In-school CPD idea: Coaching to improve attainment

Written by: Steve Burnage | Published:
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In a new regular series for SecEd, Steve Burnage will give us an outline and structure for a 45-minute CPD session that you can deliver in your school. Each outline will include handouts and slides available to download for free. His first article looks at running a workshop focused on coaching

In-school CPD: Using coaching to improve attainment in staff and students

To deliver this 45-minute CPD training in your school, follow the advice and structure in the article below and download the free supporting handouts and PowerPoint presentation by clicking on both of the "download supplement" buttons above.


This purpose of this article is to provide a 45-minute interactive training outline that could be suitable for a staff meeting, staff development group, small group CPD session or for individual study. The training outline is included here while the PowerPoint slides and an accompanying participants’ handout is available to download from the SecEd website for free (see above).

Slide 1: Welcome

This workshop offers an introduction to coaching. In order to facilitate the training, you will need:

  • Copies of the PowerPoint slides printed three to a page with space for notes for each participant.
  • Copies of the accompanying An Introduction to Coaching handout for each participant.
  • Flip chart paper and marker pens.
  • All resources for this training are available to download from the SecEd website or by email from

Slide 2: Introduction

By the end of this training you will be able to:

  • Explain what coaching is and when it can be useful.
  • Describe the key skills of coaching and provide examples of good practice.
  • Use the GROW model to structure coaching and achieve a positive outcome.

Slide 3: Activity

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn, rather than teaching them.” Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis.

Given this definition, what does coaching look like to you?

  • Working individually, write down an example of how you might use coaching to improve either staff or student attainment.
  • Now discuss your ideas in pairs.
  • Working in small groups, come up with your top five ideas for how coaching might be used to enable a colleague or a student to “maximise their own performance”.
  • Share your ideas with the group.

Slide 4: The coaching continuum

Coaching, as a term, has come to mean a variety of things to both participants and coaches. Some refer to “training”, others “coaching” while it is common in schools and academies to use the term “mentoring”.

While the terms in themselves do not really matter, since it is the improvement action that makes the difference to staff and students, they do have different meanings:

  • Training: The coach is used to impart information and skills. The trainer is able to show the participant what to do, why a certain action needs to be done; and how to go about it. There is most input from the coach and least input from the participant. Class teaching or traditional whole-school CPD are both examples of instructional training.
  • Coaching: The coaching relationship is based on questioning – the coach works with the participant and uses questioning tools to determine what and why they both feel needs to be done; and there is agreement between both parties on how to go about this. Small group work with staff or students to improve something particular – GCSE performance for students or classroom management for particular staff – are both examples of where coaching fits on the continuum.
  • Mentoring: The coaching relationship puts most emphasis on the skills, knowledge and input from the participant. The coach uses their skills and experience to support the participant in facilitating their own ideas for what and why needs to be done, and helps the participant with the actions that identify how things need to be done. Supporting a colleague who wants to implement their own improvement idea or mentoring a student who has identified their own learning needs are both examples of inspirational mentoring.

Coaching is a continuum of input and skills from both the coach and the participant. At one end of the continuum, the coach has the most input and the participant the least. At the opposite end, the coach’s input is minimal with most input coming from the participant.

Slide 5: Coaching skills

Wherever coaching needs fall on the continuum, all coaching requires two specific skills – questioning and listening.

Slide 6: Questioning

Coaches will use six key types of questioning dependent on both the needs of the participant and where the coaching relationship is on the coaching continuum:

  • Open: Questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no” are often good for exploring coaching ideas: “What do you think you could do to...”
  • Probing: A coach will build on previous answers from a participant and use probing questions to get to the heart of an issue or explore things in greater depth: “What do you think you did to cause that to happen?”
  • Specific: Specific questions can be used by a coach to focus on a particular issue: “You say that there are a number of things you want to try, if you had to choose one, which strategy do you think would be the most effective and why?”
  • Hypothetical: Hypothetical questions can be used to approach difficult issues in a safer and less threatening way: “Some people might ask the question why would anyone want to let that happen?”
  • Closed: Although closed questions do not allow the participant to express the breadth of their thinking, they can be useful for clarifying that bottom line: “So, is this something that you would be prepared to try?”
  • Silence: Silence can be a coach’s most powerful tool – either saying nothing and allowing the participant to fill the silence or not, or using non-verbal questioning techniques – raised eyebrows, open hand positions and other body language to suggest that a question is still “hanging in the air”.


