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Learning from Learners' Learning

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When attending coaching courses, or completing a formal qualification, there’s generally someone else nudging us to learn new things. We’ve got to try things out in practice and maybe even do things that we’d prefer we didn’t have to – to help us develop as a coach but also, so we meet the demands of the qualification.

But what happens when the course is over? More often than not we go back to the comfort of our own club or setting, and do what we did before (but hopefully somewhat better, with a greater depth of knowledge and application). But certainly in the safe surroundings we’re used to.

However, consider the demands we place on players (and students) – the expectation that they should be hungry to learn, willing to take risks and find ways to challenge themselves to get better – do we actually address our own ongoing development as a coach in the same way?

I’m a firm believer in practicing what you preach – whether that’s as a coach working with players or a teacher working with student-coaches. When we watch these students coach, what do we want it to look like, feel like, sound like - and how can I model that in every session in my teaching with them, whether that’s on the pitch or in the classroom? 

Because if I don’t approach teaching them in that way, am I really in a position to comment on a student-coach’s autocratic delivery style, or to challenge their attempts to engage players in their session if in my own teaching of these students I’ve paid little attention to those same points!?

As you can imagine, it certainly doesn’t always go to plan, but the intention to respect them, engage them and connect with their ‘why’ is omnipresent.  And whether its gone well or badly, I’ll always reflect on why.

I’m incredibly grateful for these interactions with students-coaches.  It continually challenges me to consider my practice and reflect on what works and why. 

And then there are the light bulb moments – when it clicks and makes sense; when they find a different solution to a problem; when they realise that the answer isn’t black or white, and there’s not necessarily a ‘right way’ of doing something; when they begin to question their beliefs and assumptions and what that means for them as a coach.

These are great for the students, but equally are great learning opportunities for me as a coach / teacher to unpack the learning environment and see what role it may (or may not) have played in these important moments.

So recently, when a number of students share that they’ve begun to have a shift in their thinking, and are starting to really question what coaching means to them, resulting in changes in how they coach – I definitely want to understand the contributing factors to this to hopefully make it happen more often!

In this instance, an important trigger appeared to be a recent assessment activity.  An assessment that many of them expressed that they didn’t want to do, yet resulted in the students gaining valuable insights for developing their coaching.  In essence it encouraged students to do the following things:

- step outside of your comfort zone

- collaborate: support each other

- collaborate: innovate together

- be brave – try new approaches

- be curious - question why things worked, didn’t work, why you do things the way you do

- challenge assumptions

- celebrate new insights

Gary Klein discusses how performance improvement happens by decreasing errors and increasing insights – the light bulb moments.  He did a great TEDtalk on insights and how to increase the likelihood of insights occurring (watch it here).  Reflecting on this recent assessment, it sits nicely with some of his advice, potentially enabling students to have more insights in to what worked and why.

Seeing What Others Don't (Klein, 2013)

So, thinking back to my own ongoing development as a coach (and teacher), what can I learn from this? 

Klein’s advice centred around being curious and challenging assumptions.  Well, I’m certainly curious and reflective – and although I probably spend way too much time thinking about all sorts, this undoubtedly informs my coaching.  In fact, in the process of writing this post I’ve started to question my understanding and application of a framework which I frequently use…

Similarly, I definitely feel the benefit of collaborating and taking time to talk with colleagues and other coaches – this community of practice type approach is really beneficial with sense making, innovating and challenging assumptions – but would be better if it happened more often.

However, one part of the students’ experience that I don’t think Klein’s talk highlights is willingness to put yourself outside of your comfort zone – to take risks which might challenge or even scare you, but may bring about a different way of seeing things or new insights.  I think the change of environment was key in kick starting the process.   I’m not sure how often I put myself in a new context with my coaching or teaching which takes me out of my comfort zone… something to consider.

And finally, I love the notion of celebrating new insights, even if its just a little smile to myself to acknowledge that my thinking is evolving smile

If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.

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Comments (7)

   
liammccarthy16
Thank you for sharing this Krissi Paterson - these reflections resonate, although i couldn't put it as well as you have. I love the idea of celebrating new insights. I think developing curiosity as a first step before introducing ideas (to students in my context, anyway) is crucial to their long-term learning and engagement. Rewarding that curiosity important, too. Another great read!
22/02/16
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Quiet1
Thanks, Liam. I really like Klein's way of looking at creating insights. And for me, discovering what helps players / learners learn is really valuable for me to reflect on how I could try out those same things in own practice. Too easy to get stuck in a way of doing something, without really reflecting whether its any good!
22/02/16
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JonWoodward74
Excellent post Krissi and links into #LoveLearning promotion..... Klein's thinking is certainly informing my own thinking, both as a coach and a coach educator. I feel the impact of collaboration is key to learning (isn't that we are doing here?!?!) and the 'risk' of tring something new, for me, underpins everything we do. Risk and Failure breeds success and development. I often use the example that as children we learn how to walk by falling down (simplified!) and you learn what doesn't work by trying new things and gaining experience. Innovation is key!!
25/02/16
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CatherineBaker
Great article and comments. Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes that we use in our business 'The comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.'! Some really key themes being picked up in this discussion: how you need to get into the 'stretch' zone to continuously improve; how critical feedback is to learning and development; the best way to encourage insights (two areas of particular relevance here - your own brain, plus the importance of 'wildcards'. Starting with your own brain, ask yourself where you tend to have your moments of insights/breakthrough thinking? For some people it's the shower, for others the commute, for me it's when I go for a run - lots around how your brain makes different connections in different settings. As to the wildcard, I was recently brought into a big meeting, with people who had been working on a really important project for a long time, and who were very immersed in the details. My remit was around behavioural change, but I also acted as the 'wildcard'. Someone who can look at something with an entirely fresh pair of eyes, who has not been swimming amongst the facts, figures, and agreed way of doing things, and so can look at a problem entirely differently. This can have a huge impact in terms of a new insight into how to take things forward.); and of course the growth mindset theme that has been picked up (Jon - love the reference to walking - we use that and learning to ride a bike when trying to explain the key take home points from Carol Dweck's research and the huge body of work that has built up around application of the growth mindset). Thank you all!
25/02/16
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Arulanandam
David Arulanandam said:
This is absolutely brilliant article. I am a firm believer of continuous learning and that is the only way I could develop my self as coach and also continue be useful to my students and deliver my objectives. Even if everything goes well at times, still there are areas that we could improve and deliver better results. Thank you for sharing this thoughts and comments.
David
26/02/16
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andrewb62
Krissi (and the "commentary team") - thanks for this post. It has certainly set me thinking!

You write "I’m not sure how often I put myself in a new context with my coaching or teaching which takes me out of my comfort zone" - perhaps Klein has a suggestion on this, as well.

One of his tools for developing a questioning mindset is to encourage others, effectively to pick their brains. I coach groups of 3-5 year olds. Even at this age (especially at this age), I will ask questions to check for understanding; and they never cease to amaze me with their perspectives on what I have asked them to do, or what they could do instead.

New contexts, from way outside my comfort zone (no, we won't be climbing the nets or rolling along the hall, as suggested when I asked about different movement skills...).

It works with senior players in 1-2-1s, as well - they might have understood an instruction differently to the way I had intended, or just have a better idea!

Going forward, I shall try to make CfU a two-way learning process.
28/02/16
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Quiet1
Thanks everyone for your comments and ideas around this. Its really valuable to hear them, and just keeps kindling the curiosity flame :)))
02/03/16
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