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The Definitive Guide
Welcome to my definitive guide to Cognitive Coaching, where you will find everything you need to know about it, as well as how you can use it to help your coaching career!
More so, if you have been wondering whether Cognitive Coaching is the go-to coaching model for you, then this guide is the perfect fix for your queries.
So if you want to:
- Understand the core values of Cognitive Coaching
- Familiarize yourself with the process of Cognitive Coaching
- Decide if Cognitive Coaching is beneficial to use in your personal and professional life
- Become more self-sufficient in managing your everyday life
Then this guide will be of real value to you.
Let’s dive right in!
Don’t have time to read the whole guide right now?
Cognition is the mental action or process of learning and understanding the spaces around us through thought, experiences, and the senses.
The cognitive triangle is a great way to understand a human’s cognitive abilities. You can see in the diagram below, how your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are interconnected with each other.
So how can this cognitive model help you in your coaching career?
Before we get into the details, let me tell you more about Cognitive Coaching.
What is Cognitive Coaching?
Arthur Costa and Robert Garmston created the Cognitive Coaching Model that helps people become more self-directed, self-managing, self-monitoring, and self-modifying.
This model will help you improve your communication skills, identity and your effectiveness as a mediator of self-directed learning.
The goal of Cognitive Coaching is to give you resources and guidance in developing self-directed cognitive capacity for both excellence and independence.
Using the Cognitive Coaching Model, you will be able to make utmost use of your resources to guide the people you mentor to achieve higher and more satisfying results.
Idea of Metacognition
Cognitive Coaching is based on the idea of Metacognition.
Metacognition is a state of mind where you are aware of your own thinking process- fostering independent thinking.
Cognitive coaching uses this idea to mold you into becoming flexible, adaptable and confident in problem-solving skills, by asking reflective questions. As well as help you become more reliant on your own self-efficacy and pride.
Who can use Cognitive Coaching?
Cognitive coaching, a process initially designed to support teachers in the classroom, has many elements that are of high value in one’s everyday professional life.
The skill sets acquired by going through a Cognitive Coaching process allows you to become a self-directed and self-managing learner.
This means that you do not rely solely on others to give you answers and knowledge, but rather that you proactively seek it out yourself.
Who is the target audience of Cognitive Coaching?
The main target audience of the Cognitive Coaching process would be teachers in any phase of their career, who are eager and attracted towards a notion of guidance that allows their students to become more effective learners and thinkers.
Undergoing the Cognitive Coaching process allows teachers to better map their classrooms and develop a method that suits not only them, but also their students.
However, Cognitive Coaching is not restricted to teachers in a classroom.
Techniques and skills acquired through this process are also beneficial to leaders interested in developing their staff expertise, and for persons who mentor individual learners in academia or personal development.
Above all, you — as a coach — can use the Cognitive Coaching Model to guide a variety of clients, as it can be beneficial for people from all walks of life; whether they are teachers of a classroom, or leaders of a work environment.
The bottom line — the core values of Cognitive Coaching are beneficial to all.
Fundamental Beliefs and Assumptions About Cognitive Coaching
What are the fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the cognitive coaching process?
The fundamental beliefs of this coaching process are based on values of teaching, human growth, and learning.
This chapter highlights that teaching cannot, and should not, be reduced to a single formula.
I will go through the four-phase instructional cycle that helps coaches guide their clients in decision-making. Finally, I will be delving into how you, as a coach, can keep your client’s cognitive thoughts at the highest level.
Teaching and Learning Cannot be Reduced to a Formula
We know that there are certain methods of coaching that work, and some that do not.
Of course, there are some outliers, where individuals use unique methods in their classrooms and workspaces to foster learning and success.
Yet, there are still examples of individuals using certified methods and still failing to produce decent outcomes. This only shows us that teaching and leading cannot be reduced to one singular formula or recipe.
While we do have knowledge on teaching, we do not have certainty on such methods flourishing.
Therefore, Cognitive Coaching creates increased autonomy for the individual to then use those skills gained from the coaching process, to become more adaptable in their spaces.
