Why should coaching be integrated into all dimensions of education?

When we are looking at the world of work, it is clear from the feedback of many Human Resource (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) practitioners; it is critical to have the best talent in the workplace. We are living and working in a fast paced environment, the VUCA world, and we must enable the workforce to learn new skills and facilitate fast innovation, especially in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). We need to maximise the impact of learning solutions and speed up the organisational learning processes, however, all of this must be underpinned by world class education. Our workforce is coming from the education system; therefore, it is argued that this system should make learners ready for the world of work.

Before we can maximise the impact of organisational learning, we need to look at the generations entering the workforce, their needs, and their profile. We are operating in systems; the education system is feeding organisations with future talent. The system is not fully preparing the generations to be work ready and resilient, as some of these education systems are eroding the creative thinking skills, creating learners who don’t understand their true capabilities. The problem with a didactic style of teaching and education, which is often characterised with a teacher centred approach, oriented around content and passive learning; that it is not providing the best opportunities for creating a competitive advantage for organisations, countries and of course, individuals in the heart of it. Imagine a world, where all your learners are given the opportunity to reach their full potential in a psychologically safe learning environment. An environment, where they are stretched, challenged in a way that they can grow, accept constructive feedback, reflect, and accept differences and become work ready, high performers.

We must think in systems when we are looking for the solutions. Addressing parts of the system will be impactful, but not a solution for a systematic issue. One option is to find ways how we can counterbalance issues around work readiness and education shortfalls, by looking at alternative teaching methods in education, such as coaching. This does not mean that we are moving away completely from the didactic style of teaching, as this also has its place. This means to equip teachers with skills which is mirroring the needs of the future and an environment where learners can openly experiment with different tools, options, teaching and learning methods. One size does not fit all. If we want to maximise the impact of teaching and learning, we must maximise the size of the toolbox teachers and educators has. Why do we need to wait until the world of work to come across different options, where we can and need to shake off all the self-limiting beliefs which was installed in us with an education system when the same system could create endless opportunities if administered well?

If we are looking at organisations, Valle and Castillo (2009) highlights that training is a fundamental element in ensuring that organisations develop human capital. Translating this to education, this is no different. To ensure that educational establishments can create the best performers, we must develop human capital, by appropriate training and education.

When we look at educational training, teacher training specifically, the teacher education curriculum covers a range of coaching tools, skills, and the underpinning principles for both coaching and teaching is very heavily present in the criteria elements, which is based around the unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1959). However, for some reason, many teachers revert back to the didactic style of teaching 90% of their time in the classroom, and this style often manifest in control, and is based on authority, power, and subordination where free thinking is suppressed. When these learners exit the education system and enter the workforce, they may find increased stress, mental health difficulties as they are required to think critically, make decisions, which in their previous experience and education system was not an option.

Although Basterretxea and Albizu (2011) looked at management training and rotating between different management roles and styles, including coaching, again, the findings can be translated into education as well, due to the managing a class. The teachers who can use a wide range of styles effectively, can create better learner outcomes.

Question for us to think about; Why are teachers not using all their knowledge, skills and behaviours from their degrees and training courses? Teacher training is giving coaching skills to teachers; however these are rarely manifesting successfully in the classroom environment. We know that often, 20% of attendees do not even try to apply the knowledge following a training intervention (Brinkerhoff and Mooney, 2008) and in earlier research by Cromwell and Kolb (2004) found that only 15% of total learning is transferred to the workplace, in our case, the classroom environment.

There can be many reasons why coaching is not present or dominant in the classroom environments. The following section will look into some of these reasons.

The role of leadership

Hee et al (2013) concluded, that leadership positively impacts organisational learning transfer. Where supportive leadership behaviours are present, the learning transfer percentage is higher. Which brings us to the point around how educational leadership can be an enabler or blocker to teaching success. Educational leaders who are participating in executive coaching are more likely to apply different style of leadership models with their teams, which is bringing out better performance results.

Leaders who can provide psychologically safe work environments are maximising the impact of their staff, as they are more resilient, staff are more inclusive, there is higher opportunities for learning, contribution, and challenges (Clark, 2020). When education staff is exposed to leadership based on psychological safety, it is more likely that the learners will adapt the benefits of these settings and perhaps even mimic and use these skills in their wider environments.

