The secret of Coaching!
That’s a bold statement, isn’t it?
Perhaps the single biggest factor that makes coaching successful is not the coach- we knew this. But it’s also not the coachee. It is instead a common skill, both need. That skill or ability is known in simple terms as Reflection and in more complicated terms Psychological mindedness.
In this article we explore reflection.
The coach needs this to evoke meaningful insights and the coachee need it to delve deeper into his/her thinking.
This way the coachee can table deeper matters, beyond symptoms, with the coach and the coach can listen to the feelings behind the words.
Fortunately for us, there have been some evolutionary thinking on the subject. I present a brief below:
· John Dewey is thought to be the founder of reflection as it relates to personal learning. Dewey highlighted that reflection in a learning context is not just a passive recall of an event. Reflection is a deliberate and active process. It is about thinking to learn. In Dewey’s words, it is an “active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and further conclusions to which it leads” (Dewey 1933 pg. 118).
Dewey believed that reflection could be really useful for making sense of situations or events that we found puzzling or hard to explain. He suggested that reflection for learning should include recalling the event and then posing questions to explore why things turned out the way they did and what possible actions could have given a different outcome.
Since Dewey’s initial work a variety of models have been proposed to capture the components of reflection within learning.
· Donald Schön built on Dewey’s work and linked reflection more solidly to professional development and professional practice. Schön claimed that by using reflection, practitioners can make explicit, hidden (tacit) knowledge.
In his book, “The reflective Practioner” he says,
“Once we put aside the model of Technical Rationality which leads us to think of intelligent practice as an application of knowledge to instrumental decisions, there is nothing strange about the idea that a kind of knowing is inherent in intelligent action… it does not stretch common sense very much to say that the know-how is in the action – that a tight-rope walker’s know-how, for example, lies in and is revealed by, the way he takes his trip across the wire… There is nothing in common sense to make us say that the know-how consists in rules or plans which we entertain in the mind prior to action”
· Kolb and Fry (1975) looked at the constituent parts of reflection and from these, created a learning cycle framework. Kolb identified four parts to the learning cycle. To make Kolb’s model more understandable, Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell (2001) simplified the terminology.
Both Schön and, in the main, Dewey tend to ignore the effect of emotions when considering reflection. Schön’s theory is seen as being more concerned with professional practice and the development of the expert practitioner. Kolb’s theory has also been criticized as being too theoretical and not acknowledging the effect of feelings.
· Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985) challenge this assumption. They assert that for reflection to be a valid way of learning, the emotions that are associated with event must be taken into account (e.g. fear, panic hesitation, calm or elation). They also highlighted that emotions can influence the way in which individuals recall events. Strong emotions may skew the way events are interpreted or indeed what part of an event is concentrated upon during reflection. By ignoring the impact of emotion, learning from reflection may be an incomplete process.
The international coaching federation (ICF), recognizes the importance of reflection and has these recommendations at the link below.
In the next article, we delve a little beyond reflection and into psychological mindedness.