Exploring an extended role for coaching - through the eyes of an action researcher
Dear Jacqueline. I am delighted to have had a chance to read your paper and to respond to it in this forum.
I have appended your paper with a few annotations that might be helpful as well.
Dear Jacqueline. I am delighted to have had a chance to read your paper and to respond to it in this forum. I want to say right away how very much I enjoyed it, how I felt alive in the reading of it, and how it has helped me to make sense of some of the issues of coaching, which I wasn’t really aware of before. On a personal level, a close friend is a careers-coach and she, like you, cares very much about the impact of her work on others, and this has brought her own expertise closer for me to have a look at and share in. Thank you.
Just a comment on the Abstract to start with. It felt more like an Introduction to me, than an Abstract, in the sense it didn’t give me an overview of the whole paper, its purposes and achievements. I think EJOLTS expects that kind of Abstract. A differentiation between the Abstract and Introduction, I think, need to take place. And I would expect an Abstract that is about 300 words long at the most, and yours is more than twice that.
I love the way you write so carefully for the reader. I have a sense of someone who is more than walking to the talk. You write in such a way that carries me along smoothly from point to point, giving me a chance to dwell on key points, to the point that when you ask me to trust you on p.8 – because the statements of others are necessarily anonymised for ethical reasons – I already do, because your style is open, friendly and welcoming. I am always admiring of a style of writing that holds the reader in a friendly embrace from the outset and asks her/his goodwill in taking a trip together. That’s what I feel is happening here. I go with you willingly.
I very much like the way that early in the paper you expound on your Ph.D. work, which focused on the working of “exquisite connectivity” in terms of your connections. This helps me to see where you have come from, perceive links between the inherent values and also to have a sense of where you are tending towards. Again, it’s a facet of the living theorising logic that enables me to feel able to understand your journey. You now look at the idea critically, to see how you have progressed. You do this, quite clearly and explicitly, to see what might need amending, in other words, how you can improve your practice.
I am particularly struck by the cogency of the paragraph before the section “The Proposition” (p. 4), in which you outline definitive boundaries around your current work and how it is to be evaluated. This enables me yet more to believe in your reliability as a narrator of your own story.
I think the first time I find myself questioning anything and not simply accepting it at face-value is when on p. 5, you list qualities and procedures that were your founding principles. I wonder, however, whether any of the terms you use might be problematic for your reader, for example, the first of these, ‘the generative and improvisatory qualities of intuitive questioning’. There are, I feel, a series of values implicit in these words that is not being brought out for the reader. Your understanding of those ideas are lived and experienced. For the reader, this may not be the case. What if a reader of this article is not an intuitive questioner, or doesn’t rely on intuition at all, even distrusts it. At the least I think this “list” needs a qualifier that these lived experiences are yours and hold for you nuances and dynamics that are not necessarily transferable in values and type. In Fact on page 6 you discuss the idea of living the experience, and it’s obvious to me you’re alive to this, but I think it needs flagging up here.
I like the way from p. 8 you tell us how you worked, what methods, but with reasons, allowing us glimpses into your lived experience that make such a report trustworthy in a way that Kincheloe (1991  ) writes about. I am convinced of the veracity of the statements you make subsequently, because of the way you have chosen to introduce any external material. There is a transparency of values between your writing-style, the mode of presentation and your ideas that works for me.
There is a level of interpretation, however, about Beth, for example, that I wonder at. On page 9 you write about something being shown through her upright posture, as if this has to mean that which you interpret as her unease. It may not be the case. It might be more accurate to modify this by saying something about you feeling this was likely to be the case, or that previous experience in such situations has led to you drawing x and y conclusions.
I am fascinated by the incident, in which you relate how Beth began to cry, what the circumstances were that surrounded that significant incident. You clearly are drawing meaningful inferences from it, but I felt a certain dissonance when you say on page11, this was now her safe and private place in which to explore how she might re-tell her story. I am tempted to take this statement at face-value, but would like to probe that a little and see what inferences or presumptions, even, and why, you are making about this. I think there are values and your own embodied knowledge in here that I’d like to know more about.
