Developmental Coaching (Pt 2)


It was a privilege and an inspiration to attend a conference workshop by Jennifer Garvey Berger at Sydney University’s Evidence Based Coaching Conference.  Her topic was developmental coaching, and having trawled around trying to find out what was distinctive about developmental coaching, I was intrigued by what she might have to say. We all know the terms ‘staff development’ or ‘personal development’, and generally understand them to mean acquiring new skills and professional insights.   Jennifer’s background and academic work is in the field of adult education and her coaching work has its theoretical foundations in the work of Robert Kegan. 

Kegan has developed a model outlining stages of development through life’s course – to quote Jennifer ‘developmentalists believe that humans grow and change over time and enter qualitatively different phases as they grow’.  Integral to Kegan’s theory is the concept of meaning, and how the way we make sense of the world is constructed through our prisms of meaning .  Transformative development  occurs when those prisms change – it occurs when an individual gains insight into how his/her ways of knowing change.  Kegan enunciates five ‘orders of mind’, each of which represents greater complexity over time in the way we construct reality, culminating in the fifth order – the ‘self transforming’ mind.  Very few adults reach this level, but when they do, Jennifer has found in her executive coaching that often the transformation is so complete that corporate life loses its appeal. 

So, now I understand developmental coaching to be a transformative journey through relatively discrete stages of self awareness.  I suspect that there are not many coaches out there with Jennifer’s knowledge and great karma.  She is certainly a gifted speaker who inspires great humility and awe for what can be.

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