Assumptions about the learners

Learning environments which would be classed as traditional learning settings, such as educational institutions, further education, and organisational training settings, are still often basing their learning model on the assumptions that the learners are passive participants of the learning process and they are externally motivated to achieve learning aims (Loon, 2017), which is the pedagogical learning principle. Educators who can apply the unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1959) principles to all learners, regardless of the learners’ behaviour, values, thoughts, feelings and presentation. These teachers are creating stronger learner outcomes. This is where coaching makes the biggest impact, challenging educator assumptions, helping them accept the learners for what they are, understand emotions and feelings. To unlock the possibilities and potential of teaching, we must support educators to understand the basis of their assumptions, which might be due to previous bad experiences, value-violations, mental health issues or burnout. Sometimes these assumptions are symptoms of underlying issues, which can be resolved with coaching, mentoring or appropriate teacher supervision.

Wellbeing and burnout

On the other hand, teachers are often under enormous stress and perhaps facing a range of strong emotions towards their profession, teaching itself, parents and learners, some of which is due to burnout. In the book of ‘The Burnout Challenge’, Maslach and Leiter (2022), identified some of the burnout reasons: such as unsustainable workload, lack of control, mismatched values and skills, insufficient rewards for effort, and lack of supportive community. Coaching in this level can support teachers to get a better understanding of their values, emotions, triggers and provide a framework to build resilience during pressure points of the year. We must appropriately place these supportive interventions, at times of the year, when teachers are least pressured. We know from Vygotsky’s (1987) learning model (Zone of proximal development), if individuals are under immense pressure, in panic state, they are not likely to maximise their learning, neither when they are in their comfort zone, as that is not stimulating enough. Wellbeing is key. We must aim to keep individuals in their stretch zone, no matter if we are looking at the educators or the learners. Coaching, incorporating lifestyle and life coaching principles can help developing more resilient individuals, who can tackle pressure points, but then can settle back to stretch zone again and take on new learning.

Red tape

Andy Lancaster (2019) highlights the need of learner choice in their learning to increase motivation, however, this often opposes how the education system is set up, as it needs to cater for the masses, often missing the meaningful opportunities for self-directed learning. The over-regulation of the education system creates rigid processes and policies which is not individualising learning and education for learners. This again can result in resentment towards the profession, burnout and high turnover rates in the sector. The role of coaching here would need to target leaders and educators to maximise resilience and acceptance around issues which are out of their control.

Clearly, coaching is not a fix for all problems and issues in the education system, there will be a wide range of areas where we can control or influence certain aspects, however it is important to think about, how can be make the most with what we got. Just because we operate in a system which is highly regulated, it doesn’t mean we can’t use principles which we are bringing down from the work environment, or perhaps from adult education, such as the principles of andragogy and heutagogy (Hase, 2011, 2013). Coaching can help encourage educators to become reflective practitioners, who are seeking to improve their work and day to day teaching and not afraid of trying new things, even if they are not successful at times.

Learner behaviours

When looking at different aspects of curriculums from primary education to secondary and further education, we should ask ourselves, what are the critical skills learners must have for the future and how can we adjust the classroom teaching to cater for these. On top of the knowledge aspect of education, we should encourage skills and behaviour development by role modelling these in the classroom, such as collaboration skills, critical thinking skills, tech capability, ability to accept and give feedback and dealing with conflict in a constructive way. The current technological advancements underpin this, organisations exist in a culture of prosumers, where the individuals are both consumers and producers simultaneously in their personal life (Lee and McLoughlin, 2007). Using the coaching principles, learners will be exposed to different ways of leading and achieving results. In here, coaching is part of the life of the educator and the learner. Didactics is no longer working as a standalone option, we need to look at heutagogy and coaching as these enable the speed of learning in general life, maximising the responsiveness of the challenging landscape we live in. This will reduce the contradiction between the education system and the needs of life outside of schools, as we are creating the future’s workforce which is resilient, responsible, and creative, critical thinkers.