In your description and explanation of Stephen’s progress, I feel I would also like to understand more about the processes that happened after the moments of revelation. Would it be possible for you to give the reader one or two examples of his actions, conversations, indeed anything to enable me as a reader to see the claims you make about the immediacy of the effects of the coaching process on him, and the challenges from his professional role? I feel without them, I am not able to see the multi-layers that are hinted at. It’s not that I don’t trust you, I feel, as with the case-study about Beth, you stopped short of conclusions I felt were implied by the build-up. You go on to add some details of what happened later, but it’s this moment, I think you’re suggesting, is the key one in terms of drawing conclusions about cogent coaching.
I very much like your Conclusion in which you draw attention to the ways in which your recent experiences are grounded in your past, and more so in your present, but modifying towards the future in order to improve practice. I like the way in which you hesitate to conclude in too demarcated a way, given a significant conversation that makes you pause for thought. This shows your sensitivity to the other, to possibilities, to a dialectic way of coming to see, which bears out your claims for an exquisite connectedness earlier. I wonder whether in your final paragraph, though, you might want to indicate which question draws you the closest, or draw out of the several questions, an overarching one whose values will act as a source of light on the coming journey.
A thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating and beautifully-written account. I am grateful for the opportunity to write a review.
Publish with minor revisions.
Moira Laidlaw 17th October 2010.
 Kincheloe, J. (2002) “Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Research as a Path to Empowerment.” Routledge: London. Second Edition.
It was wonderful to receive such an in-depth review - thank you. I will certainly address the referencing and those parts of the text you have so helpfully annotated. And I will supply an Abstract.
I have taken time to reflect on your challenge to find a way in which to more fully articulate the embodied knoweldge that although implicit in the text is not always clearly examined and drawn out. On re-reading the sections you have highlighted I realise that I have not yet fully explored the layers of meaning-making myself, and so will now take the time to 'listen' to what is not being spoken and find a way in which to share it in the writing. For me it will be an opportunity to try and articulate what I believe Schon describes as reflecting in the moment.
Your comments about the experience with Beth have particularly highlighted how I work with the phsyioloigcal data I observe, and I will now find a way in which to share that. You have also drawn my attention to what appears to be an over-cautious drawing of conclusions, and which in reality is probably both that and the 'light handedness' of the coach sitting side by side in an unfamiliar tension. I shall now be interested to see how I might draw the two into conversation in the text.
I have really appreciated your challenges Moira, and your deep appreciation, and look forward to sharing the revised text shortly.
Very best wishes
Hi, Jacqueline. You're more than welcome. I really feel close to your values in the paper. You have a style of writing and a respect for the other that is mesmerising. I am delighted to be able to respond in an open forum, because it is not only rigorous but also more personal and, in my opinion compels a forthright and respectful honesty towards the author and their endeavours: what I say is something I have publicly to stand by, and that feels right to me. I look forward to any amendments you see fit to include in your final submission.
With love and respect, Moira
A lovely paper. I felt you really 'got inside' and took the reader on a fascinating journey. I learnt so much and it resonated in many ways with my experiences. I felt the abstract was more like an introduction. It was very good and set the scene beautifully.
I've add a few comments (incluiding ones of appreciation!) and suggestions.
Warmest and many thanks,
Thank you so much for your thoughful comments which I am now working through. In reading them I was drawn by your sense of resonance and became curious about your own work. So, your comments led me to your profile, evidence I would like to think that our collective writing is both connective and generative.
