23 June 2009

A Tentative Introduction to Academic Coaching

The following represents a draft of an essay I am developing on the concept of academic coaching. Comments would be appreciated.

Academic Coaching

The task of this essay is to distinguish academic coaching from current conceptions of both teaching and tutoring in North America. This is neither to say that coaching is a necessary distinction from these two, nor that teachers and tutors must not engage in coaching activities or possess coaching traits. It merely acknowledges that teaching and tutoring have often come to be limited either by practical necessity or as a convenient option and to exclude the positive benefits that coaching affords.

Concerns of the Academic Coach
Teachers in North America are constrained by schedules, classes, and curricular requirements to focus their activities upon the content of the course being taught. While teachers of course are concerned with the needs of students in their classes, such needs cannot be allowed to hijack the activities of the class in ways that impede covering the required course material. When individual students are struggling with the curriculum or are falling behind the pace of the class at large, it is appropriate for students to seek tutorial help. It is the task of tutors in North America to spend extra time with individual students to overcome the difficulties they are experiencing in class or to help them increase the pace at which they are able to process the course curriculum. When the student has overcome the difficulty and is able to proceed at the pace of the class, there is no further need for the tutor.

By contrast, the academic coach focuses upon the performance of students being coached. Because the teacher is concerned with the required content of the course, the coach is able to focus upon how students are performing in the learning process. In distinction from a tutor, the coach is not engaged in the class primarily to help with “problem” cases or individual needs, although a part of the concern coaches have is with individual performance. Rather, the coach focuses upon increasing the quality of the learning experience by helping students in both their individual and in their collaborative efforts in the course. While teachers and tutors focus upon the content of the course, the coach focuses upon the lived experience of learning in the course as an individual, as well as a community, effort. It is this aspect of academic coaching that has not been addressed in the literature available on coaching. Most of the literature reviewed later in this essay focuses upon coaches working with individual students. In this essay, the view is taken that coaches create good individual students, but also that they create learning communities, or teams, that explore collaborative learning.

Activities of the Academic Coach
Academic coaches must engage students in four main activities in order to enhance the quality of the learning experience in courses. Coaches must develop strategy, communication, motivation, and feedback in the groups of students they coach. Each of these will be discussed more fully below.

First, coaches must develop strategy as they coach students. They must find out what strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and interests each of their students has. Some of this will involve meeting with students individually to discuss these areas, but it should also be confirmed by direct observation as students function in the larger group. Also, the focus of the coaching should not be to “define” the individual, as if to place the student into a box or category. Rather, the activity should be seen as a emergent picture of the individual’s growth process.

While strategy involves communication, there is also an aspect of communication that goes far beyond what one coach does with each individual student in a group. Communication as an activity needs to be seen in terms of the overall learning process. The learning process itself is the communication activity overseen by the coach in a group. Coaches develop groups of students into learning communities as the communication of the group is enhanced.

Thirdly, coaches engage in motivation activities. These are often celebratory in nature, acknowledging the progress in learning that individuals have contributed to the learning community. Such celebration is a vital part of increasing the quality of the learning experience as students come to see not only their progress, but the value that the community places upon the progress of its members.

Finally, coaches provide feedback for students. Students need positive reinforcement that is not connected with results of their work in courses. Obviously, getting good grades is feedback, but students often need more than an overall grade and a few comments to improve their work. In addition, the feedback they need is concerned as much with process as it is with product. Also, the feedback system needs to be multi-directional; students must engage in providing, and not just receiving, feedback on both the process and products of learning activities. Coaches provide a less threatening non-peer person to engage in communication than teachers and tutors offer.

Characteristics of the Academic Coach
Academic coaches exhibit six major characteristics in their activities.

First, coaches are dedicated to the learning process. While teachers often enjoy the discipline they teach (or the particular curriculum) more than their students, the central enjoyment of the coach is a wide range of learning and, especially, helping others learn. Coaches are happiest when their students are performing at their greatest level, both as individuals and as a team together with others.

Because learning is more important than the subject learned, coaches are able to resist the temptation to show or tell students how to do things or the specific information required in the course. The have learned to avoid the role of “sage on the stage” with students, preferring to come alongside and celebrate the students’ own achievements in learning. This resolve on the part of coaches to resist demonstrating their own intellectual abilities, leads to a revised understanding of the learning process as active (information gathering), rather than passive (information reception).