The Benefits of enlightened, skilful surroundings
To begin with, they can significantly enhance a person’s cognitive processes and their perceptions.
Having a positive work environment around you not only makes doing your job more relaxing, but also tends to spark higher levels of cognitive abilities.
Coaches can help create safe spaces for a group of individuals in order to enhance and challenge each other’s cognitive abilities.
Four-phase Cycle of Instructional Decision-making
Observable performance is based upon internal processes that drive the overt skills of teaching.
Here are the four phases of instructional decision-making:
The Planning Phase
This phase focuses on the ‘before,’ meaning it comprises the entire thought process that teachers and leaders perform prior to classroom instruction/staff meetings.
The Interactive Phase
The interactive phase is very crucial. This is when you as the coach will interact with your client and observe them in their teaching environments. Observing the many mental functions your client is performing!
This phase occurs during the teaching activities, and is therefore interactive.
This phase is to look back to, compare, analyze and evaluate the decisions that were made during the Decision-making or Planning phase.
This is to see if any further changes are needed, going forward.
The last stage allows teachers and leaders to derive these learnings and projects from their critical Reflection phase, into future lessons and projects.
Finally, one cycles back to the Planning phase, where the process restarts.
Now that you know the fundamental beliefs and assumptions about Cognitive Coaching, let’s move on to the more exciting part – the actual process and stages of the Cognitive Coaching.
The Three Stages of the Cognitive Coaching Process
As I mentioned in Chapter 1, Cognitive Coaching will lead you to become self-directed, self-managing, and self-monitoring individuals.
But in order to get there, we must first understand the process involved.
In this chapter, I will show you how a Cognitive Coach can interact with clients, the type of exercises you will practice together, and what happens at the evaluation stages to improve your productivity.
As suggested by Arthur Costa and Robert Garmston, the cognitive coaching process includes three main stages:
- Pre-conference — This entails planning alongside the coach how to begin.
- Observation — This is when the coach observes and takes notes of areas for improvement.
- Post-conference — This stage allows for reflection, and paves the path towards becoming self-directed and self-managing.
The entire process requires extensive coaching skills, and teaches a set of strategies that create stronger learning environments, with the ultimate goal of creating individual autonomy for your client.
Now — let’s look at each one in detail.
Stage 1: Pre-conference
This is the most important stage; the rest of the stages simply cannot work without it.
Without thoroughly engaging at this stage, teachers and leaders are likely to have more anxiety about the observation stage and the coaches will lack the teacher or leader’s valuable guidance for data collection.
Above all, planning is the most important of all the instructional thought processes.
The quality of the plan affects the quality of all that follows. By using a ‘mental coaching map’, coaches and clients can see eye-to-eye, and have a clear understanding of the following stages and the coaching process as a whole.
One critical mental process, during planning, is to identify lesson or meeting outcomes and envision what will happen during the interaction phase.
You can suggest your client ask themselves these questions:
- What types of objectives must be achieved by the time the session comes to an end?
- What are the main takeaways?
- How will I know when I have reached my objectives?
- What is my plan? What other aspects of the session do I want to highlight?
Such questions can help the client orient their thoughts, and guide them in creating a clear structure for their lesson or meeting.
This can be difficult for some teachers and leaders who conceive the judgment of their students and staff learnings to be determined at a later time.
Say, after a test is given or a project has been completed. However, by then, it may be a little too late.
Teachers and leaders must be able to monitor the cues indicated by their students and staff during their interaction phase.
A skilful and mindful coach will assist them in this, and help them imagine, elaborate, and devise strategies that will guide monitoring cues from their students and staff.
The main thing you, as a coach, want out of this phase is to understand the existing instructional strategies for reaching outcomes, and help find gaps where your clients can revise and improve.
In addition, you start to hint at the Observation Phase, in which they will sit in during your lessons/meetings.
A good Cognitive Coach will ask the teacher or leader what they should pay attention to when the lesson/meeting is delivered. Next, they will collect data about what happens during their client’s Interaction Phase.
Stage 2: Observation
This phase is mostly conducted only by you, in which you observe the client in their environment and collect data based on what they want.