Since reading your doctoral thesis I've been looking forward to seeing the spread of your ideas through your publications. I particularly like your idea of the importance of exquisite connectivity and your willingness to acknowledge the 'shadow' in human experience:
"I need to remind myself just why I do this work. I feel that I can allow my attention to become distorted by the yo-yo pulls of emotional extremes – one minute cocooned in the pleasure of it and in another, immersed in self-doubt and frustration. I know that I feel passionately about helping create a new paradigm – a space in which organisations can enjoy the vibrancy of human pleasure and interaction, where relationships are about reciprocity and mutual support and learning. I defined it so clearly in the aspirational introduction to my paper that I still wonder, curiously and with astonishment, at how strongly I feel the need to re-state it. "
Your writings on the three cases are very clear and well organised and certainly captivated my imagination.
I'm looking forward to seeing how you research and answer your new questions:
"And now the new questions are emerging. How can I work with the ‘whole’ system’ of this practice to achieve the influence I’m seeking? How can I pay attention to all the moving parts as I carefully place my generative questions at a juncture where I anticipate energy and response? And how can I fold this experience into the knowledge-base of my work?"
I'm thinking that you might connect with Joan Walton, the Director of the Child and Family at Liverpool Hope University as I think you might find it enjoyable to participate in a collaborative enquiry that is focused on values and understandings that I think you share.
Dear Jack - I very much appreciated your encouragement to write this paper. Through its writing I have been able to articulate so much more clearly the 'new' questions that have such significance for me. I am intrigued by the proposed connection with Joan and will find a way to talk that through with you. Thank you for your review and I will now work with all the feedback to plan the next step to sharing my ideas more widely.
With kind regards, Jacqui
Thanks very much for posting your paper on the site yesterday. Just a technical detail to get out of the way first. I wonder if you could format the paper as shown at: Submission Guidelines and using the paper-template at the site. This would tremendously expedite the technical requirements for your paper in terms of its publication, and it is an important part of the submission-process.
O.K., that over with: What a delight to find your revised paper this morning on the site. I reacquainted myself with the comments I and others made as well last time and then settled down to read the paper with real excitement. What a pleasure! I enjoyed it last time, but this time it left me even more feeling that you reveal not only the processes in which you work and the ways in which they influence others, but your own unique humanity. Yet in this depiction, you connect my own sense of self in the world with your own insights, values and processes. That's an unusually cogent gift of communication, an exquisite connectivity, if you like. And I'm not so delighted because you've amended the paper in the directions I suggested. That's not the point. It's simply that you have taken everything I said and where appropriate for you and you've made it clear, have seamlessly united your own integrity with it. The result is a passionate paper of an expert-facilitator, who loves what she does, is inspiring at what she does, shows the strengths and dilemmas of others as they struggle towards greater cohesion. Perhaps most importantly of all for this journal, you communicate directly to the heart and the mind, at least of this reader and I suspect anyone else interested in how encounters can be both healing and educative. And at the heart of your paper lies your profound humanity. I am left with a sense of having encountered something tremendously important in these days of line-management and tick-list mentalities. By responding so intuitively, but expertly, to the people you work with you show how values and actions can be woven together in order to make the part of the world you inhabit better for your and others' agency in it.
I haven't read a paper that moves me in this way for a long time. The scope, processes, and rationale, outcomes and insights that this paper has to show us will, I hope, exert an influence on the ways in which educators can see their way to help people to help themselves. A total delight.
Publish without reservation.
And many thanks, Jacqueline. Best wishes, from Moira
I have just read this paper for the first time, and I totally agree with Moira's comments above. I got goose-bumps when reading your case studies (and it's warm here in New Zealand at present!) I think this is a very powerful paper, and I'd like your approval to forward it to our Associate Vice Chancellor who is working in the organisational development field - I think she'd really appreciate reading it.
Well done for such an insightful and helpful piece of work.
Pip Bruce Ferguson
How wonderful to hear your response - and yes, of course I'd be very pleased for you to share the paper with your Associate Vice Chancellor. I look forward to hearing any feedback she might share. Best wishes, Jacqueline