Meet Chris Munro – GCI Insights Interview - October 2020


Tell us about your current role and responsibilities… some joys? some challenges?


My main role is the strategic oversight and coordination of GCI operations in Australia and New Zealand. This involves working closely with our Directors and Managing Consultants to ensure that both our clients and our consultant coaches and facilitators are getting what they need to keep making a positive difference in education communities.

Since the start of the pandemic, the scope of my role has necessarily become more global, working closely with our other senior leaders as we reprioritised our strategic goals to accelerate the development of our online provision. The coordination of the development of our new online programs and services has required a global perspective, working across continents and time-zones. This is both a challenge and a joy! I get really excited at the prospect of bringing our work to an international audience with participants learning alongside people doing similar work in different parts of the world. I think that’s a fantastic opportunity! We set out to develop these programs and services in a way that built on our strengths. As we developed our strategic plan last year (pre-pandemic), we identified four ‘Ps’ that underpin who we are and how we work as an organisation – people, programs, partnerships and processes. These are the very things that continue to sustain us through these difficult times and are shining through as we pivot towards a new education and training landscape.

I feel very fortunate to be part of an organisation that lives out the ‘way of being’ that it espouses, and to work with colleagues who have inspired and supported my coaching journey, and continue to do so.

What was your background before coming to this role?

I graduated from the University of Glasgow and started my teaching career as a Teacher of Technological Education in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1992. I spent the next 18 years in various teaching, leadership and teacher-development roles. For the 5 years before coming to Australia I worked in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) at the University of Aberdeen. My roles in ITE gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest in teacher learning and were the richest professional learning experiences of my career. I also completed my Masters in Social and Educational Research (MRes) at that time, researching ITE selection processes.

My wife, daughter and I emigrated to Melbourne in December 2010 and I ventured back into the classroom looking to apply my knowledge and experience as a Leading Teacher: Professional Learning. I then moved to an independent catholic K-12 college where I was responsible for the development and implementation of teacher professional learning strategy. This is where my interest in coaching as a catalyst for teacher learning really took off. I undertook training with GCI (CAP) as well as Jim Knight (Unmistakable Impact) and alongside a talented and committed team at my school, set about developing a coaching model for the college. By the time I left to join GCI in 2016, we were seeing some signs of a coaching culture emerge.

Now I have the great privilege of being able to support others on their coaching and professional learning journeys.

Which aspects of coaching in education are really capturing people’s energy right now?

Right now, the obvious focus is on how coaches continue to support educators when they are teaching and collaborating remotely. I have been asked many times about how to coach at a distance and my honest answer is that I’m not sure that the interaction is very different. There is perhaps a heightened need to ‘meet’ people where they are emotionally and in terms of their goals and resources right now, and to ‘dial up’ our empathy as coaches and slow the process down to give people a bit more space to think. I recently recorded a little video for the Chartered College of Teaching in England on this subject.

Some leaders that I’ve been speaking to are also concerned about maintaining some degree of routine and ongoing support for their staff as they grapple with the challenges of new ways of working. They are trying to keep professional learning opportunities going in a way that fits in with new work patterns and routines. Our online programs and services are proving useful here.

I know you like to grapple with complex issues…what are the coaching issues or concepts that are occupying your thinking time right now?

"Oh, that’s a great question! Yes, I do like to think and write about coaching. It’s a case of too many ideas and not enough time but here are a few things I’ve been ‘chewing on’…Most recently, I’ve been refining the concept of a ‘Continuum of Professional Learning Conversations’. The basic premise here is that educators leading professional learning conversations need to adopt a range of stances in order to best serve the needs of those with whom they work.

I wrote about this as a way of making sense of “coaching, mentoring and everything in between” in Issue 11 of CollectivED Working Papers (2020).  You can also read more about “coaching, mentoring and everything in between” here.

Working Papers (2020) A perennial interest of mine is the implementation of coaching in schools and the notion of a coaching culture.

I wrote a bit about this in My Context, Context, Context (2017) article. Bringing all of this together will be a chapter that I’ve written with Margaret Barr and Christian van Nieuwerburgh called Creating Coaching Cultures in Schools that has just been published in a new book - Sustaining Depth and Meaning in School Leadership: Keeping Your Head (2020).

I have not got my hands on a copy yet but I am very excited to see this in print. This writing project has been a bit strung-out so it’ll be great to finally have it in print and see what people make of it.

Coaching Resource Library