Understanding Coaching As A Judgement and Decision Making Process: Implications For Coach Development Practice

Abraham, Andrew (2015) Understanding Coaching As A Judgement and Decision Making Process: Implications For Coach Development Practice. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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In completing this thesis I am interested in two broad questions; what is coaching and how do we develop it? Surprisingly after nearly forty years of coaching research there is no agreed answer to these questions in the literature. This is perhaps not that surprising since other more established roles such as teaching are still struggling with answering this sort of ontological question after many more years of research. Despite this struggle, I focus my attention on applying the theory of Professional Judgement and Decision Making (PJDM) to understanding what coaching is and what the implications are for coach development. In taking this approach and seeking answers to the broad questions I present five substantive chapters, two of which are critical desk top studies, the other three being empirical studies. These are wrapped in introduction (Chapter 1) and conclusion (Chapter 7) chapters. Chapter 2 presents what PJDM is and how it can work as a parsimonious theory to draw in current coaching literature to understand what coaching is and how it can work. Chapter 3 presents data from long jump coaches that suggests that coaches are capable of engaging and do engage in PJDM but only when pressured to do so. Prior to this, the coaches preferred to take more of a folk, experiential, gut feeling approach to solving a contextualised coaching problem. Building from Chapter 3, Chapter 4 identifies how individual differences in how coaches view knowledge and learning can explain their willingness to engage in PJDM and aligned formal coach development activities. More specifically, that coaches with a dualistic view on learning and knowledge will shy away from or even disrupt coach development that confuses their view on the world. Alternatively, coaches with a more relativistic view will actively seek out new knowledge to improve their understanding of coaching and athlete development. Drawing on the findings of the thesis to this point Chapter 5 identifies that to improve coaches’ willingness and capacity to engage in PJDM the biggest impact must come from formal coach education. As such Chapter 5 offers a summary of a broad range of empirical and theoretical research and how an aligned application of this research can lead to more impactful formal coach development. Chapter 6, builds from Chapter 5 by noting that more impactful formal coach development will require more professional coach developers. As such, in this chapter I define what a high performing coach developer should know and be capable of. This definition was subsequently used to develop of Postgraduate Certificate in Coach Education for The Football Association. To conclude therefore, I deliver answers to the two broad questions set at the beginning of the thesis. Firstly and briefly, coaching is a PJDM process that draws on formal, theoretical knowledge to solve coaching problems and make decisions leading to the achievement of goals. Secondly, that to develop coaches capable of PJDM, coach development must practice what it preaches and engage in creating development programmes that are supported by theoretical and empirical research relating to programme development, adult learning, curriculum building and individual differences.

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