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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Professional Development Opinion

I Tried AI as a Virtual Coaching Assistant. Here’s What Happened

The pros and cons of using artificial intelligence as a personal assistant
By Peter DeWitt — November 14, 2023 4 min read
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Leadership coaching has been a great learning experience for me over the last 10 years that I have been doing it. Every session gives me the opportunity to ask deep questions about leadership practices, both management and instructional. Coaching has also helped me become a better listener. For full disclosure, I used to go into coaching sessions with a plan of what I wanted to talk about, and then I watched 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation by Celeste Headlee and realized I was guilty of a majority of the actions she told the audience not to take.

The coaching sessions I engage in are focused on collective inquiry, which just like most inquiry, centers around four main parts:

  • Problem of practice – What problem are you trying to solve? In my Instructional Leadership Collective, my partners and I work with leaders and leadership teams in developing success criteria. It’s important to know what success should look like.
  • Implementation – What is your theory of action and what actions are you going to take?
  • Evidence of impact - What evidence are you collecting, and actually using, to guide your next steps?
  • Reflection – What went well? What would you do differently next time?

For me, coaching is a hybrid approach. I work with the same schools and organizations over a full year and meet with the leaders and teams in person four or five times in the year, and the rest of the time is virtual. With the virtual sessions, I am trying something new, which is using an AI assistant note taker, with the permission of those I coach. I also decided that this blog post was a good time to co-author with AI. I simply asked a question through Chat GPT, and the following is how it responded. That question I asked focused on the benefits of using AI as a note-taking tool for leadership coaching.

What Are the Advantages?

Using AI as a notetaking assistant in leadership coaching sessions offers several distinct advantages. Firstly, AI can significantly enhance the efficiency and accuracy of notetaking. AI-powered transcription tools can convert spoken words into text in real-time, minimizing the risk of missing important insights or actions discussed during the coaching session. This streamlined process allows coaches and their clients to focus on the conversation itself, leading to more productive and meaningful interactions. Additionally, AI can organize and categorize notes, making it easier to retrieve and reference key points and action items from past sessions, thereby promoting continuous improvement and follow-up.

Secondly, AI-driven notetaking assistants can provide valuable data analysis capabilities. They can recognize patterns, identify recurring themes, and highlight trends in the coaching sessions’ content over time. This analytical insight can be instrumental in identifying areas of strength and areas that need improvement, helping coaches tailor their guidance to the specific needs of their clients. Moreover, AI can assist in tracking progress and measuring outcomes, making it possible to assess the effectiveness of coaching interventions and adjust strategies accordingly. Overall, AI notetaking assistants offer leadership coaches a powerful tool for improving their clients’ development and enhancing the overall coaching experience.

It’s definitely spot on when it comes to data analysis. After coaching sessions, I’m able to see a transcript (which remains confidential) with the leader or team and I can see what percentage I spoke in comparison with those I coach. It also helps me see the questions I asked, and I can use that as evidence when I reflect on my coaching in order to ask better questions next time.

I asked AI to explain the disadvantages of using AI as a note-taking tool for leadership coaching. The following is what it said.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Using AI as an assistant notetaker in leadership coaching sessions comes with certain disadvantages. One significant drawback is the potential for errors in transcription and understanding context. AI systems may misinterpret or inaccurately transcribe spoken words, especially when dealing with accents, jargon, or nuanced communication. This could lead to incorrect or misleading records of coaching sessions, undermining the effectiveness of post-session analysis and feedback. Additionally, AI may struggle to capture non-verbal cues and emotions, which are often crucial in understanding a leader’s state of mind and responsiveness to coaching.

Another disadvantage is the potential for privacy and data security concerns. Leadership coaching sessions often involve sensitive and confidential discussions about personal and professional development. Storing these recordings or transcripts in an AI system’s database raises concerns about data breaches or unauthorized access. Maintaining strict data security measures becomes paramount to protect the confidentiality of the coaching sessions, and organizations must carefully consider the ethical implications of using AI in this context. The trust between the leader and the coaching process may be compromised if individuals are concerned about the security of their coaching data, potentially discouraging them from participating in such sessions.

That answer was spot-on as well. Confidentiality and secure data are the number one priority for coaching sessions. Additionally, I always make sure I ask for permission before I ever allow AI to record.

In the End

AI is a tool we are all getting used to, and I’m trying to focus on the positive benefits. When it comes to coaching sessions and meetings, it has helped me understand my strengths and areas of growth. It is providing me with some of the feedback I need to improve my practice. Isn’t that what all evidence should do for us?

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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