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How well does coaching work?
Evaluation in the coaching and mentoring industry is put under the microscope in the new issue of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council Journal.
Co-Editor Dr Bob Garvey, of the Mentoring and Coaching Unit at Sheffield Hallam University said, "As the coaching and mentoring industry continues to grow, more and more coaches and their clients are looking for effective ways of evaluating their coaching programmes.
"Evaluation benefits clients in that it allows them to ascertain the benefits of any coaching programme they have been using - and even to compare it against more traditional methods of training. It’s useful for coaches too, in that it shows them both their strengths and areas that could do with more work or experience.”
"But," he added, "answering the simple question: ‘How well does it work?’ is far from simple."
Several papers in the EMCC Journal take a look at the issue, including ‘Principles and processes of coaching evaluation’ by David Gray.
Gray writes that coaching concerns not only the coachees and their coach, but also their line manager and organisation as a whole. All four stakeholders will want results, but each one has a different perspective, which needs to be taken into account. He asks whether evaluation should be carried out by internal or external reviewers, and importantly, what should be evaluated – and when.
Gray cites D L Kirkpatrick’s ‘Techniques for Evaluating Training Programmes,’ which has been influential in the industry since it was first published in 1959.
Kirkpatrick argued that the evaluation of any training programme should occur at four levels. These range from level 1: evaluating the reactions of participants on the programme - to level 4: relating the results of the programme to organisational objectives and other criteria of effectiveness.
(You can find more information on Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation in part 2 of the the article The Human Capital Return On Investment which appears in our return on investment section.)
Gray says that most evaluation appears to take place only at level 1 but that it is possible to evaluate coaching from a wide range of perspectives, which encompass all four levels.
Gray lists ten in all, ranging from a simple cost benefit analysis, which looks at the results of the coaching programme in financial terms, to the impact focus, which, he says, seeks to discover the direct and indirect impacts of the coaching programme on participants, the organisation and the community.
Another important form of evaluation, says Gray, is the administration of the coaching programme, which could involve issues ranging from the choice of coach and coachee to the question of whether coaching was the right kind of development intervention the first place.
Timing too, is important. For example, evaluation during a coaching programme can identify problems as and when they occur. Summative evaluation, at the end of the process, is used in determining the overall effectiveness of the programme.
Gray also looks at how evaluation should be conducted, and examines a wide variety of approaches. These include the ‘experimental approach’ where one group that has received coaching is evaluated against one group that has not; straightforward ‘goal-based’ evaluation and even ‘goal free’ approaches which look at unexpected outcomes and above all processes used in the coaching process.
The tools used for evaluation are also examined, along with the way in which results need to be reported to specific sets of stakeholders involved, taking into account key issues such as confidentiality.
Gray’s own research, among some 60 coaches, mostly from the Surrey area, is also included and in his conclusion, he calls for Kirkpatrick’s higher levels to become coaching targets, particularly in terms of changing behaviours and results.
Specifically, he recommends: "Evaluation of coaching should:
Bob Garvey said: "This is a fascinating paper which touches on many aspects of this important issue and should be of real practical benefit to anyone involved in coaching or mentoring."
The Journal is out now and can be accessed at the EMCC’s website emccouncil.org.uk. Two papers can be viewed free of charge by non-members, who can subscribe for £40 per year.
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