Should we take notes in coaching sessions?

This time I’m sharing a guest post I wrote recently addressing questions asked by instructional coaches about whether to take notes in coaching sessions. Instructional coaches work with teachers in schools, coaching 1:1 or in groups as well as in the classroom. Whether to take notes or not therefore needs careful thought, with decisions varying according to circumstance.

Most coaches aren’t active in this particular context, but the issues raised need to be considered by any coach in any coaching situation. Therefore I hope what follows is useful for you too!

The guest post first appeared on 27 March 2018 under the title ‘Should Coaches Take Notes During Visits?’ on The LaunchPad – the official blog of TeachBoost (a US organisation providing a customisable instructional leadership platform).* You can see the original publication here.


TeachBoost Coach's Toolbox image

Image courtesy Schoolbinder, Inc

Coaching is an intriguing occupation. There’s usually not a straightforward answer to any question, however simple it may seem. For example, taking notes in coaching sessions—some people say you should; some people say you shouldn’t; while others say maybe you should, maybe you shouldn’t, depending on the context.

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Insight into coachee context in action – the case of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)

Remember we looked at benefits and potential drawbacks to coaches having insight into coachee context? Well, now we’re going to go one step further by checking out an actual coachee context to gain some practical understanding of how ‘background issues’ might influence the experience of coachees working within it…

I’m an internal coach in one of the largest Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the UK.university mortar board hat So let’s briefly explore some wider ‘background issues’ currently affecting UK universities to gain deeper insight into a ‘context’. We’ll then be able to suggest ways these issues might affect employee experience in the sector, as well as understand how insight into them might help coaches in their professional work.

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Does insight into coachee context matter? Part 2 – drawbacks

Last time in Part 1 we looked at benefits for coaches of having insight into coachee context, along with  5  questions that could help us build up a wider picture of a coachee’s situation. This time we’ll be looking into potential drawbacks to having wider insight.

psychedelic silhouette The  5  questions we asked last time were aimed at information gathering about the organisation. This time we’re looking at the coach him- or herself. Could there be potential shortcomings or blind spots in a coach’s approach to what he or she knows about a coachee’s context? What could be the results? And most importantly, how can we as coaches strategise to avoid these deficiencies, minimising the drawbacks to having wider insight into coachee context whilst maximising the benefits?

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Does insight into coachee context matter? Part 1 – benefits

Coachees come in all shapes and sizes, weighed down with all kinds of issues. As coaches our aim is to focus non-judgmentally on the particular coachee we’re dealing with at any one time, and that particular coachee’s experience. But to be effective, do we also need a measure of independent insight into the coachee’s context? To be aware of wider influences and potential stresses?

Images on smart phoneThat depends on the type of coaching. It’s possible, particularly in 1:1 life coaching, to work quite successfully with an individual coachee without much reference to wider context. Indeed, some would argue that concentrating solely on the coachee and his or her experience is the coach’s role. However, I’d say in organisational contexts such an approach is insufficient. Somewhere down the line evidence of barriers to change will emerge which might have been foreseen and possibly avoided if the coach had even a little prior knowledge of coachee context.

That’s not to say that having prior insight into coachee context might not have its drawbacks. In this post and the next, my aim is to open up some of the issues to start exploring the pros and cons.

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