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Contextual coaching: levering and leading school improvement through collaborative professionalism

Trista Hollweck (Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
Rachel M. Lofthouse (Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education

ISSN: 2046-6854

Article publication date: 16 August 2021

Issue publication date: 13 December 2021




The research examines how contextual coaching (Gorrell and Hoover, 2009; Valentine, 2019) can act as a lever to build collaborative professionalism (Hargreaves and O'Connor, 2018) and lead to school improvement.


The multi-case study (Stake, 2013) draws on two bespoke examples of contextual coaching in education and uses the ten tenets of collaborative professionalism as a conceptual framework for its abductive analysis. Data from both cases were collected through interviews, focus groups and documentation.


The findings demonstrate that effective contextual coaching leads to conditions underpinning school improvement. Specifically, there are patterns of alignment with the ten tenets of collaborative professionalism. Whereas contextual coaching is found on four of these tenets (mutual dialogue, joint work, collective responsibility and collaborative inquiry), in more mature coaching programmes, three others (collective autonomy, initiative and efficacy) emerge. There is also evidence that opportunities exist for contextual coaching to be further aligned with the remaining three tenets. The study offers insight into how school improvement can be realized by the development of staff capacity for teacher leadership through contextual coaching.

Research limitations/implications

The impact of coaching in education is enhanced by recognizing the importance of context and the value of iterative design and co-construction.

Practical implications

The principles of contextual coaching are generalizable, but models must be developed to be bespoke and to align with each setting. Collaborative professionalism offers a useful framework to better design and implement contextual coaching programmes.


The research introduces contextual coaching in education, and how coaching can enhance collaborative professionalism in schools.



This study was supported by the Gordon Kirk memorial travel scholarship funded by UCET (Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers).


Hollweck, T. and Lofthouse, R.M. (2021), "Contextual coaching: levering and leading school improvement through collaborative professionalism", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 399-417.



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