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Differentiated coaching: developmental needs of coachees

Andrea Gallant (School of Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Virginnia Gilham (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education

ISSN: 2046-6854

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to focus on teacher coachees’ perceptions of why some coaching goals (selected by coaches or coachees) were more achievable than others and how this knowledge might advance a coaching culture that has the potential for sustainable improvements to teaching and learning.


As educators, the authors took a constructivist approach to grounded theory because the authors believe learning is socially constructed. The relationship between coach and coachees is underpinned by their constructed meanings and co-constructed learning. constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 1996) requires researchers not to start with a theory or hypothesis but to engage with data in a manner (coding, categorising, theorising) that allows for a theoretical understanding to emerge. In total, 22 teacher coachees from one school participated in this research. They were asked to complete an online questionnaire about their coaching experiences, speculating about why some goals (related to improving student reading, writing, speaking and listening, and math) were more achievable than others. One of the researchers had been a coach in the school, but not at the time of the research. Nonetheless online questionnaires were used as they offered teacher coachees anonymity to share their lived experiences (Charmaz, 2006). This data collection method also assisted in limiting accidental leading by an interviewer (Charmaz, 2006).


The investigation into longitudinal coaching (one to six years) indicated how coachees positioned themselves or peers, when reflecting on and seeking to establish why some coaching goals were more achievable than others. Coachees clustered around one of the following themes: Pragmatic I, Pragmatic We, Student Driven, Team Driven, Data Driven, Research Driven. Theorising within and across themes highlighted that while coachees shared the same concerns, they differed in terms of how much they each focused on them. This allowed the authors to gauge the intensity of the concern (dominate, moderate or slight) for each participant. Notwithstanding the overlap, the seventh theme (temporality) serendipitously aligned with their exposure to coaching. Differentiated models of coaching appears to be a way to establish a coaching culture as multiple models could be responsive to divergent coachees’ learning needs. In doing so it is more likely to support sustainable improvements in teaching and learning.

Research limitations/implications

The sample size (n=22) was appropriate for an in-depth analysis which allowed an understanding of coaching from the coachees’ first-hand experiences although it does limit generalisability. Another limitation is that coachees were not asked about teaching experience, hence the relationship between years of teaching and coaching exposure was not analysed. This is something that the authors feel now needs to be included in further research. Implications of the findings are that instructional coaches within schools may need to be more cognisant of the developmental stages and therefore differentiated needs of teacher coachees. This is particularly so if the aim is to promote sustainable pedagogical improvement.


This is a case study of the effects of longitudinal coaching (one to six years) in a school where all teachers are involved in being coached.



Gallant, A. and Gilham, V. (2014), "Differentiated coaching: developmental needs of coachees", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 237-254.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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