All ways coaching

A coaching way of teaching

Nicholas Mckie fuses three pedagogical styles with three ways of coaching to form ‘a coaching way of teaching’.

The importance of coaching

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Learning Compass 2030 defines the knowledge, skills and attitudes that learners need to fulfil their potential. Student agency is a key element, defined as the capacity to set a goal, reflect and act responsibly to effect change.

Coaching underpins the development of such skills: managing change, ownership of learning, agility, and the ability to work with ambiguity. The challenge is to develop a coaching way of teaching to support the move from the industrial model of education to an approach that centres around people and purpose.

Three ways of coaching

I am a passionate advocate of teachers incorporating the skills of effective coaching into their teaching. In All Ways Coaching, I explore a framework of pedagogical approaches that align with three ways of coaching, also known as coaching domains: Fundamental, Systemic and Transformative.

Diagram 1: ways of coaching
Fundamental coaching domain

The first step on the coaching ladder is concerned with the basic skills, processes and models of coaching. Fundamental coaching skills help you move from focusing on yourself to focusing on the coachee – your student. In practical terms this means being able to support the student by defining goals, come up with solutions and hold the student accountable, and help students to think through things and come up with answers themselves.

The systemic domain

The Systemic domain acknowledges that educational contexts are dynamic and unpredictable; it is about having a broader perspective, looking beyond the individual to the patterns and dynamics at play in each person’s ‘system’, such as family, community and social context. As a teacher this means being reflective and self-aware, mindful of the attitude and values you bring to lessons.

The transformative domain

The first two coaching domains place the focus on the belief that the coachee has all the answers (coaching), or the belief that the coach has the answers (mentoring). But this is limiting. Transformative coaching takes into consideration the multifaceted context of educational settings rather than a linear outlook focused on the individual or system. Your challenge is how to act with principle: drawing out values from students rather than risk imposing your own.

The coaching way of teaching

When we fuse these coaching domains with approaches to teaching we have the coaching way of teaching as shown in Diagram 2.

Three teaching approaches based on the informal learning model devised and developed by Professor Lucy Green, UCL Institute of Education, whilst not a necessarily a progression, can be seen to provide a framework for the engagement of a range of learners.

All approaches have value.
Diagram 2: coaching ways of teaching


When creating a framework for a ‘coaching way of teaching’ one can use three teaching styles:

  1. Formal: you are the teacher
  2. Non-formal: you are the facilitator
  3. Informal: you are the coach
The formal approach

A formal teaching approach places the onus on the teacher to drive learning by transmitting information directly to students in a traditional way. In a coaching sense the formal approach aligns with being directive, giving advice and solving problems (mentoring).

Several fundamental coaching skills are pertinent here, including effective questioning. When observing teachers across a range of settings, I am struck by how questioning is underplayed. For example, it is common to see trainee teachers ask a question, not provide sufficient time for the class to answer and then answer the question themselves. Leaning into the silence and giving students time to think is key.

In terms of utilising your coaching skills, the formal approach is about finding opportunities to embed them across an existing curriculum in your setting.

The non-formal approach

A non-formal teaching approach shifts greater responsibility onto the students. Essentially this is about negotiated facilitation, with students having increased ownership and control of the curriculum and activities being taught. We are beginning to relinquish control and shift focus to social networks in alignment with the Systemic and Transformative coaching domains.

In terms of coaching, the non-formal teaching approach can be associated with non-directive methodology, in which the teacher helps students to find their own solutions. In non-formal teaching the teacher still leads the learning but this is now co-constructed and adapted with and to the learners’ needs. The emphasis is on the teacher modelling skills rather than solving and advising, and coaching skills the teacher must bring to bear include questioning, listening to understand, creating space to allow discussion and dialogue, and an ability to empathise and acknowledge in order to build strong relationships in a trusting environment.

The informal approach

Using this approach, the teacher becomes more of a coach, not necessarily the expert in the room. Independent learning is undertaken in self-managing groups where the content is chosen by the learners. Unlike more performative, formal approaches, an informal approach is not framed around completion, but collaboration through community.

Informal learning is not planned in advance and as such has parallels with the Transformative coaching domain, in which teachers are comfortable with working in ‘the space between’, where you are not sure of outcomes. The Transformative domain is also key to developing effective dialogue, working in ‘the space between’ to extend learning and understanding.

It’s all about coaching

In practice, in the classroom whether face to face or online, the boundaries between formal and informal learning are not always clear and any lesson may include elements of each – embrace that!

“It’s all about coaching,” says Irfan Latif, Principal of DLD College London, a 14-19 school awarded UK Boarding School of the Year 2020. “We feel that by giving our students the ability to be coached by our staff and our staff to have those coaching skills, it leads to high performing teams within our school environment.”

A coaching way of teaching has the potential to improve performance and support greater staff autonomy, as well as encourage confidence and ambition.


Nicholas Mckie is a Professional Certified Coach and Founder & Director of Persyou, specialising in leadership coaching and development across the education sector. He is also an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, a former international school principal and UK school inspector. His podcasts, Inspiring Leadership, can be found on the Persyou website: and all the usual podcast platforms.



All Ways Coaching is published by Cadogan Press and is available from Amazon.

Connect with Nicholas on Twitter @McKieNicholas and @PersyouC or on LinkedIn:


FEATURE IMAGE: by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay