Philippa Bogle compares and contrasts facilitation, coaching, mentoring and counselling

Policies and practices are literally queuing up at the school gate. Somehow, whether you’re a Head or an NQT, you’ve got to welcome them and make them part of great learning. If only you had a magic wand, a power within you… but you have. No one’s let the power out for you – yet.

You don’t need help! Let me start with telling you something incredibly useful: there is no need to seek specialist expertise to help you disassemble barriers and embed change successfully – you have it in school already. Within each member of staff lie unrealised ideas and talents that can be unveiled, through 1-to-1 facilitation. The effects are practical, immediate and transformational – all features that have a real impact on others, both inside and outside the classroom. Some schools have been developing and using this skill for years, with amazing results for leadership, managing upwards, change and culture. This article (the first in a series) will share some success stories as well as introduce you to facilitation and how it works, simply and without jargon.

If facilitation is a 1-to-1 approach, designed to help someone think and behave differently, what are the other sister approaches and how does it relate to them?

There are three others:

  • Mentoring
  • Coaching
  • Counselling

The differences: handle with care!

A word of warning: these four approaches can appear similar, but they all do a different job that encourages different results – select carefully! Get it wrong and you could end up causing frustration, or some behavioural paralysis. At the very least, there will be little or no difference.

Make no mistake, each is a wonderful thing to have packed in your school resource luggage but as with knowing that swimwear is neither appropriate nor useful for mountain climbing, so, too, is appreciating how these four different methods differ

Some great news

Facilitation skills offer common ground for sharing valuable learning across organisations. Perhaps more so, they give real commercial credibility to school staff and vice-versa. For example: a newly qualified teacher can facilitate a Deputy Headteacher twice a term, and both will find it advantageous in ways that no other method could replicate.

The right choice of method can offer extraordinary levels of opportunity for staff retention and motivation, team improvement, leadership, and for building (and sustaining) positive change.

These skills can be ‘owned’ within and by a school, cascaded to others and can be a platform for enterprise skills developed with 14-19 year olds. They can also serve as a major way to reduce unhealthy levels of stress. It’s great news for diversity and equal opportunities, too. These skills can, and are, developed with great success by all school staff.

Teachers at all levels, Heads, Key Stage Co-ordinators, administrative, catering and non-teaching staff alike, could also work with and achieve The Certificate of Facilitation Skills in Education, an international award endorsed by the Institute of Leadership and Management. Similarly, non-teaching Key Support Leaders can make contributions to how their teaching colleagues work, through training in Coaching Skills for Team Leaders, another ILM award.

It’s real and it’s for your school

Eastern philosophies tell us that ‘that answers lie within us’.

I can assure you they do – I’ve been witness to so many schools where it’s happened. You too, have a wealth of possibility and potential, waiting to be unveiled.

What are you waiting for?

Facilitation Mentoring
A facilitator enables, challenges, focuses and helps another person to realise what options they can take to transform themselves and those around them. It’s about practical change: going out to do new things or do things differently, to make extraordinary leaps. A facilitator identifies, unveils and presents things that an individual couldn’t possibly do on his/her own, and aids powerful, transformational changes in their confidence level, self-esteem, values, motivations, views, skills and behaviours. Facilitators start their 1-to-1 work with no fixed aim, no knowledge of an end result and don’t pass on any advice. A mentor nurtures and encourages another person who wants to learn from the mentor’s own valuable learning experiences, routines, skills and mistakes. The aim is for the mentee to accelerate their own abilities and impact, as a result of another’s short and long-term learning. A mentor is usually identified, beforehand, as being a suitable or ‘good’ mentoring partner for another, in terms of approach and achievement. Mentors work with a pre-defined goal and offer advice and guidance, while also challenging views and assumptions. The relationship has six natural stages.
Coaching Counselling
Coaching is closing the gap between a pre-determined, identified weakness and a specific goal, to improve another’s knowledge, attitude or performance. A coach uses a structured process and may support through accessing other resources. Counselling is working with emotions in the present that have roots in the recent or distant past. A counsellor aims to bring peace and acceptance to another, without judgement.

 This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, September 2005.