Essentially, the coach becomes another set of eyes for the teacher/leader, as well as a mediator for their teaching experiences.
For example, say the coach is in a classroom, they may collect data on things like student performance indicating goal achievement, on-task behavior or a particular student’s problematic behavior.
They may also focus on techniques that teachers want to strive for such as – wait time (between dialogue and conversation), questioning, movement, clarity of direction etc.
But something to keep in mind during the observation phase is that you only collect the data that the teacher/leader has requested during the pre-conference stage.
Stage 3: Post-conference
Once the lesson/meeting has ended, you and your client should get together to discuss the success of your session.
Normally, the conversation begins with an open-ended question such as:
— How do you feel the session went?
It is important to note that this stage highly depends on the coach-client relationship, as each post-conference session is tailored towards the person it intends to help.
The objectives of this stage tend to be more individualized and inquiring in nature than a step-by-step recipe of what happens in this stage.
This is where self-assessment becomes key. You invite the client to sit down and self-assess the pros and cons of the session.
Beginning with more open-ended questions allows you to decide on how you want to enter this conversation. The next questions you ask can be:
- What are you recalling from the lesson that’s leading you to those inferences?
- Did you achieve all you wanted?
These questions are asked with the purpose of highlighting an important cognitive function — monitoring and recalling what happened during the session.
Coaches have different approaches to how this part can unfold.
Some coaches simply give feedback to the client on what they observed and recorded during the session, giving a step-by-step version of what they saw.
The ultimate goal of Cognitive Coaching is for your client to become self-directed, self-managing, self-monitoring and self-modifying individuals.
Asking questions specific to your session and giving feedback allows the client to develop the ability to monitor their own behaviors, and to recall what happened during the session.
The data collected by you is a fundamental tool for the teacher/leader in learning to self-analyze and in a way self-coach.
Processing the data from the lesson enables teachers and leaders to reconstruct and analyze what went on during the interaction period, and how this adds to their experience.
Is Cognitive Coaching suitable for you?
Now that you know what Cognitive Coaching entails, and who can benefit from it, you may still be wondering if it is worth your time and energy.
Dr Taryl Hanson, a renowned scientist, has talked about six skills that will help your client achieve success in their respective fields and, therefore, why cognitive coaching is worth the time and effort for you and your clients, both.
In this chapter, I will list down these six reasons that you can use to convince your clients and boost your services as a coach.
Your clients acquire the ability to self-monitor, self-analyze, and self-evaluate after undergoing the cognitive coaching training process.
Such skills lay at the heart of being a self-directed professional.
To thrive in their work environments, they need to have the capacity to make decisions quickly. In order to do that, they need skills that allow them to become self-managing and self-directed.
Cognitive Coaching training helps in achieving this increased autonomy within the work environments, and allows them to succeed at a higher level.
It also helps them analyze and evaluate their own teaching, and manage success better.
Enhances Intellectual Growth and Cognitive Pathways
Cognitive Coaching helps your clients explore thinking beyond their practices.
In order to thrive during the teaching process, if your clients are teachers, they need to prepare for, both, before and after their classes.
It’s more than just the ‘now,’ it is also the preparation stages and the post-evaluation stages that create a coherent whole.
As a cognitive coach, you help them achieve these through the tools of pausing, paraphrasing, and posing questions, something we will get to in Chapter 6.
These skills are essential for teachers and leaders to unveil their resources and become more available to the thinker.
Fosters Professional Inquiry and Supports Continued Professional Growth
Continued growth, development, and discovery are at the heart of the Cognitive Coaching process.
Teachers and leaders are natural inquirers, therefore, they are constantly asking questions such as:
- How can I improve my practices?
- How do I better reach my staff and students?
- How can I grow during these processes?
It is important to note, however, that there can be no singular model that is the ideal of how a workplace or classroom should function.
Every space is different and students and staff require different types of attention from their teachers and leaders.
This is where the self-directed value of Cognitive Behavioral Coaching can be of value.
Cognitive Coaching is highly respectful of these differences. Once your clients get to know the characteristics of their spaces, it will make it a better environment for everyone involved.