Changing tech landscape and the need for a 4th functional skill – learning to learn

Malik and Garg (2020) highlight that the digital world’s automation and structural transformation era is here. What does this mean for education? Innovation and personal growth would need to be at the forefront of these educational drivers by enabling learners to take more charge and interest in their learning destiny. Kuit and Fell (2010), albeit writing a decade earlier, raise awareness around this in their report, where they highlight the role of the educator, tasked with developing lifelong learners who can survive and thrive in a global knowledge economy. But when the governmental initiatives are looked at, they still mainly focusing systematic provisions to ‘fix’ issues by throwing courses at individuals, such as the National Skills Fund (2022) initiative, but perhaps not addressing the underlying issues of education, which is around teaching skills to learners how they can learn effectively and providing an environment where learning and failing (in a controlled way) can take place safety. With the advancement of technology, the speed of change now too fast. If we are not teaching learning skills, risk taking and critical thinking, we are not preparing learners to the world of work and therefore we can’t create competitive advantage for the future.

Learning to learn – the 4th functional skill

The Leitch (2006) report highlights that the population could be considered one of humankind’s greatest resources. People have vast opportunities and potential; if this potential is utilised well, it can increase the economy’s productivity. Up until now, most of these reports and recommendations were focused on primary and generic skills (functional skills), such as language, Maths, IT. However, they fail to address the actual skills behind effective learning, to teach people how to learn and share what they have learned. The review has an ambitious vision: to reduce social deprivation by providing skill development (Leitch, 2006), but not addressing or investigating the finding, why many have very little interest in learning and improving skills. This raises an argument around the necessity of the introductions of a 4th functional skill around teaching individuals to learn, using appropriate coaching style teaching methods. If we continuously giving away the answers to people, they won’t need or want to think themselves.

At what point is it essential to reassess the approach to national skill development suitable in the VUCA world as clearly the motions from the last 15 years did not bring the desired results, if we are looking at the UK’s education landscape, which also has many relevance to other countries’ educational issues. Blaschke (2012) raises awareness around the need for a more self-directed and self-determined approach to education and learning as the existing pedagogical and andragogical educational methods are insufficient in the current climate, neither in work nor in education.

Hagel (2021) writes about the need to encourage the creation of learners who have the passion of the explorer. However, the didactic style of teaching is not enabling this driver. Incorporating coaching into the multiple layers of education can optimise the conditions to create curious, self-directed learners.

Flow state

According to Csikszentmihalyi (1997), flow is the optimal experience where individuals are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter to them. In this state, individuals so intensely concentrate that they have no attention left to anything else around them, just what they are doing in that given time. If a classroom environment and teaching can create flow states, we are more likely to maximise performance. If we can teach learners to be in the flow state, we are a step closer to create explorers, creators, critical thinkers.

One critique to the original flow theory; it is not looking at other environmental factors which can negatively impact the learning experience, such as previous bad experiences with learning, anxieties, mental health, and increased workload, to mention a few. To counterbalanced these, we should systematically incorporate coaching into education, we can start breaking down the above barriers, achieving higher learner outcomes and better skills resilience for the future.

This section is not covering the needs and specific teaching requirements for individuals with special educational needs or neurodiversity, as this is understood, these learners will need customised support and intervention.

Knowledge acquisition vs. competency and capability

In the present educational landscape, there is a significant focus on knowledge acquisition and some aspects of the apprenticeships are focusing on competency and capability building (Gov.uk, 2022). However, in the fast-changing information society, focusing only on knowledge and exam completion is not going to support the learners to be competitive in the world of work. Similar findings were presented by Stoten (2021), who talks about the need to address the wider societal issues, creating critical thinkers, not just focusing on competency requirements of the individuals in order to adapt to the new complex systems people will operate in. Compulsory education can create the nourishing base of competency and capability development, but not with command-and-control style and didactic style of teaching. There are many alternatives to maximise impact, such as coaching, collaborative and social learning opportunities.

Collaborative and social learning enables the creation of a learning culture, which is originated in Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978, in Doloriert, 2017). There, learning is looked at as a collaborative, mutual activity where two or more individuals work together to achieve a common outcome (Doloriert, 2017). However, when individuals work in groups, many hindrance factors can block successful learning and information exchange, such as group dynamics, lack of trust, and stress. In education, there must be a varying degree of power imbalance and authority figure. The educator must be present and have the authority as and when needed. This might reduce the effectiveness of social learning in the classrooms if this power relationship not checked or administered at incorrect points. Yet, this must be underpinned by the positive, unconditional regard and trust, and not by needs around feeling in power due to an intrinsic driver for showing authority from the point of view of the educator. If this is the underpinning principles for the application of this authority, then it will most likely hinder the effectiveness of any non-didactic style of teaching.

