Theses Doctoral

Coaching Practices for Facilitating Reflection Toward Transformative Insight: A Constructive-Developmental Perspective

Halgren, Jessica E.

Responding to gaps in the executive coaching literature, this study’s purpose was to identify coaching practices for facilitating growth in leaders’ developmental capacity to help them more successfully navigate the demands of their increasingly complex contexts.

Through the lenses of transformative learning (Mezirow, 1978, 1991, 2000) and constructive-developmental theory (Kegan, 1982, 1994), this study aimed to identify and understand coaching practices for facilitating reflection (at content, process, and premise levels) toward transformative insight, conceptualized as an insight occurring at the heart of Mezirow’s perspective transformation and Kegan’s subject-object move. Also, using constructive-developmental theory, this study explored how a select sample of executive coaches with various developmental capacities or forms of mind differ in their understanding of these practices.

This exploratory multiple-person case study investigated the experiences of 21 executive coaches via semi-structured interviews. Thematic data analysis revealed 16 coaching practice themes across all three levels of reflection. Given the importance of premise reflection in the literature, an unexpected finding was that these practices were used less than 10% of the time. An overarching process and coaching practices model for facilitating transformative insight emerged, describing the movement from a client’s current way of knowing (experienced as limiting) to a new way of knowing (seen as more desirable and effective).

Using constructive-developmental theory’s methodology, the Subject-Object Interview (Lahey, et al., 1988), participants’ forms of mind were identified. A comparative developmental analysis revealed that coaches with different forms of mind used reflective practices (from all themes and levels of reflection) to a similar extent and with similar intent. However, the qualitative differences that emerged followed the “transcend and include” principle, meaning that coaches, with each subsequent (and more complex) form of mind, expanded upon the ways in which these practices were used by coaches with a less complex form of mind.

Findings confirmed and expanded upon the coaching processes and practices related to transformative learning and the constructive-developmental literature, uniting them in similarities and differences and integrating them into an overall system for facilitating transformative insight. Implications for scholars, practitioners, and coach educators interested in transformative coaching with developmental impact are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
October 25, 2023