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The Power of Research to Unite the Coaching Profession by Myra Dingman

Apr 6th, 2009 | By | Category: Coaching Research, Coaching Research - Guest Posts

Become a firm believer in research. Why? Because the more rigorous research conducted on coaching, the more the “outside” world will acknowledge the coaching movement as a legitimate discipline and field of study worthy of being taught at the finest institutions and practiced around the world. The key is in my wording: rigorous research. Some of you will not be familiar with this word, but you need to understand the difference between research and rigorous research.


Webster defines research as the “collecting of information about a particular subject” or “studious inquiry or examination.”[i] Let’s make this more practical, as anyone can become a researcher. Simply interview your coaching client about what outcomes they experienced after your coaching relationship ended or invite all of your clients to fill out a survey on your coaching skills. This is research. In fact, this is research that can be published. But, when we talk about something that can unite an entire movement, and I believe that research can, then we are talking about something different than what I just described.


The Need for Rigorous Research


Rigorous research is not a technical term, per se; it is understood as characterized by rigor, severely exact or accurate, and precise.[ii] All across the globe where coaches gather at conferences and training sessions, the cry for more rigorous research is sounded. For example, the recent “Dublin Declaration on Coaching,”[iii] a report compiled in August, 2008 after 250 contributors from around the world in 10 working groups on the theme of coaching, presented the emerging profession’s top five imperatives. Item number 2 (shortened) stated: “Add to the body of coaching knowledge by conducting rigorous research into the processes, practices, and outcomes of coaching, in order to strengthen its practical impact and theoretical underpinnings.” The International Coach Federation states on their opening webpage, “We exist to support and advance the coaching profession through programs and standards supported by our members and to be an authoritative source on coaching information and research for the public.” Statements like this abound on many coaching websites, proceedings from research symposiums, and reports from coaching conferences. Further, clients who pay for coaching are asking for research on outcomes, best practices and techniques in the process and practice, and evidence of more theory development and refinement.


In order to set a standard of quality for rigorous research, I want to describe what research should include from the work of John Creswell.[iv] After recognizing a need for research in an area, the first step for the researcher is to examine the literature to find other studies that are similar to the proposed study and then present the findings on these – the literature review. The literature review serves to expose an opening where the proposed study extends prior research and adds to the dialogue on coaching while advancing our knowledge base. Here is the opportunity to present the problem that exists after a thorough examination of previous studies, theory, or practice that produces the opportunity for new research. Next, the literature review sets precedence for the importance of the study and a comparison to past, present, and future studies.


Rigorous research is based on theory, and the field of coaching has many rich theoretical perspectives to work from. The Dublin Declaration on Coaching collected many of the theories that inform the art and practice of coaching:


1.      Learning theory (Kolb, Bloom, Bandura, Boud, Mumford);

2.      Change (Hudson, Batson, Kotter, Scott and Jaffee);

3.      Developmental (Kegan, Dubrowsky, Kohlberg);

4.      Ego (Loevinger, Cook);

5.      Communication (Witgenstein, Watzlavick); systemic thinking (Lewin, Senge);

6.      Social psychology (Izen);

7.      Organisational development (Ulrich, Smallwood, Schein, Beckhard, Burke);

8.      Process work (Mindell);

9.      Action learning (Revans, Board, Weinstock);

10.  Culture (Schein);

11.  Self directed learning (Boyatzis);

12.  Leadership (Bennis, Jaques, Blanchard, Greenleaf);

13.  Existential (Yalom, Spinelli);

14.  Chaos theory (Poncaré, Wheatley);

15.  Cognitive behavioral psychology (Beck, Ellis, Bandura, Skinner, Thorndike, Seligman);

16.  Emotional intelligence (Pert, Goleman);

17.  Spiritual intelligence (Zohar).[v]


Although this is just a partial list, investigating theories that have been developed for decades and centuries will enhance research and provide a foundation for new studies and testing of past models, theories, and current coaching best practices.


The Power of Unity


As followers of Christ, we read in the Bible about the power of unity, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1, NIV). “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Although we may never agree on coach behaviors and coaching practices, we can unite on the call for rigorous research from around the globe and then agree on the best practices and theory development. The key areas of research must be in the areas of processes, practices, and outcomes.


To help facilitate the dissemination of rigorous research, I am looking for research summaries of current research published in journals, dissertations, and other sources that the general population does not have access to. The field is wide open to coaching research. The mission of the Christian Coaching Center is to “build collaborative communities of Christian coaches who freely share valuable information about their profession. By serving together in this way we build the exposure, traffic and credibility that helps us all succeed.”


It takes a unified effort to get the news out. Great research on coaching is being published around the world. Let’s go find it, summarize the findings, and spread the word on the power of coaching.


[i] Research. Retrieved from

[ii] Rigorous. Retrieved from

[iii] Dublin Declaration on Coaching (version 1.3). (2008, August 22). Global Community of Coaches. Retrieved March, 2009 from, p. 5.

[iv] Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Sage Publications.

[v] Dublin Declaration on Coaching (version 1.3). (2008, August 22). p. 8.



2 Responses to “The Power of Research to Unite the Coaching Profession by Myra Dingman”

  1. saulofwigan says:

    hi I am studying for a MA in coaching and mentoring I would be interested to know how this discussion went?

  2. MeredithHaberfeld says:

    Great post. Research is a very import tool.

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