Posted by: lindapemik | October 16, 2011

The power of belief

Today I am reflecting on how coaching and facilitating change when you move into an online learning environment.

I have worked throughout my years as an educator to develop my competency as a learning facilitator. I have trained as a life skills coach at the YWCA, a trainer for Nobody’s Perfect, a parenting program; I have designed and delivered facilitator training to others—so I feel quite knowledgeable about how to work with groups and facilitate learning. I have noticed that there is a great deal of similarity between the knowledge, skills and attitudes of learning facilitators and those needed to coach. So how does the online context impact on what I know of coaching? Let’s compare.

I believe it is the job of both the learning facilitator and the coach to:

• inspire

• create a safe learning environment

• attend to individual and group needs—to listen deeply, question wisely to help members make sense of their learning

• to set the tone and model positive attitudes

• respect and honour members contributions

• share values

• think with foresight

Tools & techniques of facilitation are designed:

• to make interactions easier

• set the context for learning

• engage learners/workers

• promote sharing of ideas and knowledge

• link minds—help make the necessary connections

• spark motivation and passion

• release the wisdom of the individual/group

• move individual/group to action

These dispositions and skills look very similar to the “markers” of connected coaching: trust building, questioning and facilitating design thinking.Coaching Markers such as:

Trust Building

• Establishing rapport

• Examining climate and culture

• Setting ground rules

• Establishing norms

• Exploring hopes and fears


• Seeking stories

• Doing active listening

• Paraphrasing/mindfulness

• Making observations

• Mediating Thinking

• Affirming potential

• Asking appreciative questions

• Discovering strengths

• Clarifying focus

• Making requests

Facilitating design thinking

• Framing aspirations

• Brainstorming ideas

• Inviting possibilities

• Designing experiments

Common Activities used in f2f groups for coaching or to facilitate learning can be remixed and implemented online.

Activities such as: Getting acquainted exercises, establishing ground rules, eliciting group expectations, setting goals and objectives, small discussion groups and small group presentations, reflective discussions, energizers, brainstorming, storytelling, prioritizing and getting to decision

So how does coaching/facilitating change when it goes online?

It doesn’t. It just gets harder to create a supportive learning environment and make the connections required. An online coach or a “connected coach” not only needs all of the knowledge skills and attitudes of the face to face coach but also needs to be able to apply them in an online environment. This requires knowledge of how to use a variety of software tools and apps. Online coaching also calls for a greater time commitment on both the part of the coach and the learners. Most online coaching scenarios provide for both synchronous and asynchronous communication so the connected coach and the team members have to spend a lot of time online, participating in discussions and responding quickly to postings and email. This is in addition to posting activities, assignments and facilitating synchronous classwork. The time commitment for an online coach greatly exceeds f2f coaching.

Creative use of online collaboration tools contributes greatly to establishing an online learning environment where participants feel safe and able to trust the coach and each other. Connected coaches need to take the time to build relationships with the group members and provide opportunities for group members to connect with each other. There are numerous software tools and apps available to support online collaboration and connected thinking. Some of the tools that we have used in the connected coaching course are: Blackboard for synchronous classes; Wall wisher ; Picnik; Google docs;ietherpad;fotobabble; VoiceThread ; Vocaroo, YouTube. Learners, however, may need support to maximize the use of these tools so the coach needs to insure that support is offered and given when needed.

Perhaps the greatest disposition that the connected coach needs however is belief—belief that online spaces can be productive, exciting learning spaces where great things can happen. Belief can be infectious. If I believe in the efficacy of online learning spaces, hopefully that can transferred to the team I am working with and together we can inspire each other to deeper learning.



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