Coaching relationship breakdown: the emotional experience of being dumped

Michelle Ludecke, Donna Rady, Sarah Rutherford, Carly Sawatzki

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    Coaching by a more experienced other is an emerging practice in teacher education at tertiary and professional levels. An independent coeducational school in Melbourne contracted Monash Education to design, implement, and evaluate a teacher coaching program. Academic coaches worked one-on-one with teachers (coachees) through the program. This involved a series of interactions drawing on the metaphor of a new relationship to describe the stages working together: speed dating, first real date, post-date euphoria, honeymoon, familiarity, and conscious uncoupling. Coaching and being coached are recognised as being socially and emotionally demanding (Eliahoo, 2016). There is a range of literature on forming effective mentoring relationships (Hudson, 2016; Waaland, 2016), however, these focus on avoiding disappointing outcomes. The gap in the current literature is in coping with a professional relationship breakdown. Three coachees withdrew early in the coaching program. Each had been assigned a different coach. None of the coaches foresaw their coachee’s decision to withdraw. None of the coachees met with their coach to discuss their decision. While reports of teacher professional learning initiatives typically focus on positive outcomes, we explore the perceptions and reflections of the three coaches who experienced ‘being dumped’ during the coaching program. Data was generated from the coach participants in an individual interview structured around a Word Task. The Word Task elicits depth and detail pertaining to the emotional aspects of the participants’ experiences. Designed to elicit variation from the same task among all participants, the Word Task indicated areas of the participant’s experiences that shaped who they were at the particular moment in time of the interview. Following this, the data was analysed through inductive coding, and using scripting as a form of analysis where a polyphonic representation of voices was employed. The coaches were then invited to respond to the script as a method of data validation. We will argue that the coaches perceived ‘being dumped’ as a constructed experience that disrupted their professional identity. Moreover, the deeply confusing and emotional nature of this experience impacted on their willingness to coach in the future. The results are multi-faceted and include the therapeutic benefits for individual coaches to practice closure; the implications for coaching programs to include a plan to end the relationship, with guidance on how to approach the ending or negotiate a break (Washington & Cox, 2016); and the social and emotional toll of coaching within the broader socio-political context of ongoing teacher education.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    EventInternational Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education 2018 - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    Duration: 2 Dec 20186 Dec 2018


    ConferenceInternational Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education 2018
    Abbreviated titleAARE 2018
    Internet address

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