Supports Informed Decision-Making
For teachers and leaders, making decisions is a part and parcel of the job. They make thousands of decisions in their professional lives every day, after all.
When your clients are able to articulate the thinking behind their decisions, personal awareness is heightened.
Through tools and strategies, Cognitive Coaching helps your clients recall experiences, generate alternatives, analyze, and evaluate the effectiveness of their decision-making.
Cognitive Coaching, therefore, aligns the critical action of thinking more closely to the actions of making well-informed decisions.
When personal awareness is heightened around the questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’, it results in a change of teaching and management style.
It allows for more self-assessment and enhanced ability to plan, monitor, and adjust.
Helps Develop Peer Relationships
We are at a point where our societies have become extremely culturally diverse. So your clients may need to focus on creating a collaborative environment for students and staff.
Cognitive coaching promotes these values, and helps you create a space where open-mindedness is respected and learners are eager.
Deepens Reflective Skills
As I have mentioned, cognitive coaching strives to achieve self-directed, self-monitoring, and self-managing individuals.
The reflective phases of cognitive training are of high importance in creating safer spaces.
Being reflective allows you to adapt to changing environments more quickly.
I have so far talked about what is Cognitive Coaching, how it can be of use to you and the specific coaching process, the next chapter will address some useful goals and skills you will gain from Cognitive Coaching.
Goals and Skills Everyone can Put to Use
Whether your client is a teacher, a senior manager of a team or simply an individual looking to better their professional lives, cognitive coaching sets out a few skills and goals that everyone can put to use in their professional careers.
In this chapter, I will first take you through the three major goals of cognitive coaching — trust, learning, and cognitive autonomy.
Then, I will tell you about those four crucial skills that are needed to achieve those goals as well as how you, as a coach, can guide your client to apply them in their professional and personal lives.
Trust in the process, trust in each other, and trust in the environment!
Both parties in the coaching relationship must trust and respect one another. Just because you are the mentor does not mean you cannot also learn from your clients.
The beauty of this process is the mutual benefits that trust can bring to your coaching process.
As you and your client work together in a non-threatening relationship and realize the ultimate goal of the process is to grow intellectually, trust comes easily.
This trust needs to last till the very end of the process. One cannot expect a coach to come in and quickly fix the issues at hand.
Cognitive Coaches look for long-term gains rather than immediate fixes.
Your client may come across several obstacles during the coaching process; make sure they do not get demotivated by it, and have trust in the entire process.
Trust is also important when it comes to your professional environments, the culture, norms and values of the work environment.
An effective coach, with a goal of continued intellectual growth, may therefore also be interested in creating, monitoring, and maintaining a stimulating and cooperative work environment.
All learning requires a shift in our mindsets that allow for a more engaging and transformative process. To learn anything, you require thought.
Cognitive Coaches are skilful in engaging their clients’ intellect, making sure they can clearly access their cognitive functions.
You also administer tools and resources that will help them enhance their perceptions and expand their references.
Lastly, and by far the most important of all the three goals, is development of cognitive autonomy.
Once you and your client have internalized the ‘mental coaching map,’ you can be fully present with each other.
With the knowledge that trust exists in your relationship and both parties being eager to learn, Cognitive Coaching allows your clients to develop the ability to self-monitor, self-analyze and self-evaluate their own sessions, over time.
Four Skills to Help your Client Achieve the Above Goals
The following skill sets are key teaching points from the coach to the client.
When in dialogue with another person, you expect the other person to really listen to you and understand your message.
Your client also wants to be heard in every aspect they wish to portray, this is key in a coach-client relationship.
They want you to really hear what they are saying, and you also expect them to really listen to the advice and guidance you give them.
Paraphrasing can help you achieve this easily, and is one of the best ways to validate that you were really listening when the other person was speaking.
To effectively paraphrase, you must listen intently and in a focused manner to ensure both parties hear and understand each other.
Instead of focusing on what you want to say next, to the person in front of you,take the time to take in what they are saying, and then paraphrase what you understood.
Paraphrasing requires discipline and commitment, leading to a strong coach-client relationship.
Pauses and silences during a conversation often make people very uncomfortable.
