Wednesday / April 24

Growth Coaching to Transform School Culture: Q&A with John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh

As a school leader, your staff looks to you for answers to the problems and obstacles they are facing. Instead of providing the answer every time, what if you could use a coaching approach to help your staff build the skills and resiliency to create their own solutions?

John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh, authors of The Leader’s Guide to Coaching in Schools, recently hosted a webinar on the GROWTH coaching framework—a proven, accessible, and usable framework to increase your interpersonal effectiveness and grow your ability to coach your staff to overcome obstacles. You can access the recorded webinar here:

The following questions were submitted by participants during the live webinar. We are providing the responses from authors John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh below.

Q: How do you ensure that informal coaching moves towards common agreed objectives?

A: In a sense, we cannot “ensure” it, but if we can help the coachee to be clearer about their goals, they are likely to be more committed to them. Then, the conversations that the coachee has with their manager and their coach should become more aligned and consistent. That’s another reason it’s better to allow the coachee to generate her/his own way forward. It is important to recognize that these changes might not happen immediately—but as trust builds, the coachee can become more honest in their interactions with their manager and their coach.

Q: Many teachers I work with require remedial support (much like the students). How do we transform the culture of the school from “fixing” conversations to self-directed, solutions-focused conversations?

A: Sometimes it can be appropriate to provide a short “fix” response.  Over the long term, it is in the interests of both teacher and leader to encourage teachers to develop self-developed steps forward, since it builds ownership and self-efficacy. Our experience is that when this happens, teachers grow in confidence and take more responsibility.

Moreover it also provides a model for how these conversations can take place with students. And again, cultures take time to change. We have often seen a “ripple effect” where improved conversations between one leader and a teacher can start to impact on other colleagues in the organization. In addition to improving “one conversation at a time,” it might also be helpful to explicitly talk about developing independence in students in a school. Making that a school-wide focus would raise awareness amongst the whole-school community of the importance of moving to “self-directed” solutions conversations.

Q: Those who can “see through” the process may feel that they have not been supported, and that they were left to come up with their own solution. How do you respond to “YOU didn’t help me, I had to do it!”

A: If leaders are authentic in the way they manage these conversations, we don’t believe there is manipulation in this. In effect, the leader is demonstrating confidence in the ability of the teacher to come up with a viable way forward. We want our people to think: “You listened to me, empathized with my situation, and supported me to come up with my own solution” rather than “you didn’t help me because you’re not interested.” That’s why it’s important to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested and that you are prepared to invest some time into listening to the person talk about the situation and what they might do differently. It may also be helpful to check in with the person after a short while to see if they’ve made the progress that they were hoping for.

To learn more about solutions-focused coaching conversations, check out The Leader’s Guide to Coaching in Schools by John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh. See all of the upcoming webinars in the Corwin Monday Afternoon Webinar Series at

Written by

Charline is the Marketing Manager for Equity and Professional Learning at Corwin.

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