The Support and Challenge Matrix proposes that high performance is achieved when the teacher/leader provides a high level of support and high level of challenge. The combination of high support and high challenge results in a teaching/leadership style which liberates students/individuals and allows them to maximise their performance.
The Support and Challenge Matrix offers a combination of low and high levels of support and challenge which produces four contrasting teaching/leadership styles:
“Culture of Empowerment and Opportunity”
This is the optimal teaching style to achieve maximal student performance.
High levels of challenge will ensure that students are stretched and encouraged to make progress in their learning and development.
When high levels of challenge are coupled with high levels of support students are liberated from any barriers and restrictions to learning which enables them to perform to a high standard.
The ‘liberator’ teaching style is associated with a culture of interdependency, partnership and collaboration, and meaning and purpose.
However, this perfect balance between support and challenge is not as easy to achieve as this simplistic model may suggest.
Teachers and schools work extremely hard to offer high levels of support for students through tutoring/mentoring programmes, wellbeing services, specific learning needs, individualised learning plans, extracurricular activities, and much more.
This over-focus on support can easily result in a shift of focus away from student challenge.
Conversely, if a teacher is consistently challenging students and stretching them to achieve more they may overlook the support that is required for their students to meet the challenging demands being asked of them.
If a high level of challenge is provided but there is a lack of support, and vice versa, learning potential and student performance will be reduced (as the other three teaching styles will demonstrate below).
“Culture of Entitlement and Mistrust”
This is a non-optimal teaching style.
Although the teacher is providing a high level of support there is a lack of challenge.
Over recent years the level of support provided to students has enhanced greatly, compared to previous decades/generations.
These enhancements in student support and wellbeing and a more active and explicit focus on these areas has been highly beneficial to students.
However, with a strong focus on high levels of student support there is a risk that students are not sufficiently challenged and in turn do not develop the skills and qualities that are required for them to be independent capable learners.
It is therefore important to ensure that the increased levels of support are balanced with high levels of challenge to ensure students are able to maximise their performance and potential for learning.
The ‘protector’ teaching style is associated with a co-dependency culture, rescuing behaviours, tolerance of poor learning behaviours, group-think and false harmony.
“Culture of Fear and Manipulation”
This is a non-optimal teaching style.
Although the teacher is providing a high level of challenge there is lack of support being provided to the student.
Teachers will often aim to develop independence in their students which requires them to work independently with reduced support from the teacher.
For students to become independent learning and thinkers direct support from the teacher does need to be reduced, however this needs to occur using a progressive and phased process.
Once the teacher is confident that the student is able to perform a task with support they can reduce or change the level of support provided over time until the student becomes more independent.
The risk is that the teacher withdraws the support too early and the student is unable to performance and learn at an optimal level due to the high level of challenge associated with the task.
It is therefore important to ensure that the increased levels of challenge are balanced with high levels of support to ensure students are able to maximise their performance and potential for learning.
The ‘dominator’ teaching style is associated with a dependency culture, command and control culture, blame, criticism and judgement.
“Culture of Apathy and Low Expectation”
This is the least optimal teaching style.
If a teacher provides a low level of support and challenge minimal/no learning will take place.
Without challenge, students will not progress and develop their learning and thinking. Without support, students will not be in a position to learn.
This teaching style should be avoided at all costs.
The ‘abdicator’ teaching style is associated with a culture of apathy, feelings of being ‘put on’, and the enablement of poor learning behaviours.
The Support and Challenge Matrix presented above has been developed from a coaching matrix proposed by John Blakey and Ian Day (2012), in their book, ‘Challenging Coaching.’
Blakey and Day outline four cultures which occur as a consequence of different approaches to leadership and coaching.
High Performance: High support and low challenge
Cosy Club: High support and low challenge
Stress: Low support and high challenge
Inertia / Apathy: Low support and low challenge
The Support and Challenge Matrix has adapted this model and assigned leadership styles to the four quadrants.