People often feel the need to fill these silences with some sort of comment or question to avoid awkward silences.
Yet silence, at least for a short time, can be pivotal in a coach-client relationship.
Pausing before you speak allows you to form a coherent response while staying completely engaged during the time the other person is speaking.
Instead of throwing too many comments back and forth at each other and losing the point of the conversation, pausing helps both parties become more reflective in nature, resulting in more productive conversations.
Many would say that pausing is difficult, especially in small groups, and they feel if they pause they will lose their turn to speak.
However, pausing invites the other person to say more, it gives you time to think and rethink what you are going to say, resulting in a more peaceful and productive way of exchanging ideas.
People often pay more attention to the way your body is speaking, rather than the words that come out of your mouth.
Therefore, your body language during a conversation can often speak louder than your words.
This is key in the coach-client relationship, but this skill extends to the entire Cognitive Coaching process.
Body language becomes extremely important in the interaction phases, whether your client is speaking to a classroom of students or a conference room full of their colleagues.
The way you hold yourself shows a lot. This ranges from posture, eye contact, and the way your arms are placed.
Therefore, it is important to think about all the non-verbal commands used when you want to project an idea when speaking with others.
Clarity, specificity, elaboration, and precision through the use of dialogue, inquiring conversations can occur.
An inquiring dialogue allows for cooperative argumentative dialogue to occur between individuals. It is often based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying assumptions.
A strong coach is more than capable of creating such a dialogue between themselves and the client.
They may ask questions such as:
- What criteria will you use to assess the accuracy of student knowledge?
- What else will you consider when reorganizing the project?
Now that we have brushed up on the goals and skills involved with Cognitive Coaching, in the upcoming chapter I will explore the support functions that will help you boost your coaching abilities.
Four Support Functions of Cognitive Coaching
Reflection is key in Cognitive Coaching, for which you need four key support functions on your side.
In this following chapter, I will explain to you each of these support functions in detail. I’ll be emphasizing on how they can be of use to you, and why it’s necessary to implement them into your coaching process.
The four support functions are as follows – Collaborating, Consulting, Evaluation and Cognitive Coaching.
Four Support Functions – Their Intentions and Purposes
This following section will show you the intentions and purpose of each support function and why it is necessary to incorporate these into your Cognitive Coaching procedures.
- To form ideas, approaches and solutions in order to create a focused approach.
- To solve instructional problems a teacher or leader may experience. To then apply and test shared ideas together.
- Collaboration is key for a coach-client relationship. It involved working together with different types of people who have different areas of expertise but share one common goal.
- Inform the teacher and leader of their student and staff needs, providing any technical assistance that may be needed.
- To increase content knowledge, and to increase awareness of your work environments which will help you in self-monitoring your own spaces.
- Consulting support function is there to support the second stage of the cognitive coaching process – the observation stage. Here the coach can collect data during their session and give feedback for support
- To make sure the set of standards initiated at the start was achieved by the coach and client.
- In order to judge your performance and to identify where the gaps are that can help you improve
- Evaluation is the assessment of performance based on clearly defined criteria or standards. Cognitive coaching allows for this support function to become internalized over time, creating coherent teachers and leaders.
- To transform the effectiveness of decision making, perceptions and reflection.
- To enhance self-directed modes of learning so your clients can better self-monitor and self-evaluate themselves to create better learning and work environments.
To remind you, these are; Collaboration, Consulting, Evaluation and Cognitive Coaching. Specifically for when it comes to interacting with one another and developing a plan for your professional environments.
Client – Coach Relationship
Coaches of any kind are often said to be ‘experts’ on the topic they aim to teach.
You are thought of as an individual that has all the answers to problems and ideas on how your clients can go about fixing them.
While you may be definitely well versed in what you are preaching, and for sure know the ins and outs of that topic, but under cognitive coaching, there is no one single way of growing your intellectual knowledge and personal development.
Therefore, it is mindful to know that your client is not partaking in a cognitive coaching process to be told what to do.
They are, rather, learning the tools and resources to allow themselves to become independent in their thinking and to be able to self-analyze and self-evaluate.
