Friday 17 March 2017

The school research lead and coaching - Is there any evidence that coaching works?

Recently on #SLTChat there was an extended exchange of tweets on what does effective coaching look like.   However, just as any neophyte evidence-based practitioner knows, one of the first things  that they must do is challenge assumptions.  In this case, the assumption has been made that coaching is effective, an assumption which is has already been challenged by (Briner, 2012).   However, more recently (Grover and Furnham, 2016) have undertaken a systematic review of the empirical and practitioner research on executive, leadership and business coaching to assess the current empirical evidence for the effectiveness of coaching and the mechanisms that support it.  So the rest of this post will do two things; first, briefly summarise the work of Grover ; second, consider the implications for the use of coaching with adults within a school-setting.

Summarising the findings of Grover and Furnham


Grover and Furnham undertook a systematic review and started with search of electronic databases, looking for the following key words: leadership, coaching, business coaching, executive coaching, work-place coaching, developmental coaching, coaching effectiveness, coaching efficacy, coaching evaluation, coaching outcomes and effect of coaching.  Grover and Furnham for articles that included quantitative data on effectiveness of coaching or mechanisms that contribute to the effectiveness of coaching, with only studies conducted in an organisational setting or utilised coachees in full or part-time employment used, whilst coaching studies utilising students or in university settings excluded.  Studies were included that utilised a professional coach – internal or external – and who did not have any managerial supervision over the coachee.  As such included studies focused on coaching explicit to an organisational environment   health, life or sports coaching were excluded, along with online, team and peer coaching,   Finally, studies which included a coaching intervention in tandem with other development interventions – e.g classroom training – included

The results

52 studies met the inclusion criteria and included in review
20 studies only used self-reporting measures to assess effectiveness of coaching
32 studies focused on the impact on the individual
*18 studies looked at organisational impact

The main findings are

Not enough data is available to make a definitive judgment about effectiveness of coaching – plus issues with experimental rigor and large enough sample size - although results do tend to lean towards coaching being an effective intervention.  However, coaching was found to positively impact on a coachee's self-efficacy and with a higher or continued coachee goal attainment. As for job satisfaction and job performance, no definitive support was found for coaching increasing these outcomes for the coachee.   Nevertheless, in terms of direct impact on organisations, the distal outcomes of the research show coaching helps improve leadership and management behaviours – plus impacts on turnover, increased satisfaction and job commitment.

Implications for school leaders

First, there is insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgment about the effectiveness of coaching, so it should not be seen as some form of ‘magic-bullet’ that solves all managerial problems or guarantees school improvement

Second, the review does not provide any evidence about the effectiveness of line manager (coach)/subordinate (coachee) relationships – as such the review should not be used as evidence to justify line manager/subordinate relationships becoming more coach-like.

Third, there is some tentative evidence to suggest that coaching efforts should be directed at newer members of staff, who may be more motivated to respond to coaching. As such, this may the best returns on investments in coaching may be with new qualified or early career teachers

Fourth, there is some evidence that the benefits of coaching are not restricted to the coachee (say a senior manager) and that the benefits are also experience by ‘subordinates/’ in terms of positive relationships, reduced intention to leave, increased job satisfaction, work engagement and organisational commitment.    As such,  coaching interventions with  leaders and managers may well be a key mechanism to address the emerging teacher recruitment crisis

Finally, it needs to be acknowledge that none of the reported studies were conducted in school settings, so we need to careful in attempting to generalise any of the findings for those leading and working within schools.

For a full review of the work of Grover and Furnham you may wish to follow this link


BRINER, R. B. 2012. Does coaching work and does anyone really care. OP Matters, 17, 4-12.
GROVER, S. & FURNHAM, A. 2016. Coaching as a Developmental Intervention in Organisations: A Systematic Review of Its Effectiveness and the Mechanisms Underlying It. PloS one, 11, e0159137.


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  2. If you haven’t seen the recent document by colleagues at the University of Brighton on the link at the foot of this post you might find it useful.

    It is worth noting that in this report the term mentoring is normally used by the authors to encompass mentors’ potential use of coaching and they highlight very early on in the report that research has shown that the use of mentoring and (in particular) coaching as a remedial strategy to address the perceived under-performance of teachers to be an important contributor to the significant variation in the quality of institution-based mentoring in both the school and Further Education and Skills sectors.

    Whilst the project set out to focus mainly on ‘establish(ing) what teacher mentoring stakeholders might learn from successful and effective practice in other sectors – in the UK and internationally’ I must admit that I was surprised to see there is very little, others might say a noteworthy lack of, reference to literature about the drawbacks of mentoring/coaching. I did anticipate a least some acknowledgement of research into this aspect of mentoring/coaching in the document. For instance Ehrich et al produced an informative piece in this respect entitled ‘FORMAL MENTORING PROGRAMS IN EDUCATION AND OTHER PROFESSIONS: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE’ in 2004. I think referring to this and perhaps a few other relevant pieces would have helped in providing a more balanced view of research findings.

    Link to report:

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