Shaping good practice in coaching

International Centre for Coaching and Mentoring Studies

The popularity of coaching has grown significantly in recent years as a way of helping people to achieve their potential in their personal and professional lives. Yet it’s still a developing discipline in terms of both knowledge and practice.

The International Centre for Coaching and Mentoring Studies at Oxford Brookes is an established thought leader in the field. One of only three specialist centres in the world (the other two being Sydney University and Henley Centre for Coaching), it has transformed the thinking behind professional coaching.

Supported by research grants from Harvard’s Institute of Coaching, and working with organisations like the NHS, it’s a key player in developing coaching as an applied discipline and setting new international standards.

Strengthening accreditation and ethical standards

Coaching assessment

Research coming out of the centre has been instrumental in strengthening the accreditation of training programmes and assessment of coaches. Professor Tatiana Bachkirova and Dr Carmelina Lawton-Smith’s research moved thinking away from a competencies-based framework to one focusing on capabilities.

Their findings were important, introducing better approaches to accreditation by key bodies like the International Authority for Professional Coaching and Mentoring, and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). 

The EMCC, which has 6,000+ members across 61 countries, used it to revise their accreditation frameworks for validating training programmes and assessing coaches. It’s also significant in that accreditation is a vital means of quality assurance given that coaching is an unregulated profession - where there is no legal requirement for practitioners to hold a license.

Dr Ioanna Iordanou’s work on coaching ethics led to a re-evaluation of the EMCC’s code of ethics and shaped its new practice guidelines. She also co-wrote a policy guidance paper on behalf of the Future of Coaching Collaboration comprising businesses like GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG and the John Lewis partnership and leading professional coaching organisations.

Improving coaching practice

The centre’s research has changed coaching practice in other major organisations like the NHS and the Civil Service. The Civil Service noted the centre’s ‘invaluable support’ included a new approach to validation for around 200 internal coaches to ensure a consistent standard.

Coaching practice in medicine has benefited too. Dr Margaret Carey set up a coaching programme for medical students at Georgetown University's School of Medicine in the United States. She confirmed that an article by the centre’s researchers has helped to recognise coaching and mentoring ‘as complex adaptive systems, which resonates with the medical profession’ and that the article has become ‘our instruction manual.’

In wider outreach activities, the centre’s team has focused on raising awareness of evidence-based research amongst practitioners. Since 2015, they have been writing a regular accessible column about research in Coaching at Work - the largest coaching practitioner magazine with 2,000+ subscribers and a global Linkedin audience of almost 42,000.

Coaching seminar

Shaping education and development

In challenging oversimplified models of training, work coming out of the centre has challenged thinking amongst education providers, creating a more solid knowledge base for the development of practitioners.

Publications have also played their part. The team’s Complete Handbook of Coaching, now in its 3rd edition, has been adopted as the main coaching textbook by the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick, Henley Centre for Coaching, and other university-based training programmes.

Three handbooks, also published by staff, are recognised as ultimate guidebooks. They include a book co-written by Ioanna Iordanou, Values and Ethics in Coaching, which was named Henley Business School’s 'Coaching Book of the Year' in 2017. 

Key influencer

From coaching education and training to good practice, the centre has directly influenced the development of coaching and mentoring globally. Its rigorous research continues to ensure that coaching develops as a robust discipline, transforming training, education, assessment and ethical practice in this important and growing profession.

Image credit: Hands by Shane Rounce on Unsplash