There is well established evidence that adults learn best when they are engaged in learning which is of direct interest and relevance to their life and work and where they have influence over the learning process. Rather than being 'talked at', adults learn best through action-reflection learning (doing things and then reflecting on what worked and why). For this reason, coaching and self-directed processes are ideally suited to effective adult learning.
A large Anglican School in Perth wanted to refocus its staff professional development programs in line with evidence-based coaching approaches to adult learning. A series of practical workshops for 60 senior teachers and heads of department were organised to equip teachers in skills for peer-peer coaching. Many participants reported that the ‘coaching approach’ to learning had an unexpected positive impact in the classroom as teachers expanded their use of coaching as an educational skill, as well as contributing to positive teacher-student-student relationships.
A group-of-eight university wanted to obtain a national accreditation for a strategy to increase the number of women teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Rather than a traditional top-down ‘consultation’ approach, the steering group worked together on a ‘collaborative emergent design’ approach. This started with a bottom-up Open Space meeting with 90 attendees, which witnessed, among many other things, engineering students in direct face-to-face dialogue with senior management and faculty Deans. The outcomes of this initial meeting were analysed and then run through several more collaborative iterations in order to develop a strategy which had strong buy-in by the people who would implement it.