Working in pairs, choose one of these two scenarios and draft a set of questions that show a range of questioning skills to support the participant.

  • You are working with a student to explore issues around truancy from specific lessons each week.
  • You are working with a colleague to develop their teaching of high-ability learners.

Slide 7: Coaching questions

  • What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?
  • Can you share the specifics of what’s going on?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
  • Why do you think this is happening? (What’s another way to look at this/respond? What else can also be possible/true? What assumptions could you be making here?)
  • What’s your opinion on how to handle this? (Everyone has an opinion. Seek to understand theirs first). If I wasn’t here, what would you do to achieve/resolve this? If we were to switch roles, how would you handle this? What ideas do you have? What’s another approach that may work (which you haven’t tried yet)?
  • What’s the first thing you need to do to resolve/achieve this? What would that conversation sound like when you talk with? What resources do you need? Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you around your efforts to complete this?
  • What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (and by when)? If you couldn’t use that excuse anymore, how would you move forward?
  • When shall we meet again?

Slide 8: Listening

A good coach will always listen more than they talk. It is important to remember that listening needs to be active – actively engaged in what the participant is saying; giving your total attention. A good coach will:

  • Form their next question based on the answer to the previous question. For example: “You say that it is X that you find most challenging. Let’s explore that in more detail. What things do you think make X most challenging for you?”
  • Ask for clarification and examples when necessary. For example: “You mentioned that X. Does this mean that there is nothing you can do about this? Or: “Would you give me an example of when this last happened?”
  • Talk less than the participant.


You will need to access this video clip: (or another suitable short clip that shows a coaching conversation). As you watch this video clip of a short coaching conversation, make a note of:

  • The questioning skills used.
  • How the coach shows they are listening.

Discuss your findings with the group.

Slide 9: The GROW model

The GROW model is a coaching model that is used internationally to support coaching conversations. GROW stands for:

  • GOAL – What do you want to achieve?
  • REALITY – What is the situation at the moment? Where are you now?
  • OPTIONS – How could you get to where you want to be?
  • WAY FORWARD – What will you do now?

In this example, a coach is helping a key stage 2 pupil improve their behaviour.

  • GOAL – I want to stop getting into trouble with my class teacher.
  • REALITY – My teacher keeps telling me off for calling out in class and making inappropriate comments.
  • OPTIONS – I could just stop talking altogether but I like my lessons and enjoy saying things. I could carry on calling out and put up with being told off all of the time. I could ask my teacher to stop picking on me. I could put my hand up when I want to say something and wait to be asked.
  • WAY FORWARD – I am going to try to put up my hand when I want to say something and wait to be asked, I’ll come and tell you at the end of the day how things go today.


Identify one element of your own professional practice (or the behaviour/performance of one of your students) that you want to improve. Use the GROW model to clarify an appropriate way forward.

Slide 10: Making it work at work

What will you do as a result of this training? Working in groups, look at the action sheet you have produced during this training.

  • What are the three key learning points for you?
  • Use the GROW model to identify what you are going to change.
  • How will you know when your change has been successful?

  • Steve Burnage has a breadth of experience of leading challenging inner city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for senior and middle leadership, support staff development, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Visit and read his previous articles for SecEd at

Further information

An Introduction to Coaching is the first in a series of Bite Sized Training resources designed to develop the skills and knowledge of those new to coaching as a tool to raise attainment in schools, colleges and academies. Bite Sized Training offers a range of 45-minute CPD sessions designed to be used as focused yet active school-based training. Bite Sized Training materials are produced by Steve Burnage through Steve will offer us another free CPD session – focused on positive behaviour choices – in SecEd on October 12.


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