"Blogging as a form of practitioner research – meaningful personal and professional development in coaching" by Yvonne Thackray

Encouraging coaches to blog about their practice both broadens and deepens the quality of content that is currently shared. Writing requires us to expend energy describing and giving attention to all that is happening and going on during a coaching session. Talking in the moment allows us to recreate and focus on what's important to the other and makes use of all the cues (consciously or unconsciously observed) that is normally harder to articulate and write intimately about. It requires conscious thinking, sense-making, and re-engaging with a skill that we use less frequently. Importantly, this really starts when we are able to express what's actually happening in our own words, in order to bring out that ambition of being the best coach we each can be!

The good coach intends to bring together the personal, commercial and academic reasons for blogging because:

  • We want to engage with other like-minded professionals who practice coaching (formally and informally) because they are the leading edge practitioners who are continually developing new knowledge in our field (the commercial/the market), and

  • Altogether we can demonstrate a level of rigor and apply the more attainable and positive strengths of learning that can be found in more traditional institutions as form of practitioner research (academic),

  • And importantly make it an enjoyable … even fun … learning and developmental experience for and amongst the diverse practitioners (social/community)!


Background

The purpose for blogging is shifting in the current technological landscape. At the start, for companies it was a marketing/advertising piece to encourage potential clients/customers and a gateway into their real services. For individuals, it was a personal way to share/log what’s happening/important to them and has morphed into a lot of Self Help and Critical review of everyday items through to the most esoteric subjects that attract an audience.

For both commercial and academic blogging, it increases the blogger and/or organisation to greater public scrutiny and criticism whilst enhancing their status.

Fast forwarding to 2016, it seems that every type of organisations that exist are dabbling in or focusing their efforts on writing some form of blog because it’s another way that can connect, and have when the conditions have been met, to engage in a two way dialogue that provides accesses to audiences beyond the normal groups the organisations tend to focus on.

For commercial organisations, blogging is part of their strategy to connect directly with the customers, and learn what’s working or not working. In essence, the customers are being directly engaged to participate in the design process and standard engagement of the product process.   

According to Mark Shaefer from {Grow} (Social Media Explained) – the top 5 categories for what’s defined as ‘the best big company blogs in the world’ include[1]:

  • Quality of content (is it interesting, creative, well-written, human?)

  • Consistency of publishing

  • Engagement with audience

  • Social sharing activity

  • Alignment with corporate objectives

For academic organisations, academic blogging is described as ‘conversational scholarship’, an alternative means to find a more engaging style of writing to connect with a wider and more diverse audience (Gregg 2006).

Following Debra Lupton[2] and Eszter Hargittai[3]  research on academic blogging there are 5 key reasons for academics to blog:

  • It is argued that the practice forces academics to think about their research and writing in new ways, bearing in mind the multiplicity of potential audiences and the ways readers can respond to the material presented (Kitchin 2014, Kitchin et al. 2013).

  • Some bloggers use their writing as a way of developing ideas and seeking engagement with others before they formalise their ideas into a more traditional academic piece (Adema 2013, Carrigan 2013, Daniels 2013, Estes 2012, Gregg 2006, Maitzen 2012).

  • This use of social media for developing scholarly writing and ideas has been described as being an ‘open source academic’ (Carrigan 2013).

  • The mechanisms for exchange and feedback on some blogs are akin to the formal review process at some journals, and, to the extent these mechanisms differ, one is not necessarily superior to the other.

  • Blog posts are now often cited in more traditional academic forums, some scholarly journals are incorporating blogs, multimedia or open access repositories as part of their online presence presence and academic presses are experimenting with new digital modes of publication, including shorter online book formats with faster than usual turn-around times between acceptance of the manuscript and publication.

Blogs that allow comments make it possible for others to discuss the posted material. … Not only is the original post available to all subsequent readers but so are the reactions of others. Sure, there are all sorts of limitations present. It may be that the most appropriate people are not reading the post and so those who would be able to offer the most helpful and relevant critique are not present in the discussion. But this is often likely true in the journal refereeing process as well.
— Eszter Hargittai (2004)

The good coach’s approach to blogging

@@Blogging can provide the means to offer the blogger-practitioner an honest and humble sharing of what’s important to them.@@  This is because the blog can also be very experiential and personal to the writer and differs from other forms of published material such as articles, journals, reports, papers etc.  

