Overview of Coaching Research

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Overview of Coaching Research

Overview of Coaching Research

Overview of the reaching on coaching Annotated bibliographyIn 2003 an unknown psychologist named Tony Grant presented at the International Coach Federation conference in Colorado. His classic presentation introduced the coaching world to the idea of research. Inherent in this concept is the deep sense that if you put coaching under the same kind of microscope and scientific rigor as medical and psychological interventions – it would be possible to show that coaching works!

Who is Tony Grant? Those of us who know him well first think of him as very funny irreverent and friendly. He also plays guitar. While he`s thought of as a major coaching leader. In fact we choose him in 2009 to be the recipient of the Institute of Coaching Vision of Excellence award for his support of the profession. He is also on our council of advisors.

His past is not quite typical of the kind of guy who has spearheaded a movement launched a graduate program in coaching and is part of the largest leadership coaching study in Australia with the team who won the 3 million dollar grant to study coaching.

Tony left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications. His first career was as a carpenter and he ran his own contracting business. His second career was in direct sales and marketing. Third time around in 1993 as a mature age student he began his career as a coaching psychologist.

Seven years later in January 2000 he established the world`s first Coaching Psychology Unit at the School of Psychology at Sydney University where he is the director. The Unit offers Master`s level in Applied Science (Psychology of Coaching) a Masters of organizational coaching and a Graduate Certificat in applied Science (applied positive psychology).

Tony`s coaching research and practice are reported everywhere his books on coaching translated into eight languages and he recently was featured in a television program on Happiness.


Keeping Up With The Cheese!  Research as a Foundation for Professional Coaching

One of the things Tony has created is his now famous in certain circles – it`s his annotated bibliography collecting nearly all of the research on coaching that is published each year. While we have the document here in its entirety we have also taken out a few key papers for you to be able to scan.

First we have his table of all “between subjects” studies. If you aren`t versed in research this typically means: you have two groups of “subjects” in our case usually two groups of clients – half of these have received coaching the other half have not. Everyone gets measured on various things and at the end of the engagement the groups are compared. What we are looking for are differences “between subjects.” For example the group that received coaching are different from the group that did not receive coaching maybe they were less depressed or they were promoted more often it depends on what the coaching researcher decided to measure. What is important is that usually these two groups are shown to be pretty much the same before they start the coaching and then see if they are different afterwards. If the researcher had the power to randomly put people in either of the groups then scientifically you can assert that the differences between the groups at the end is because of the coaching.

So – the first big questions we are asking as researchers is – does coaching make a difference? 18 studies are listed below in a table – and much of the time we found differences not all the time. To really understand some of these requires that you read between the lines (e.g. in a study where there weren`t a lot of differences you might discover that the “coaches” actually only had 2 hours of training… so actually maybe you wouldn`t expect those with really no training to do so well.

But try to take a direct look and a more between the lines look. While these are mostly abstracts if we have the subscription you can read the whole article in our library. Otherwise you can find the journal and often buy the particular study. We hope to have more and more journals once we have the funds to buy them.



Table 1: Summary Table of 18 Between-subjects Studies to Dec 2009 / 1st Jan 2010 


Study Intervention Overview Type of Study Key Findings
Miller (1990) 33 employees. Some received coaching by their managers over 4 weeks Quasi-experimental field study (a) Coaching Group; (b) control Group No sig. differences pre-post for interpersonal communication skills
Deviney (1994)* 45 line supervisors at a nuclear power plant. Some received feedback and coaching from their managers over 9 weeks

Randomised controlled study(a) Feedback plus coaching (b) Feedback with no coaching (c) Control group