Creating an effective learning and education system based on knowledge sharing between the system participants enables enhanced productivity and innovation, which will support nations to nurture generations of highly skilled and resilient citizens. In the fast-changing technological landscape, we must enable individuals to learn effectively at speed and the education systems must adapt to accommodate this drive by using teaching and learning styles which are present in the world of work and effective to maximise potential.

Coaching as a systematic change in education

Imagine a system, where the key players, such as the educators, learners and the parents / organisations (if learners are employed) are operating from the same shared assumptions that possibilities are endless, learning is the key for progress, and most importantly, that our basic assumptions about others always come from a positive regard, or at least from a neutral regard as a minimum.

In the new approach, coaching as a systematic change in education, the new framework is looking at the key educational players, the parents, the educators and in the centre of the model, the learner. We are working on all aspects of limiting beliefs, values, coaching skills. It is essential to address these key players at the same time, as both parents and educators use to be learners and in large proportion, people will have a varying degree of negative experience with their education. There are a range of generational traumas the key players are carrying, many of which are stopping them from achieving their maximum potential, all of which needs to be addressed.

The approach might sound very utopian, but not impossible, let’s not stop progress. If we go back a hundred-year, self-driving flying cars were only just someone’s crazy imagination, yet now, in 2024, this is a near future possibility. It is time to address the root cause of the problem and help people achieve true potential.

The future’s education

So, how is this changing educational landscape should look like? Let’s look at a hypothetical case study. You have a medium size educational institution, covering education from age 4 to 16. You have a range of teachers, from established professionals to trainee teachers. They all should have the same teacher training, which is focusing on maximising the learners’ potential via a range of teacher interventions, based on the driver of unconditional positive regard. The teacher curriculum is loaded with coaching principles, however the application of these needs to be regularly revisited and encouraged. Systematic coaching, mentoring and action learning sets can support practitioners to have opportunities for sharing good practice examples, decompress before the weekend and build their continuous professional development. It is a relatively cost-effective option for continuous learning and development in an educational setting but must be supported by effective leadership.

When coaching is applied in classroom setting, with the focus on removing barriers of small thinking, limiting beliefs, and customised approaches, the learner outcomes improve as they will start to believe that anything is possible. This only works if the teachers are also believing that individuals can achieve great results with hard work. Some might think, yes, we are on the right track, we are doing all of this, the devil is in the details and in consistency. The quality of teaching must be based on appropriate behaviours, positive assumptions around the learners and general self-awareness of the teaching staff, where at times, their values might be triggered. Teacher supervision, very similar to coaching supervision, in a supportive 121 or group setting is another cost-effective tool to keep negative feelings, emotions, burnout and assumptions in check.

The role of coaching here is serving two purposes, one is coming from a supportive condition, to enable teachers to remain resilient and problem solve through supervision, to be and feel more in control, rather than controlling. The other reason is role modelling an environment where learners can achieve. We all know too well, in many cases, this might be the first and only opportunity for learners to receive such supportive environment. We should go even a step further, by adding a regular session into the curriculum around teaching coaching skills and critical thinking to learners to widen their view around life and relationships. This would involve more cost and time investment, however the potential of ROI for the future is impressive.

The beauty of this example is, this is scalable, and applicable across any organisation which is involved with teaching, learning or education. Some educational institutions already implementing a range of these approaches, the teacher curriculum actually advocating for the application of coaching through knowledge, skills and behaviour demonstration. The consistency and effectiveness is perhaps an area for improvement where similar drivers are already existing and the wider implementation across the education system for the institutions which are not using these drivers.

One area is not addressed in the model so far, and it is relating to the parents as key players, the area which also has a significant impact, if not the biggest. The parenting approaches and skills are present on a very wide range, and as above mentioned, some of the parental behaviour manifestation towards education might stem from previous bad experiences. The more reason for changing how education is delivered now, as we are potentially creating a layer of the society, who will have children very soon and the bad experiences are handed down. The question here is, how can we support parents through educational institutions, so they have an alternative way of looking at learning, parenting and education in general through the lens of coaching. This is a bigger, more systematic piece of work, based on similar principles as the above strands of the framework, which requires more investment and potential government support. Coaching here primarily would be based on parenting, mindsets, values, assumptions, overcoming previous bad experiences, conflict resolution and skill development. The delivery model would need some further investigation and research, to understand best approach development.

Why do we need the above framework?

