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GROW Coaching Protocol

Originally created in the 1980s by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore, the GROW coaching protocol creates the space for coaches to focus on transformational rather than transactional coaching, which drastically increases the efficacy of coaching.

As a coach, your purpose is to help teachers reflect on their planning, execution, and students’ knowledge and skills to uncover and address gaps in order to improve the overall quality of their pedagogy. But most people don’t use these skills because they don't practice it daily or they feel like they just don’t have enough time in the day.

The GROW protocol creates the space for this reflection through supportive questioning, guiding the teacher to compare their reality to their goal, then brainstorm and choose the next step that will have the most impact. The use of the GROW protocol allows coaches and teachers to reflect on their practice to address the obstacles most apparent in the classroom by building the problem-solving skills of the teacher through a supportive structure.


One misconception of the GROW model of coaching is that the coach gives up control to actually guide the teacher to the outcomes that the coach sees as the appropriate next step.

In truth, the GROW model subverts the dance that teachers don’t implement coach feedback. Instead because the teacher is led to reflect on and uncover those same gaps in their planning and/or practice explicitly, the next steps are already a part of the teacher's schema, which increases the accountability of actually implementing the appropriate next step.


Let’s first uncover the purpose of each part of the conversation

We start with the GOAL, then move to REALITY in order to determine the OPTIONS in order to decide what we WILL do.

GROW Protocol
GROW Protocol

G: GOAL - Position the teacher to reflect on the purpose of the lesson observed or progress towards a previous teaching practice goal.

R: REALITY - Analyze the impact or effect of the teacher's actions in the context of the events observed or experience from the perspective of the teacher, students, and/or observers.

O: OPTIONS - Determine the distance between the goal and reality to brainstorm possible solutions to close the distance.

W: WAY - Choose a single feasible and impactful option to address the distance between the goal and the reality.

The final option chosen doesn’t have to be the ABSOLUTE MOST effective one from the list in an objective sense - keep it reasonable in light of the often uncontrollable circumstances the teacher and/or students are facing in this pandemic world. A little success is still better than no success at all if the option is too dependent on living in a perfect world.

Now let’s discover how to Help teachers visualize the journey using questioning

G: GOAL - To open the conversation, ask questions to get the teachers to communicate their vision of what they want to happen and what positive outcomes it will create. The topic should be teacher generated, but can focus in on an aspect they have been coached on before or the objective of the lesson you observed. As they are answering, challenge them to be as specific as possible using follow up questions like the ones below.

R: REALITY - In continuing the conversation, the focus narrows from what the teacher hoped would happen to what actually happened in practice. These questions drive teachers to reflect on their reality with specific importance on how their reality is different from what they hoped would happen. During this part of the conversation, encourage teachers to name explicitly the evidence they have that they didn't reach the goal fully or opportunities that they missed. This part of the protocol makes clear the evidence of the reality in relation to the goal so that the teacher and goal has a shared and transparent view of the circumstance.

O: OPTIONS - With the evidence and perspective elucidated, the job of the coach is to get the teacher to brainstorm as many possible options to continue the journey toward the goal. With these questions, teachers use this time and space to consider what is important, valid, and possible to move from where they are to where they want to be.

W: WAY - To close out, the teacher and coach chooses 1 or 2 action steps that will move the teacher and students closer to the goal. Continuing to let the teacher drive the conversation, these questions ask the teacher to decide which of the options they’ve already listed would immediately shift reality towards the goal in a way that is actionable while being small enough to be feasible and large enough to to be effective.

To help you have these conversations, check out this handy conversation cheat sheet/conversation tracker so you can take notes as you and your teacher create their journey towards success!

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