No sig. difference in pre-post feedback behavior
Taylor (1997)* Participants undergoing a Medical College Admission Test preperation Randomised controlled study (a) Training only (b)Coaching only (c) Training plus coaching (d) Control group Coaching reduced stress more than training
Grant (2002)* 62 trainee accountants received group coaching over one semester Randomised controlled study (a) Cognative coaching only; (b) Behavioral coaching only (c) Combined cognative and behavioral coaching (d) Control groups for each condition Coaching most effective in increasing grade point average study skills self-regulation and mental health. GPA gains maintained 12 months following
Miller Yahne Moyers Martinez & Pirritano (2004)* 140 Licensed substance abuse professionals learnt Motivational Interviewing via a range of methods Randomised controlled study (a) Workshop only; (b) Workshop plus feedback; (c) Workshop plus coaching (d) Workshop feedback and coaching; or (e) Waitlist control group Relative to controls the 4 trained groups had gains in proficiency. Coaching and/or feedback increased post-training proficiency
Sue-Chan Latham (200) 53 MBA students in two studies in Canada and Australia Random assignment (a) External coach; (b) Peer coach or (c) Self-coached Study 1: External coaching associated with higher team playing behavior than peer coaching; Study 2: External and self coaching associated with higher grades than peer coaching
Bennett J. A. and N.A. Perrin (2005)* 111 individuals randomized to nurse coaching group or usual-care control group with coaching conducted by nurses on phone and email Randomised controll study (a) health coaching (b) control group Less illness intrusiveness and health distress than controls at 6 months. Nurse delivered MI primarily using the telephone and e-mail is a feasible way method to facilitate well-being in with older adults
Gattellari M. N. Donnelly et al. (2005)* 277 GPs in total. Some received 2 phone-based peer coaching sessions integrated with educational resources Randomised controlled study (a) Peer coaching and educational resources; (b) Control group Compared to controls peer coaching increased GPs ability to make informed decisions about prostatespecific antigen screening
Gyllensten & Palmer (2005) 31 participants from UK finance organization Quasi-experimental field study (a) Coaching group; (b) Control Group Anxiety and stress decreased more in the coaching group compared to control group
Evers Brouwers & Tomic (2006) 60 managers of federal government Quasi-experimental field study (a) Coaching group; (b) Control group Coaching increased outcome expectancies' and self-efficacy
Green Oades & Grant (2006)* 56 adults (community sample) took part in SF-CB life coaching program Randomised controlled study (a) Group-based life coaching; (b) Waitlist control Coaching increased goal attainment wellbeing and hope. 30-week follow-up founds gains were maintained
Green Grant & Rynsaardt (2007)* 56 female high school students took part in SF-CB life coaching program for 10 individual coaching sessions over 2 school terms Randomised controlled study (a) Coaching group; (b) Waitlist control group Coaching increased cognative hardiness mental health and hope
Spence & Grant (2007)* 63 adults (community sample) took part in SF-CB life coaching program Randomised controlled study (a) Professional coaching group; (b) Peer coaching group; (c) Waitlist control group Professional coaching more effective in increasing goal commitment goal attainment and environmental mastery
Duijits Kant van den Brandt & Swaen (2007)* Dutch employees assessed for the effectiveness of preventive coaching on sickness absence due to psychosocial health complaints and on wellbeing outcomes Randomised controlled study: (a) 6 month course of preventive coaching (b) control group Significant improvements in health life satidfaction burnout psychological wellbeing but no improvement in self-reportedm sickness absence
Spence Cavanaugh & Grant (2008)* 45 adults (community sample) took part in mindfulness-based health coaching over 8 weeks (a) Randomised controlled study: SF_CB coaching followed by mindfulness training (MT); (b) Mindfulness training followed by SF-CB coaching (c) Health education only control group Goal attainment greater in coaching than in the educative/directive format. No significant differences were found for goal attainment between the two MT/CB-SF conditions
Fielden S. L. et al. (2009) Nurses from six UK Health Care Trusts were allocated to a coaching group (n=15) or a mentoring group (n=15) Quasi-experimental field study (a) Coaching group; (b) Mentoring group in 6 month coaching/mentoring program Qualitative and quantitative data at (T1 = baseline T2 = 4 months) Mentoring was perceived to be 'support' and coaching was 'action' Both reported significant development in career development leadership skills and capabilities mentees reported the highest level of development with significantly higher scores in 8 area of leadership and management and in 3 areas of career impact
Franklin J. and J. Doran (2009)* First-year students: Co-coaching with Preparation Action Adaptive Learning Coaching or Self-regulation Coaching PAAL (N=27) or Self-regulation (N=25) A double-blind random control trial in which participants were randonly allocated to either a Preparation Action Adaptive Learning (PAAL) or a self-regulation co-coaching Both co-coaching conditions produced significant increases in self-efficacy and resilience however only those in the PAAL condition performed significantly better on decisional balance hope self-compassion the incremental theory of change academic performance
Grant Curtayne & Burton (2009)* 41 executives in public health agency received 360-degree feedback and four SF-CB coaching sessions over ten week period Randomised controlled study (a) Coaching group; (b) Waitlist control group Coaching enhanced goal attainment resilience and workplace well-being and reduced depression and stressand helped participants deal with organizational change.

