Professional Development: it’s Tricky (Woo)

I recently saw a coaching app that uses the slogan “closing the accountability gap”.  It is an app designed to be used by professional athletes and their coaches.  This really resonated with me.  In education we talk about various types of gaps.  Achievement gaps and opportunity gaps are mentioned in terms of what we adults are not providing to students.  I rarely hear about an accountability gap.

When I started to think about corporate training in these terms, a lot of things suddenly fell into place.

I have often lamented the lack of training in the workplace.  This is especially so in the business of education in the non-teaching ranks.  This is not to dismiss the need for ongoing professional development for teachers.  It is just that for non-teachers there are few if any formal programs.  It is up to the employees’ supervisor to put together some sort of training program.  And if the supervisor fails to do so, they are generally not specifically called out for it on their annual performance review.

Training for my staff has generally consisted of attendance at the annual CASBO conference, infrequent attendance at workshops put on by CASBO or School Services, and a few classes here and there taught by me or other management staff.  It did not appear that skills or engagement were increased much by these activities.  Why?

Copyright:  BBC picture archives

Copyright: BBC picture archives

Today it struck me.  Training is not coaching.  When you think about it, only the trainee can actually do the training.  The coach cannot do it for him or her.  In the wonderful old television show All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot (the vet) tells Mrs. Pumphrey that her pampered pet Tricky-Woo needs to be walked every day.  James returns a few days later to find a servant carrying the dog.  This was Tricky’s daily “walk” in the garden.  The way we train our staff pretty much follows this same thinking.  We spend hours putting information into a digestible form.  We present the “training”.  Then we wait for something to change.

Here’s a succinct explanation of the difference between training and coaching.  Accountability only exists when the person is being coached.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Coaching requires obtaining the employee’s prior agreement to actively participate
  • Coaching requires being held accountable for results
  • Just signing up an employee for a class or workshop lacks both agreement and accountability, so therefore improvement is unlikely

There could be an app for that.

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