Live Well, Learn Better – Coaching & Positive Psychology in Schools

Doctor of Psychology

Dr. Christian van Nieuwerburgh

The International Symposia for Coaching and Positive Psychology in Education (ISCAPPED) held in Sydney was a great opportunity to get up to speed with the latest thinking and good practice within the coaching field in schools and universities.

It was also very affirming that the approaches I regularly share with school leaders and their communities were both reflected and endorsed.

In his keynote my colleague Dr. Christian van Nieuwerburgh from the University of East London asked the audience of educators “what are the things that make the biggest impact on learning in institutions?”. The resounding message and one that I am pleased to be advocating in my work in schools, is that it is the well-being of the school community – leaders, teachers, students and parents that lies at the heart of effective learning and, as important, it’s application as we all transition through life. Christian presented The Global Framework for Coaching & Mentoring in Education as an evidence-based model that brings together best practice from around the world and which can be easily applied for schools and students. The Framework has 4 Key Portals that can act as entry points for schools to consider when introducing coaching or mentoring programs.

  • Educational Leadership
  • Teaching Practice
  • Community Involvement
  • Student Well-being & Success

Schools may start their coaching journey at different entry points but ultimately would seek to ensure that a coaching approach is taken across all 4 areas to create a positive environment and culture within the school for living and learning well.

The second keynote was from my colleague and mentor Dr. Suzy Green for whom I work as a Senior Associate at The Positivity Institute. Suzy talked about Positive Education and the need to integrate positive psychology and coaching psychology in schools. Drawing on emerging evidence and good practice she highlighted the importance for coaching as a way to embed positive psychology in schools and to facilitate sustainable change. This change can be to both shift teachers and students into more flourishing states exemplified by high levels of well-being and engagement and to support those who are flourishing to continue to do so.

Recognising that there is no one-size fits all approach to Positive Education, Suzy also shared a model of organisational change that we have been applying to engage whole school communities in creating positive cultural change. This involves creating common understanding; seeking champions for change; encouraging risk and innovation; sharing and building on what works; adjusting the system to accommodate and embed the change.

Many of these ideas will be reflected in a chapter I have written with Suzy on ‘The Integration of Coaching and Positive Psychology in Schools’. It will feature in a new Sage publication being edited by Christian called ‘Coaching in Professional Contexts’ due for release in 2015.

The third keynote was from another valued colleague John Naylor of The Helmsman Project – a unique program of evidence-based coaching and ocean sailing targeting Y9 students from disadvantaged communities in Western Sydney schools. John shared how the program is building resilience, self-regulation and hope in young people. As a coach for Helmsman I know at first hand the impact it has had not only on the young people who participate but also their families, teachers and school communities.

The enthusiasm and energy at this Symposium was palpable. As schools shared their own unique experience and good practice in the application of coaching across the portals it is evident that they really are supporting their communities to live well and learn better!


This article was originally published on LinkedIn in November 2014 and can be viewed here.


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