Purpose for the ICF policy statement on the conduct or use of research
Coaching is one of the world's fastest-growing professions. As the major association that represents that profession, ICF has the responsibility to formulate an explicit policy concerning its perspective on the relationship of research and coaching practice. A policy statement provides guidance and direction to both practitioners and researchers; empowers participants, contributors, stakeholders, coaching organizations and clients alike with regard to engaging in or utilizing research; enhances the legitimacy of ICF as a whole; serves a protective function in that it guides behavior and, at the same time, sets boundaries; enhances decision-making; facilitates evaluation; and defines priorities.
This policy is intended to apply to ICF staff, the ICF Board and its executive, members of the International Coach Federation, and academic personnel or external vendors who wish to utilize ICF resources to engage in research on any aspect of coaching.
Not all information about coaching can be categorized as research. ICF’s working definition of research is: Research (including evaluation) is defined as any activity that involves the collection, collation, review or evaluation of data or information for the purpose of describing, maintaining or modifying activities, practices, interventions, or treatments. Research may involve the manipulation of variables or environmental factors whereas evaluation more typically involves the review of information for the purpose of providing feedback about the function, productivity or efficacy of an activity. Evaluation includes but is not limited to activities including needs assessments, process assessment, outcome studies, impact analysis, cost-benefit analysis and meta-analysis.
ICF encourages and endorses evidence-based practice (EBP) with respect to effective coaching. That is, ICF wants coaches to make solid decisions regarding the method or technique they use based on their ability to critically assess the best available, current, valid and relevant coaching evidence before applying it to day-to-day coaching practices. ICF believes combining the explicit knowledge derived from sound research, broadly defined, as above, with the more tacit or experiential knowledge of the coach practitioner is the synergistic sine qua non of effective coaching.
It is ICF policy to encourage and promote research activities that enhance the professional development and standards of the worldwide coaching community. ICF strives to collaborate with organizations and individuals that promote the highest standards of research to establish a discipline of coaching studies to support and further the profession. ICF seeks to facilitate the exchange of information among researchers and practitioners studying coaching theory, methodologies, and outcomes. Equally important, ICF seeks to make this information available to practicing coaches and those interested in the coaching profession. Specifically, ICF’s goals are to:
- Increase the knowledge base concerning the art and science of coaching
- Contribute to the advancement of coaching theory and the establishment of best evidence-based practices
- Disseminate coaching research to the coach practitioner
- Establish increased credibility for coaching as a discipline through the encouragement and support of best research practices and resulting theory development in coaching practice
- Close the gap between coaching research and the practice of coaching by combining evidence-based practice with practice-based evidence
By the same token, research on coaching might be divided into two broad categories: 1) market-oriented or industry-related research on the coaching profession; and 2) research to gather evidence on coaching techniques, coaching core competencies, coaching methodologies, coaching outcomes, and coaching theories.
1) Market-Oriented or Industry-Related Research
This kind of research on the coaching profession, on coaches and on coaching organizations often makes use of evaluative techniques and surveys conducted for the following purposes:
- To track trends in the coaching profession so that ICF can best serve its membership
- To assist the Board in making decisions regarding the future policies and directions of ICF
- To provide information to member coaches on trends, coaching revenues, coaching practices, etc.
- To provide valid information to media or other parties requesting information about the coaching profession
- To ICF facilitate public relations (PR) efforts
In short, market-oriented research is the coaching profession's way of looking at itself. ICF’s policy is to prioritize requests for information from its members and to protect them from repeated and unnecessary demands on their time and resources. Thus, the criteria for ICF participation in such surveys is the importance of the information to be gathered and the legitimacy of the researcher or organization conducting the survey balanced against the time and/or other resources demanded of members or other respondents.
2) Research to Gather Evidence on Coaching Techniques, Coaching Methodologies, Coaching Outcomes and Coaching Theories
The core purpose of ICF is to advance the art, science, and practice of professional coaching. Coaching is an applied profession, and its successful development requires a dialectic process among coaches and practitioners to develop a discipline that can support the profession, and vice-versa. It is assumed that a discipline of coaching requires a solid theoretical foundation that will strengthen the coaching profession and contribute to its ongoing development. The quality of coaching theory will be determined by a vibrant research community combined with practitioners who both utilize and contribute to research inside and beyond ICF.
Therefore, for both broad categories of research on coaching (delineated in 1 and 2 above), ICF will encourage and collaborate with researchers and organizations that are gathering evidence on any aspect of coaching, given the following limitations:
- Researchers must be aware of and adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics.
- The research must meet ethical guidelines for the treatment of human subjects-for example, provisions of the American Psychological Association.
- Members of ICF must be protected from undue demands on their time and resources, and any demands must be consistent with ICF priorities and policies.
- Research must make every attempt to include an international scope of participants.
- Internal or state-of-the-profession surveys may be commissioned from time-to-time by ICF.
- External research directed toward and/or involving ICF Members and research links submitted for posting on the ICF Research Portal shall be vetted by ICF.