Thirdly, coaches enjoy collaboration. Though they are supportive and encouraging with students who individually seek out information, they are even more satisfied when the learning community has teamed up to find out information or acquire a skill.Reliable information is not seen as flowing from the coach to students. Rather, it is the task of the whole group to increase the understanding of reliable information as common property.

Because the curriculum content has taken second place in the coaches’ focus behind the quality of the learning experience, and because the coaches’ own performance has little to do with the specific content of the course, coaches have patience to allow students to learn and are not often tempted to rush the learning process.

When a learning community is engaged in high-quality function, it often finds that it needs new sorts of learning activities in order to engage all its members in learning. Coaches need to be able to create new learning activities, so that everyone in the community experiences fulfilment in the group’s activities.

From time to time, members in a community will have different opinions regarding activities they are engaged in. What may be enjoyable to some of the community, may be stressful (or boring) to others. Not all people have the same activities they enjoy, but it is also true that not all people have an equal amount of tolerance for the differences of preference, ability, and taste found in community members. As a result, coaches must learn to mediate conflict well in the learning community.

Teachers and tutors can learn many helpful techniques from academic coaches to improve the performance and satisfaction of their students, but neither of these two roles substantially decreases the ongoing need for academic coaching in education. Teachers will continue to be required to cover planned curricula on schedule, and this requirement will tend to push critical needs of the learning community aside from time to time. Tutors will continue (at least in North America) to be seen as corrective measures, to be brought in only for special situations or when problems are encountered. Most telling in this regard is that tutors will continue to operate to provide one-on-one help.

Academic coaches come alongside teachers to ensure that students' needs are met within the overall pressures of curriculum plans and class schedules. Academic coaches work in a preventative way to avoid problem performance by individual students in classes. When coaches recognize an individual student's need for tutorial help that is beyond the capability of the coaches to provide, they are able to partner with tutors to make sure students are adequately served in a one-on-one setting. However, academic coaches are uniquely placed in the educational setting to provide what teachers, with their curricular concerns, and tutors, with their focus on individualized help, cannot; coaches collaborate with students to create learning communities. The learning cooperative becomes the venue for the education process to be owned by the students who stand most to benefit from the products they provide each other.


At present, I have consulted the following sources (linked) and gleaned the information below each link from the website the link points to. Quotes are designated by open-bullet (and sometimes square-bullet) paragraphs, and comments I have attached to the quotes are in square-bulleted paragraphs that end with the words "- post by learningcoach"

    • This online training program is designed to prepare college students and other paraprofessionals for working with academic coaching and tutorial groups. Each of the four modules focuses on a different aspect of the role an academic coach plays in helping students achieve success in their courses.
      • It is not known whether this program is available to those outside the immediate school district where it is being developed. - post by learningcoach
    • Contact: Vicki Helms, vhelms@sdcoe.net
      • The contact information for Vicki Helms may prove valuable in getting access to the academic coach training program. - post by learningcoach
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • An academic coach, like an athletic coach, observes your strategies and techniques, makes observations and suggests changes to your approach, and provides encouragement as you implement new ways of learning. One-on-one sessions are a great opportunity to learn how to fine-tune your unique ways of learning.
      • From the discussion, it would appear that an academic coach is a very short-term role for a student (i.e. make "an" appointment with a coach). It would seem to be better to have students coached throughout at least a course by the same coach, rather than merely "making an appointment" as needed. - post by learningcoach
      • This is a positive picture of the academic coach. - post by learningcoach
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • Academic Coaching is a unique, specialized service, geared towards helping individuals reach their education potential. This service proves helpful as it enhances structure and accountability while providing new study strategies, better organization and time management skills, and general moral support.
    • This service is not generally for help in specific subject content
      • I think that coaching is possible without regard to a specific discipline when it is done in an individual setting. However, I believe that the full potential of academic coaching may be seen in group, as well as individual sessions. In this vein, it would seem best to organize coaching connected to specific courses. - post by learningcoach
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • Academic Coaching vs. Tutoring
      • Academic Coaching is most appropriate when:

        • - Student is underachieving
        • - Student is struggling across subject areas
        • - Student is dependent on their natural abilities to suceed
        • - Declining results are effecting the student's confidence and effort
      • This is a relatively negatively focused view of what academic coaching is. Imagine how different sports would be if the only athletes being coached were "underachievers," "struggling," "dependent," and "declining!" In my view, coaching is a positive and supportive role aimed at maximizing a person's performance over the long haul. It does not have the correction of a problem in view, and it is not limited in its scope to a particular obstacle or hindrance (in fact, not even to the completion of a particular course, though for practical reasons a coach may be engaged in connection with a particular course). - post by learningcoach
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • individualized process
      • Although coaching involves individualized elements (consultation, critique), it is best not to limit it in such a way. Just as sports coaches often work with teams of athletes, so academic coaches can work with learning communities dedicated to the exploration of a given subject (course). - post by learningcoach
      • Your Academic Coach will:

