Outdoor Learning Coaching
The Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL) recognises Outdoor Learning Coaching as a valuable approach used by outdoor learning professionals in individual and group development.
Coaching is a flexible and powerful tool. This flexibility can be its greatest strength and in the field of outdoor learning, coaching can be applied either as a stand-alone approach or in conjunction with other tactics. Coaching is an approach that can be used with participants, with members of a staff team and to support organisation or business managers or leaders.
Various definitions of the process, outcomes and aims of coaching exist. Drawing on The Professional Charter for Coaching and Mentoring, 2011 (EMCC, ICF, AfC, SFC) the Institute has created these definitions of coaching in general and pertaining to outdoor learning in particular:
- Coaching is an activity within the area of personal and professional development with a focus on individuals and teams and relying on the individuals own resources to help them to see and test alternative ways for improvement of competence, decision-making and enhancement of their potential.
- An Outdoor Learning Coach is a professional, skilled in establishing a working relationship with an individual or group, with the specific intent of working towards an agreed outcome. This outcome could relate to technical skills, personal development or both.
A Coaching Continuum
Coaching is often seen as a continuum with a range of differing approaches (Parsloe and Leedham) and differing epistemological perspectives (Collins and Collins). A central core of skills and knowledge is the foundation for working with increasing levels of flexibility, choice and emergent thoughts and feelings.
Effective coaches move along the continuum between a simple and a more complex approach to suit the situation. No one approach is seen as better than another, the critical factor is usefulness and appropriateness for the person or group being coached. Development as an outdoor learning coach can also be looked at in terms of increasing competence to operate across the full range of the continuum.
Effective coaching relies a core set of knowledge, skills and behaviours. Many of these are integrated into Occupational Standards, qualifications and awards from National Governing Bodies of Sport, and sector specific education and training courses.
There are three key aspects to effective coaching. These are outlined below and are provided to help gain an understanding of the processes involved that a coach should be aware of:
A. Knowledge – sometimes described as the ‘knowing’ behind the process of coaching:
- An understanding of and the ability to apply a coaching model that enables the coach to help someone through a process of reflection. For example Kolb, GROW, SCORE or OSKAR.
- An awareness of the ‘tools’ that are available to help someone gain a greater understanding of themselves; tools such as Character Strengths (VIA), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Reiss Motivation Profile (RMP), Mental Toughness (MTQ48), Belbin Team Roles, Hogan’s Personality Inventory & 16PF
B. Skills – the ‘doing’ or putting into practice the knowledge acquired; there are many of these skills - listed here are some of the major ones:
- Being able to ask good questions
- Listening well to the answers and information given
- Having good tone and pace to encourage a good coaching conversation
- Reading body language
- The ability to use ‘clean’ language
C. Behaviour – this can be described as the ‘make-up’ of the coach; the attitudes of the coach:
- A desire to help and do no harm
- A curiosity about the person/persons they are working with
- A willingness to challenge the thinking of that person
- An awareness of ethical boundaries
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list regarding the process of coaching. Rather it is meant to offer some guidance as to what coaching is especially when viewing IOL’s coaching model in order that effective coaching can take place that enables people to develop and grow.
Development as a Coach
Coaching is an area where outdoor learning instructors/teachers/leaders can develop a specialist skillset. The complementary fields of sports, executive or personal growth coaching have standards, resources, research and expertise that can be of value to outdoor learning coaches.
The Institute is looking at developing this topic and publishing an IOL Statement of Good Practice on Outdoor Learning Coaching. Some further areas for development:
- Benchmarking the knowledge, skills and behaviours in the continuum model with the accreditation levels of the three principal coaching organisations European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), the Association for Coaching (AfC), the International Coach Federation (ICF).
- Providing pathways to gain competence in core coaching and developmental coaching skillsets. Much of the knowledge, skills and behaviours are expected to be a part of the Outdoor Programme Leader Apprenticeship Standard in development.
- Exploring the International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programme (ISMCP) as an independent accreditation that gives creditability and transferability for any in-sector training courses developed.
- Supporting IOL members with resources and CPD opportunities that are aligned with the continuum model.
Please let us know your views so we can include them in future developments. Email Neal Anderson