As outlined by Dr Louise Gilbert, in the EMCC podcast titled Emotion coaching with children and young people in schools; living and learning is building our brain, what we are doing becomes our way of being. Learners are spending half of their waking time in education, therefore it is important that we are building their brain with learning in the most appropriate way possible, so they find the best way of being.

The framework should enable the development of a relational approach towards education, whereby agents of the system working more closely achieving better results, slowly moving away from the behavioural approaches, with punitive interventions. Repetition build habits, the relational approach and behaviour approach will build habits, with very different educational and productivity outcomes.

While reading this paper, you might think, education needs order, discipline and strict assessments so we understand the effectiveness of the teaching. Agree, we need to have assessments in education, but we need to move away from looking at these assessments as judgements and look at these as improvement opportunities in teaching and learning. We need to address the system, using the most effective teaching and learning strategies. By integrating coaching into the learning and education landscape in a systematic way will help maximise potential across all ages.


Basterretxea, I. and Albizu, E. (2011) ‘Management training as a source of perceived competitive advantage: The Mondragon Cooperative Group case’, Economic and industrial democracy, 32(2), pp. 199–222.

Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56–71. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2113 (Accessed: 31.01.24)

Brinkerhoff, R O and Mooney, T (2008) Courageous Training: Bold actions for business results, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA

Clark, T. (2020), ‘The 4 stages of psychological safety: Defining the path to inclusion and innovation, Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Department for Education (2022), ‘The National Skills Fund‘, [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-skills-fund/national-skills-fund  (Accessed: 11.04.24)

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997), ‘Finding Flow, The psychology of engagement with everyday life’, Basic Books, Perseus Books Group, New York

Doloriert, C. (2017), ‘Facilitating Collective and Social Learning’, Kogan Page, London

EMCC (2023), ‘Emotion coaching with children and young people in schools, with Dr Louise Gilbert’, Available at:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/1M6wIZwvQYOWHs9J3Yd5DA?si=LaWNvOLbTMi7vy30gj-URQ  (Accessed: 11.04.24)

Hagel, J (2021), ‘What motivates lifelong learners’ in Harvard Business Review, Organisational Learning section. Published: 11th October

Hase, S. (2011), “Learner defined curriculum: heutagogy and action learning in vocational education”, available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254664050 (accessed 31 January 2024).

Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2013).  Self-determined learning:  Heutagogy in action. New York:  Bloomsbury Publishing.

Hee Kim, J. and L. Callahan, J. (2013) ‘Finding the intersection of the learning organization and learning transfer’, European journal of training and development, 37(2), pp. 183–200.

Lancaster, A. (2019), Driving Performance through Learning: Develop Employees through Effective Workplace Learning, Kogan Page, London

LEITCH, S. (2006) Prosperity for all in the global economy – world class skills. Final report. [Online] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/354161/Prosperity_for_all_in_the_global_economy_-_summary.pdf  (Accessed: 21th March 2024)

Loon, M. (2017), ‘Designing and developing digital and blended learning solutions’, Kogan Page, London

Malik, P. and Garg, P. (2020) ‘Learning organization and work engagement: the mediating role of employee resilience’, International journal of human resource management, 31(8), pp. 1071–1094.

Maslach, C. Leiter, M. (2022), ‘The Burnout Challenge: Managing People’s Relationships with Their Jobs, Harvard University Press

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the web 2.0 era. Paper presented at the ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://dlcubc.ca/dlc2wp/educ500/files/2011/07/mcloughlin.pdf

National Skills Fund (2022), ‘Free, funded courses’, [Online], Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/free-courses-for-jobs (Accessed: 11.04.2024)

Rogers, C. R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework. In S. Koch (Ed.), Psychology: A study of a science (Vol. 3, pp. 184–256). McGraw-Hill.

Stoten, D.W. (2021) ‘Building adaptive management capability: the contribution of heutagogy to management development in turbulent times’, The Journal of management development, 40(2), pp. 121–137.

Valle, I.D. del and Castillo, M.A.S. (2009) ‘Human capital and sustainable competitive advantage: An analysis of the relationship between training and performance’, International entrepreneurship and management journal, 5(2), pp. 139–163.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R.W. Rieber & A.S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky, Volume 1: Problems of general psychology (pp. 39–285). New York: Plenum Press. (Original work published 1934.)

Lépj velünk kapcsolatba!