Coaching with Design Thinking

How would a design thinking mindset & toolkit enhance instructional coaching practices?

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV

Written by

This is still just the seed of an idea, but I've been thinking about how a design thinking mindset can enhance the instructional coaching that is already happening in schools. 

In The Art of Coaching, Elena Aguilar (2013) identifies six lenses she uses in her coaching work. What if we added design thinking to the list? 

15 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Alexandria Bragg
Team

Charles Shryock, IV  Yes!  I didn't see the original post, so sorry!  I LOVE this idea, but I would like to hear more.  How do you see this working?  Maybe we can prototype it? :)

Photo of David Casey
Team

I think that sometimes coaches have an agenda around either "fixing the problem" or a mandate from the principal or DO. Taking the time to understand teachers' backgrounds, experience, point of view, etc, is imperative in building a community of learners that support each other.

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Agreed! Without understanding teachers' needs, you run the risk of a temporary "solution" that doesn't make sense to the people who must implement it. You have to establish trust and understanding first as the foundation of a good coaching relationship. 

Photo of Lisa Yokana
Team

Looks like we should connect our ideas! I've been doing this when leading PD. I was going to start a google doc to collaborate. Want to join in?

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

For sure, I'd love to see what you're developing! I think that @Alexandria Bragg and @Erin Conrad might be interested too. I'm thinking about Erin's post (@My Journey Into PD), as well as my interview with Alex.

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Lisa Yokana I'm going to keep these ideas distinct, while also diving into your project myself. I think your idea has more of a team learning / curriculum design focus, while I am talking about the instructional coaching cycle here. 

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Looks like my tags of Erin Conrad  and Alexandria Bragg didn't post in the comment above... Hope they see this! I think the'd really like both of these ideas. 

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Alexandria Bragg What do you think about this idea? 

Photo of David Casey
Team

Charles,
I have recently experienced several trainings in design thinking and I am hooked. I believe that it is not the current fad of the day, because it has been around for years. It is really about naming and defining the problem with the added benefit of empathy interviews to develop insights surrounding the problem. I think that coaching could benefit from this practice by taking far ore time to define the teacher's challenges; to spend several sessions observing and conversing before any prescription is written. Realizing that coaches' assumptions greatly affect their suggestions is the first step in slowing down the process and looking at long-term growth and change.
Thanks for your suggestions,
David Casey

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

David, 
Thank you for your enthusiasm around the idea!  I agree that starting with empathy for the teacher's needs is the right way to build trust and engagement. In your experience, do most coaches jump into problem-solving and "fixing" before doing that?  I think that the ideation and prototyping involved in DT would really add to the coaching cycle too. 

Photo of Eric Patnoudes
Team

Personally I'd like to go further up the chain of command with a design thinking mindset in schools. I think those in greatest need of the methodology are the administration or district leadership. They should view student, then teachers as their customers and design a solution for the school as a whole all the while incorporating the insight of students and teachers into their decision making process thus creating a greater sense of buy in and accountability.

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Eric, I definitely agree. Acknowledging that it can take years to change school culture, my hope is that wherever the design process begins (with teacher teams, administration, or even a single teacher), it will eventually grow to include all key stakeholders. 

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

If instructional coaching (via the lens of a DT mindset) were common in a school, how do you think it would impact administration? 

Photo of Margaret Powers
Team

I'm very intrigued by this Charlie! Have you seen "Better Conversations" by Jim Knight? I think the power of conversations and relationships in the coaching model are invaluable and I wonder how we might connect them with the empathy of design thinking? Could every coaching cycle begin with "how might we" and be based on meaningful conversations with teachers as partners in an exploration of improving student/teacher learning in personalized ways? I think coaching could also be a lot more fun for both coaches and teachers if there was some hands-on making/prototyping involved. :)

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Yes!  That's exactly what I'm thinking about doing. You described the idea perfectly. The design thinking mindset would be useful for the coaching cycle, with the added benefit of helping a DT mindset proliferate through the school. I think Lisa Yokana is interested in building this out further. Also, I haven't read Jim Knight's work – I will check that out for sure, thanks!