Coaching should therefore never be mixed with consultancy, cognitive coaching is much more than that.
Five Forms of Feedback in Cognitive Coaching
All good coaches will adjust their coaching strategies according to how their clients’ plan their Cognitive Coaching process.
When you treat your clients as equals and give them well-rounded coherent feedback, they tend to conceptualize their learnings much better.
In this chapter, I will tell you about the five main forms of feedback that you can give your clients during, and after, a session with them.
Receiving feedback in these five forms has proven to yield positive results.
Let’s dive in.
Before we look into the forms of feedback, you have to keep in mind that during the entire feedback process, you must remain as non-judgemental as possible.
Your client should be able to think and feel comfortable, without the fear of being judged.
You must pose carefully-constructed questions intended to challenge your client’s intellect.
Instead of providing them with answers, phrase the questions in a way that allows for self-reflection and curiosity to explore their intellect.
In a classroom context, an example could be:
From coach to client –
What might be some of the misconceptions that your students are operating on?
In this phase, you can also show off the skill of paraphrasing. Paraphrasing to a client shows that you are listening and portrays an “I am attempting to understand you, therefore I value you” attitude.
This conveys a powerful form of empathy, and both parties involved can clearly communicate with each other.
During the second phase of the Cognitive Coaching process — the Observation Phase — the coach normally collects data based on what their client would like to be observed.
When you are collecting and noting these observations down, you must remain as non-judgemental as possible.
Here is an example of what is judgemental and non-judgemental in a classroom setting for a teacher:
“Your transition at the end of class to line up for lunch took too long; it was a total of 60 seconds, which is too much.”
“Your transition to lunch was a total of 60 seconds.”
So what is the difference between these two statements?
The first statement already assumes that the teacher has done something wrong. Even if they have done something wrong, this is not the way to tell them.
Remember that you are not a consultant, you should not be telling them what to do.
Instead, you should be observing what is happening and give them the tools and resources to think for themselves.
Inferences are conclusions based on reasoning and evidence that come from both the coach and client.
After the observation phase of the post-conference stage, the coach can invite their client for an open discussion.
This allows your client to determine how they will enter this conversation and begin their self-assessment.
Here you can give feedback such as, “Your modeling really helped the students understand the complex concepts of this class.”
Essentially, you state the evidence first, and then offer your client a conclusion formed based on that.
Personal Observation & Evaluations
For the final two, they can be combined, as one feeds into the other.
Personal observations of the coach give the client an evaluation of how they performed. During which giving clients compliments and statements of encouragement are key for their personal confidence and good practice for you.
Keeping the core values of cognitive coaching at heart, while adding a personal touch that really showcases the valuable relationship between you and your client.
Examples of such statements include:
- You did an amazing job with that group!
- Well done on incorporating multiple strategies into that lesson
You have made it to the end of the chapter! Well done.
Next I will provide you with some great extra resources to fuel your curiosity of Cognitive Coaching even further. I hope you find them useful!
Cognitive Coaching can prove to be highly effective if incorporated correctly.
With that in mind, I will share a few additional resources that might help you delve deeper into understanding the world of Cognitive Coaching.
You can learn about Arthur Costa and Robert Gramston’s Cognitive Coaching in their research paper, ‘Cognitive strategy for reflective teaching – Arthur Costa and Robert Gramston’.
You will also find this case study, ‘Reflections on Cognitive Coaching’ helpful in understanding more about Cognitive Coaching.
Don’t like reading?
In this interactive Ted Talk by Brian Marshall, you can understand more about the basics of Cognitive Coaching.
Congratulations on finishing this guide!
Now that you have developed a thorough understanding of cognitive coaching and its core values and processes, you can use it to help your clients navigate more efficiently.
Learning and work environments are just as unique as the teachers and leaders that construct them.
Cognitive coaching provides these individuals with the tools and resources to make their environments a better place.
I would love to know which aspects of Cognitive Coaching you found most interesting and effective when testing it yourself.
Do you think there is something I have missed?
Or do you have any questions which were left unanswered?
Leave me a comment and I would love to address them.