  • It’s a space for the blogger-practitioner to reflect, ground, integrate and share aspects, opinions and views of their practice,

  • Offers insights to the reader of the blogger-practitioner that might stimulate their thoughts, compare their own approach with, or learn more of the practice and increase their understanding of working with healthy individuals.

It also fills a gap, and attempts to readdress the balance between technical (scientific) and practitioner knowledge. Eraut (1994) suggests that “the dominant conception of learning is our culture – so dominant that children have been socialised into it by the age of 7 or 8 – is that learning involves the explicit acquisition of externalised codified knowledge[4]. [And when] people are so accustomed to using the word ‘knowledge’ to refer only to ‘book knowledge’ which is publically available in codified form, that they have developed only limited awareness of the nature and extent of their personal knowledge[5].”  This means that without realising it we unconsciously hold technical knowledge, what Eraut refers to as externalised codified knowledge, as having a higher status than practitioner knowledge because it is implicit and less understood.

Accessing this implicit knowledge holds the premise that during the process of coaching learning takes place, and what works in one context may not work in another context and so further learning needs to take place because each recipient behaves differently.  Observing what happens during coaching is never the same as the individuals participating in the coaching who sees from within the action – that moment by moment behavioural responses (verbally and non verbally) – during the coaching conversation.

Bridging and raising the status of practitioner knowledge begins with practitioners sharing their experiences in their own words – of what works and their limitations – and together build both the knowledge base and rigor of reporting through blogging.  Furthermore this,

  • Allows the blogger-practitioner to develop some further rigor in their practice and contribute towards the practitioner knowledge base and towards standards of practice, and

  • Gives the reader another way to connect to the blogger-practitioner and get to know them: this does require the writer to carefully balance their professional and personal persona on the digital platform.

This doesn’t mean that ‘trolling’ or ‘backlash’ doesn’t happen because others will have a differing opinion. This becomes about managing inappropriate comments (i.e. directly attacking the individual) vs. negative comments or critiques that’s based on the arguments presented in the blog and creating a safe space for positive interactions and engagement to take place.

Let me share some other views of how other blogger-practitioners see the benefits of blogging:


We’re part of a community that’s adopting available technology and adapting common approaches to sharing, exchanging and engaging in coaching practitioner knowledge.  In our way, and in our own words, the real benefits of blogging further include increasing both our confidence and articulation of why we do what we do – are you interested in participating?

Share what you think we’re missing or curious about in the comment sections … and when you’re ready to blog you can find out how to start here with the Bloggers Guideline.

Finally here are some other thoughts to consider –

  • Being validated amongst your peers and key influencers in your network and being able to draw relevant disciples to your practice, how might that support you and the field of coaching in raising the standard of practice and available practitioner knowledge in the field?

  • Now imagine after writing between 6 and 12 blogs, each blog varies between 1000 and 2000 words, and published over 1 or 2 years on the good coach, you’ll have written the equivalent of a Masters dissertation, or perhaps even a short book of your professional practice. Firstly congratulations! And secondly, how might you celebrate that?

  • Let us know how you discern between an advertorial and shared insight amongst the plethora of blogs which you use in enhancing your practice?

 

References

  1. http://www.businessesgrow.com/2015/01/12/best-company-blogs/

  2. https://simplysociology.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/research-on-academic-blogging-what-does-it-reveal/

  3. http://crookedtimber.org/2004/11/18/the-academic-contributions-of-blogging/

  4. Eraut (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence pg 39

  5. Ditto. Pg 25.

Selected References (shared from Deborah Lupton’s blog)

  • Adema, J. (2013) Practise what you preach: Engaging in humanities research through critical praxis. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 16 (5), 491-505.

  • Carrigan, M. (2013) Continous publishing and being an open-source academic

  • Daniels, J. (2013) From tweet to blog post to peer-reviewed article: how to be a scholar now. Available from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2013/09/25/how-to-be-a-scholar-daniels

  • Estes, H. (2012) Blogging and academic identity. Literature Compass, 9 (12), 974-982.

  • Gregg, M. (2006) Feeling ordinary: blogging as conversational scholarship. Continuum, 20 (2), 147-160.

  • Kitchin, R. (2014) Engaging publics: writing as praxis. Cultural Geographies, 21 (1), 153-157.

  • Kitchin, R., Linehan, D., O’Callaghan, C. and Lawton, P. (2013) Public geographies through social media. Dialogues in Human Geography, 3 (1), 56-72

  • Maitzen, R. (2012) Scholarship 2.0: blogging and/as academic practice. Journal of Victorian Culture, 1-7.