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International Graduate Centre of Education

Research Proposal- Ms Sonya Mackenzie

Cognitive Coaching is a peer coaching methodology designed by educational researchers and practitioners within the context of teaching and learning. Rooted in humanistic psychological orientations and linking the disciplines of physiology and cognition, this peer coaching methodology is designed to produce self-directed persons with the dispositions for continuous life-long learning. The identity of a Cognitive Coach, who informs decisions and behaviours, is that of a mediator of thinking, where mediated thinking supports the coachee to become increasingly self-directed and holonomous. The Cognitive Coach therefore sets aside behaviours of judging and solution or opinion giving (Costa & Garmston, 2015).

Over the past three decades, since the origins of Cognitive Coaching, the focus of education has changed from that of humanistic visions to one of marketisation for the purpose of economic prosperity and productivity on the global stage. This change of focus has seen a change in Australian education policy with its intentions reinforced through language aligned to the disciplines of business and management; the language of standards, accountability and evaluation, language that at its core conflicts with both the purpose of Cognitive Coaching and the intended identity of a Cognitive Coach.

There has been no research conducted to explore how the language of current Australian education reform policies may impact the formation of Cognitive Coach identity and how this might influence Cognitive Coach decisions and behaviours. This is significant for Cognitive Coach practitioners, school leaders and Cognitive Coaching training and support providers who may be unaware of possible tensions that arise from this conflict and how this impacts on coaching behaviour and inevitably those who are coached.

 Costa and Garmston, the founders of Cognitive Coaching, define four support functions utilised in the support of teacher professional learning and development: Cognitive Coaching, collaborating, consulting and evaluating (Costa & Garmston, 2015). Using two of the four support functions, Cognitive Coaching and Evaluating, as a conceptual framework for analysis this study aims to explore the nature prevalence of current Australian Education reform policy themes in school based Cognitive Coach discourses to determine policy influence on the forming of Cognitive Coach identity in Australian school contexts.

Semi structured interviews and questionnaires will provide rich qualitative data to deconstruct and analyse coach professional identity and the way in which policy influences Cognitive Coach language and practice. Analysis of data will be conducted through a deductive approach to directed concept analysis where initial coding begins with a theory or relevant research findings with the purpose of analysis to validate or extend a conceptual framework (Zhang & Wildemuth, 2009).


Ms Sonya Mackenzie is the Director and Educational & Coaching Consultant for Faze, an Australian based business with contacts in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Sonya has a 20 plus year career working in the field of education and training. Her recent senior executive roles have included: Charles Darwin University, Director of Professional Standards; Northern Territory Department of Education, Senior Manager Phases of Learning and Regional Mentor Capacity Building; The Centre for School Leadership Darwin, Cognitive Coaching trainer and consultant.

Sonya holds a Bachelor of Education: Further Education and Training from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia and a Graduate Diploma in Psychology from Charles Darwin University (CDU), Australia. She is currently completing a Masters of Education International from CDU.

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