If you are interested in taking a first deep dive into the world of coaching outcome studies – here are a series of abstracts that are summaries of some key research. There are just over 30 here for you to explore.

The table above summarizes most of the key outcome studies in coaching. As you see this profession rests on a small foundation that needs building.

However these are just “quantitative” research studies – please see Tony`s complete list of abstracts of numerous other studies in his annotated bibliography.

Here is an abstract of Tony`s dissertation to start us off.

Grant A. M. (2002). "Towards a psychology of coaching: The impact of coaching on metacognition mental health and goal attainment." Dissertation Abstracts International 63/12(June): pp.6094.

A series of studies developed a framework for a psychology of coaching.

Coaching was defined as a collaborative solution-focused result-orientated systematic process used with normal non-clinical populations in which the coach facilitates the self-directed learning personal growth and goal attainment of the coachee.

 A review of the peer reviewed psychological literature found some measure of support for the effectiveness of coaching but noted that coaching research is still in its infancy. A solution-focused cognitive-behavioural (SF/CB) framework was developed which the following studies explored. The Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM)* was identified as a model of change with applicability to coaching and empirical support was found for its use in coaching.

Three studies then explored the effects of cognitive only behavioural only and combined cognitive and behavioural coaching on trainee accountants` grade point average study skills self-regulation mental health private self-consciousness and self-concept. The cognitive only program increased deep and achieving approaches to learning academic self concepts reduced test anxiety and nonstudy-related anxiety and depression. Academic performance declined relative to controls. The behavioural only coaching program decreased test anxiety and increased academic performance. The combined cognitive and behavioural program increased academic performance deep and achieving approaches to learning academic self-concepts and reduced test anxiety. No program had a significant impact on private self consciousness self-reflection or insight.

On follow-up one semester later academic performance increases were maintained only for combined cognitive and behavioural program participants. A theoretical discussion then outlines the role of psychological mindedness self-reflection and insight in coaching and the construction and validation of the Self-reflection and Insight Scale (SRIS) is reported.

In the final study 20 adults completed a life coaching program focusing on attaining goals that had alluded them for an average of 23.5 months. Participation was associated with enhanced mental health quality of life and increased goal attainment. Levels of self-reflection decreased but insight increased. It is concluded that SF/CB coaching appears to be an effective approach to personal development and goal attainment and may prove to be a useful platform for a positive psychology and the investigation of the psychological mechanisms involved purposeful change in normal adult populations.

* note: There is another article devoted to the Transtheoretical Model known also as Prochaska`s stages of change (there are pre-contemplation contemplation preparation action maintenance and termination (the last one I think of as absorption meaning that the new behavior becomes “status quo” and no longer takes concentration or awareness.

Franklin J. and J. Doran (2009). "Does all coaching enhance objective performance independently evaluated by blind assessors? The importance of the coaching model and content." International Coaching Psychology Review 4(2): 128-144.

Objectives: Despite increasing evidence supportive of the effectiveness of coaching there are no studies which demonstrate that the benefits flow on to improvements in objective performance as assessed by evaluators blind to participation in the coaching. This study examined the efficacy of two coaching programmes on independently assessed performance.

