that time, Isikkent reported an enrollment of 544 across the Early Learning Center and primary, middle and high schools. By the beginning of the 2013 – ’14 academic year, schoolwide enrollment had increased by nearly 50 percent, to 802.

All of Isikkent’s teachers and support staff have completed several hours of coach-specific training in order to better understand and support the school’s coaching culture.
Today, Isikkent Schools provide the benchmark that many organisations in Turkey are measuring themselves by as they strive to construct coaching programs that are standards-based, highly impactful and sustainable over time. School leaders have told Isikkent’s story at events for human-resources professionals and shared their expertise with colleagues from institutions across the country.


Following Their Lead

Are you ready to lay the groundwork for a high-impact coaching program within your organisation? If so, the ICF is ready to help with a host of resources to support organisations of all sizes in building a coaching culture.

Visit ICF’s “Need Coaching?” resource at Coachfederation.org/need. This information-packed booklet will help make the case for coaching to decision-makers in your organisation with a concise explanation of what coaching is (and what it isn’t), and a host of compelling data showing that, in organisations of all sizes and across all sectors, coaching works.

The ICF recommends educating yourself and your colleagues about coaching. The ICF regularly conducts and publishes cutting-edge research on the coaching industry. Details of our most-recent studies can be found at Coachfederation.org/research. Meanwhile, the ICF Research Portal hosts coaching-research articles and case studies from around the world. Visit the portal at Coachfederation.org/portal.

 

 

Considering hiring a cadre of external coaches? According to the 2010 ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study, clients who partner with ICF-Credentialed coaches are more likely to be satisfied with their coaching experience and more likely to recommend coaching to others. Possession of an ICF Credential further signals a coach’s dedication to education and continuous professional development. More than 10,000 individuals worldwide hold an ICF Credential, distinguishing them as consummate professionals who have fulfilled stringent education and experience requirements, including completing coach-specific training, logging a set number of experience hours, and partnering with a Mentor Coach. You can begin the search for an ICF-Credentialed coach with the ICF Coach Referral Service (Coachfederation.org/crs), a free, searchable online directory of all ICF Credential-holders.

To ensure that their coach-teachers received training aligned with the ICF’s definition of coaching, Code of Ethics and Core Competencies, Isikkent Schools enrolled them in an ICF-accredited training program. To provide the same competitive edge for your organisation’s internal coaches, locate a suitable program using ICF’s Training Program Search Service (Coachfederation.org/tpss). This free, searchable online directory will connect you with face-to-face and distance-learning options around the world that boast the ICF seal of approval.

**All photos Courtesy Isikkent Schools

About ICF

The International Coach Federation(ICF) is the leading global organisation for coaches, with more than 20,000 members and 10,000 credentialed coaches in more than 100 countries worldwide. ICF is dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. Coaching is a distinct service and differs greatly from therapy, consulting, mentoring or training. ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. For more information, please visit our website at Coachfederation.org, call ICF Global Headquarters at +1.859.219.3580, or email us at [email protected]

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