Should coaching focus firstly on beliefs or behaviour?

Beliefs or behaviour? The Ying and Yang of Coaching

Do good coaches focus first on helping their clients behave differently or on helping them to evaluate, and possibly change, their beliefs?

Some recent research has shown that coaching changes teaching practices without changing teachers’ beliefs;
“Implementing instructional coaching using a partnership philosophy model to train teachers in reading skills.”[1]

The researchers studied the impact of coaching teachers of English as a foreign language in the inclusion of reading practices in their work.

TEFLs are thought to have previously used reading too little in their lessons, but following coaching they have shown a significant increase in its use. However, intriguingly, their beliefs about the relative value of reading in foreign language teaching have not changed.

Of course, there are many possible explanations of this result. While some people (and therefore by implication some coaches) believe that our behaviour is driven by our beliefs, others would suggest that changing behaviour is relatively easy, whereas changing beliefs requires fresh evidence, and in this case that evidence (the students’ success) has yet to be witnessed by the teachers. It will be interesting to see whether this cohort of teachers is followed up in due course to see if their beliefs have subsequently changed.

To me the research raises some important questions for coaches to reflect on about our own beliefs and the evidence to support them, our approach with clients – especially those of us with a therapeutic orientation – and whether we place too much emphasis on getting clients to adjust their belief systems rather than implementing change in behaviour first.

Best wishes

[1] Submitted by Mariuxi Karina Briones Huayamave and Maria Rossana Ramírez Ávila as a joint Masters’ thesis to the University of Equador, Department of Superior Education.

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