“If I’m asking more questions than giving answers then it’s a lot more empowering” – Learning about and implementing a coaching approach in early childhood intervention in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Theses / Dissertations
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Thesis discipline
Health Sciences
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury
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Mataiti, Helen Catherine

Aligning with inclusive, participatory, and family-centred approaches, coaching is a practice of interest in early childhood intervention (ECI) both globally and locally. Aotearoa New Zealand’s Early Intervention Practice Framework outlines expectations for the use of coaching with parents and early childhood educators as members of the ECI team, however practical tools to support learning about the practice are few. A small but growing body of literature in coaching in ECI exists, but data in professional learning and implementation are limited, particularly outside of North America. The purpose of this study therefore, was to gain further insight into the adoption and implementation of coaching by ECI professionals in the socio-cultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Using a qualitative descriptive approach, semi-structured interviews were held with 15 ECI professionals who described themselves as either emerging or practising Early Intervention Teachers, or as involved in the support or management of Early Intervention Teacher practice. Thematic analysis was applied to the interview transcripts to identify key themes. Supplementary documentary analysis of legislative, policy and practice documents was utilised for triangulation where required.

Key findings of the study showed that participants were ready to learn about coaching according to five areas of readiness: professional background, relevance of coaching, interest and motivation, knowledge of coaching, and the learning context. Participants’ learning was supported by people, events, tools and resources, and the transactions that occurred between these entities. In addition, participants mentioned psychological learning mechanisms that pertained to seeking or becoming aware of new knowledge, and making sense of this within the workplace context. Professional learning in McWilliam’s routines-based early intervention and routines- based interview was also reported to support learning about coaching.

Participants generally agreed that coaching was a facilitative practice with four key underpinning principles, humanistic, relational, conversational, and solution-focused. They also agreed that it differed from supervision, consulting and mentoring in most cases, but there were conflicting reports about the place of modelling, imitation and instruction in the coaching process. Finally, while many participants had trialled coaching, few were implementing it in everyday practice, and the majority perceived themselves to have emergent coaching skills. Key challenges limiting coaching implementation were identified as relating to the ECI context, the practice of coaching, professional learning, and the professional and their practice.

This study contributes to ECI coaching research as one of few that describes professional learning in some depth, and accounts for the range of mechanisms involved. It also offers insights into ECI professionals’ understandings of coaching as part of learning how to coach, which up until now have been largely under-investigated. The study confirms and adds to current understandings of coaching implementation challenges. Findings suggest further qualitative and quantitative studies in professional learning, understandings, and implementation of coaching are required.

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