Design: A double-blind random control trial in which participants were randomly allocated to either a Preparation Action Adaptive Learning (PAAL) or a self-regulation co-coaching programme with blind assessment of subsequent academic performance. A third no-treatment condition was used for additional comparison and control of expectancy effects. Methods: Two structurally identical seven-week co-coaching programmes were run. The Self-regulation condition focused on the development of study and coping skills whilst the PAAL condition additionally focused on preparation for change and adaptive learning. Fifty-two volunteer first-year university students were randomly assigned to either a PAAL (N=27) or Self-regulation (N=25) co-coaching programme.
Participants completed self-report pre- and post-measures of academic self-efficacy decisional balance resilience hope self-compassion and belief in the incremental theory of change. Academic results for the two coaching conditions were compared with 2103 first-year students who did not participate in the programme.

Results: Participants in both coaching conditions reported significant improvements in self-efficacy and resilience but only those in the PAAL condition experienced significant increases in decisional balance hope self-compassion and belief in the incremental theory of change. Participants in the PAAL condition experienced significantly greater increases in six of the seven dependent variables than participants in the Self-regulation condition. Relative to the no treatment control group PAAL participants performed 10 per cent better in independently assessed academic performance (71.45 per cent vs. 61.59 per cent) (p=.0003 d=.61) however those in the Self-regulation coaching condition only performed two per cent better (63.32 per cent vs. 61.59 per cent) (p=.604 d=.11). Across all the dependent variables the average effect size for the PAAL condition was d=.93 while the Self-regulation condition averaged d=.43. Conclusion: Both co-coaching conditions produced significant increases in self-efficacy and resilience however only those in the PAAL condition performed significantly better on decisional balance hope self-compassion the incremental theory of change and independently assessed academic performance. To ensure generalisation future evaluation studies of coaching should seek to also evaluate variables which are theoretically related to the change process as well as independently assessed objective changes in performance.

Sue-Chan C. and G. P. Latham (2004). "The Relative Effectiveness of External Peer and Self-Coaches." Applied
Psychology: An International Review 53(2): 260-278.

Two studies in two different continents using two different dependent variables examined the relative effectiveness of external peer and self-coaches on the performance of participants in two MBA programs.

The first study involved MBA students in Canada (n = 30). Those who were coached by an external coach exhibited higher teamplaying behavior than did those who were coached by peers. The second study involved EMBA managers in Australia (n = 23).

Those who were either coached by an external coach or who were self-coached had significantly higher grades than those who were coached by a peer. In both studies an external coach was perceived by the participants to have higher credibility than their peers. In the second study self-coaching was perceived to be more credible than coaching from peers. Satisfaction with the coaching process was highest among the managers who had an external coach.

(2005) Bennett J. A. and N. A. Perrin "Healthy Aging Demonstration Project: Nurse Coaching for Behavior Change in OlderAdults." Research in Nursing & Health Vol 28(3) Jun 2005.

The Healthy Aging Project (HAP) tested nurse coaching as a method to support healthy behavior change in older adults. The sample included 111 individuals randomized too nurse coaching group or usual-care control group. Participants in the intervention group chose the health behaviors they wanted to change and received coaching by nurses in a single in-person session followed by telephone calls or email contact for 6 months. Nurses were trained in * motivational interviewing (MI).

The intervention group had significantly less illness intrusiveness and health distress than the control group at 6 months although it is not known whether these health outcomes resulted from behavior changes. This clinical demonstration project showed that nurse-delivered MI primarily using the telephone and email is a feasible method to discuss behavioral change with older adults. However future clinical trials will be needed to evaluate the efficacy of nurse-delivered MI on actual behavioral changes in older adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA all rights reserved)

*  note: Motivational interviewing is a standard coaching skill that is a bit more complex than it appears at first glance. There is a learning tour on MI in health and wellness. In looking at most recent abstracts – I found one that describes a bit of MI.

Miller N. H. (2010). "Motivational interviewing as a prelude to coaching in healthcare settings." Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing


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