Using coaching to reflect on teaching

Earlier this year I was, as usual, feeling very busy with teaching, marking, meetings and other stuff and I was concerned that I was not being as innovative as I could be in the teaching of the modules I am responsible for. I felt I needed a very slight reboot of some kind but felt too busy to think about how I could do that.

I then saw, applied for and was lucky to receive a LEaD Fellowship Grant, giving me £1000 worth of coaching from an external and experienced coach. I met with someone from LEaD who explored what I wanted to achieve through coaching and was then matched to a coach LEaD has worked with before, Linda Carter.  We had an initial telephone conversation and then I met with her three times between February and May 2016, for around an hour and half each time, with some activities or actions to start or complete in between sessions.

Before the first session, Linda asked me to redo my Myers Briggs Type Indicator; I last did the MBTI about 9 years ago and I was only slightly surprised to see that there had been some minor changes to my type, for example my introversion and extroversion scores were equal whereas I used to score more highly on the extrovert index. We talked about this in the first session, and about how I was feeling generally about my teaching and my career aspirations. I said earlier that I felt I needed a bit of a reboot of some kind and Linda and I explored this and how I could go about reflecting on my teaching in a positive and constructive way.

Between coaching sessions I thought through some of the modules I lead and paid attention to teaching sessions when I felt something other than competent or confident. I jointly lead and teach on a couple of modules and on one occasion I noted that I was focusing on getting the material we wanted to deal with in the session covered while my colleague felt it was fine for students to take a little longer than planned on groupwork. I noted how anxious that made me feel (when were we going to cover the other stuff?!), and how different that was to how I usually feel about teaching (mostly comfortable and relaxed). I reflected on this and discussed my feelings with Linda and then my teaching colleague and feel I reached an explanation of sorts. The module in question was new to me (as was the programme and the type of student), and without the experience of having taught the module before, knowing what to expect in terms of student needs and the timing of classes, feeling uncertain should not have been surprising. I realised that there are a number of scenarios in my life as a teacher in which I feel less relaxed: material that is new to me, a group with whom I feel unfamiliar, or working with someone for the first time, where I tend to concentrate on the task rather than follow my instincts as a teacher. Just understanding this is what I sometimes do, and being able to explore the resultant thoughts and feelings with someone external to the university, has been incredibly helpful. I occasionally still have the feelings of uncertainty or start obsessing about the task at hand/timings, but I now recognise when I am doing that and am able to take a step back, reflect on why that might be, and quite quickly return to my normal, responsive teaching style.

For me, then, coaching has led me to feeling a renewed energy and enthusiasm not just for my teaching but also for other elements of my work. I have started to take on other projects such as a podcast and working on an international collaboration and I am working towards HEA accreditation as a Senior Fellow. I recommend coaching to anyone! Its a time to talk about yourself and your work and career : when else does one get to do that?!


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