Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Coaching effectiveness - what do we know...

how can teaching and learning literature contribute to enhanced coaching effectiveness
I'm not sure if I am out of the loop, but over my years as a coach of adolescent cross country skiers, I have not come across a great deal of literature about what aspects of coaching contribute most to athlete learning and achievement.  If you can point me in that direction, I would appreciate it.  You see I have worked for a number of years in the education world.  In the Teaching world, professional learning networks are the norm - particularly on Twitter, which is probably the single most used and highly effective teacher professional development tool in existence.  I know that there are a ton of athletes who use twitter to update followers on their travels, but I have yet to find a network of connected cross country ski coaches who use twitter to share out their ideas, reflections, and best practices through their blogs or tweets.  If it exists, I sure would appreciate you connecting me to it.  Please message me @RoyStrum on Twitter if you want to connect as a ski coach in this manner.  I am game as I have professionally benefitted so much from my professional learning network in my world as a phys ed teacher.
The real aim of this blog post is to share out some reading I have been doing from an education researcher from New Zealand, John Hattie.  In my work in the Calgary Board of Education, Hattie is the latest rage - everyone is reading his work and applying his findings to their professional practice.  Why - because his work is based on a meta-analysis of thosands of education research studies on student achievement.  As I have been reading Hattie's book - Visible Learning - I have constantly been thinking about my work as a coach of adolescent cross country skiers and ways that I can apply Hatties ideas about advancing achievement to my work as a coach.
Hattie identifies teachers as a major influence on student achievement.  Not that all teachers are effective or are experts or have a powerful effect on students - but that some teachers undertaking certain acts with appropriately challenging curricula and who show students what the learning outcome is very clearly have a powerful effect.  Some of the major contributions that effective teachers have on student learning are:
  •  quality of teaching as perceived by the students - students can pick out the teachers who focus on cognitive engagement with the content and who help students develop a way of thinking and reasoning that fits for the context.  This is completely relevant to coaching - coaches who can enage athletes in thinking about skill acquisition and developing understandings that can be applied in the contexts of being a ski racer are more effective in helping young athletes become better skiers.
  • teacher expectations - having high expectations of athletes' success is a self fulfilling prophecy in much the same way as having low expectations of athletes' success.
  • teachers' conceptions of teaching, learning, assessment and students - this relates to coaches' views on whether all young athletes can progress and whether achievement is changeable or fixed and whether progress is understood and articulated by coaches.
  • teachers' openess - this relates to whether coaches are prepared to be surprised.
  • classroom climate- this refers to having a warm socio-emotional climate at practices where errors are not only tolerated but welcomed.
  • a focus on teacher clarity in articulating success criteria and achievements - this relates to the degree to which coaches identify success criteria in skill development and athlete development.
  • the fostering of effort - probably one of the single most important coaching influences - how much do you foster and champion effort instead of outcomes.  Who gets the recognition in your club, the kid who stands on the podium or every kid who demonstrates effort?
  • the engagement of all students - great coaches focus on all young athletes equally, regardless of initial ability.  Every adolescent cross country skier can improve with the right type of coaching interventions.
I get excited when I read stimulating books or listen to the stories of folks who have worked hard to achieve something worthwhile.  My practice as a coach is altered by this type of learning.  I would like to find more coaches interested in sharing their practice and their ideas.  You can follow me on Twitter at @RoyStrum - I look forward to connecting with you.
Roy Strum
Canmore, AB

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