        1. Make at least five (5) monthly visits

        2. Set up your loved ones’ “dream” resume with events, activities, and awards that will match with their hobbies and personalities

        3. Give you constant feedback of progress with monthly progress reports

        4. Meet with your loved ones Monday-Sunday, flexible hours

        5. Meet with your loved ones at the locations convenient for you

        6. Become your loved ones’ Mentor, or Advisor, available personally or via telephone, email, instant messaging, or text messaging.

      • Though the meta-message of this quote involves an appeal to parents regarding the education of their children (or dependents), it reveals some of the features necessary to academic coaching: regularity of contact, learner-centred activities, promise of critique, flexibility of time and location for meetings, and a long-term relationship. - post by learningcoach
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • At Taproot we recognize that each person is unique in the way that they learn best. Therefore, we match skill strategies to the individual learning needs of each client, which allows for the greatest possible transformation and growth.
      • Clearly, the situation envisioned is one academic coach and one client meeting together. While coaching should be personal and individualized at times, it should not be narrowed in such a way as to exclude group coaching and collaborative learning communities. - post by learningcoach
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • Key Coaching Competencies

      In a typical coaching meeting, coaches follow the eleven core competencies as set out by the International Coach Federation to identify the issue, garner the client's commitment, and support the client in developing a plan of action. Here is one of those competencies.

      Creating Awareness

      The coach invokes inquiry for greater understanding, awareness and clarity, identifies client's strengths, and helps client find new possibilities for action.

      • This is clearly a document being developed. Hopefully, future editions will specify more of the core competencies promised at the outset. - post by learningcoach
  • This page lists several helpful features of the academic coach.

    tags: coaching, learning support

    • Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs.
    • A coach relates to the client as a partner.
    • Coaching concentrates primarily on the present and future.
    • Coaching can be used concurrently with psychotherapeutic work.

    • Academic Coaching is not academic tutoring, counselling donning, advising, or academic accommodations but can be a useful support along with these services.
    • Coaching is not consulting or facilitating.
  • tags: coaching, learning support

    • We are a nonprofit organization formed by individual members-professionals who practice coaching, including Executive Coaches, Leadership Coaches, Life Coaches and many more, from around the world.
  • There is considerable ongoing research into the concept of coaching as it is used in academic and other professional settings.

    tags: coaching, research, learning support

      • Annual Membership: $195 (USD)* (This equals only $16.25 per month!)

        • The ICF membership is on an annual billing schedule; all memberships expire on March 31 of the following year.
        • Membership fees for new ICF memberships will be prorated based on the month you join the ICF.
        • Membership fees for January, February and March include the prorated amount for the current membership year plus next year's membership fee. Membership would then expire March 31, 2010. Please see below.
  • tags: coaching, learning support

      • Peer Academic Coaching connects experienced student coaches with a student peer to examine personal strengths and challenges in his or her academic career. Students in the program are paired with a Peer Academic Coach who will mentor the student in their academic life at UBC. Participants will also have the opportunity to attend faculty specific workshops on learning skills and resources and meet regularly with their coaches throughout the term to discuss learning tools, study tips and academic issues such as those highlighted below:

        • Study habits
        • Study techniques
        • Study resources
        • Student norms
        • Academic tutoring
        • Academic advice
      • Academic coaching can be extended to peer-mentoring relationships, but it would seem that the prototypical concept would be oriented toward more of a professional-client (i.e. less peer-oriented) relationship. It would seem that true security on the part of the education-seeking client would be more easily achieved in a relationship where the educational knowledge and experience are deeper than would be possible among a student's peer group. - post by learningcoach
    • Academic coaching is an evolution of mentoring applied to academics. Mentoring implies the student is an empty vessel into which knowledge is poured. Coaching involves a more collaborative approach, assuming the student is already in the "game" of learning. Coaches help students learn how they best learn and how to operate in an academic environment. Coaches help students learn the material in individual courses while coaches help students learn how to be successful in school. In college, that includes such topics as: study skills, time management, stress management, effective reading, note-taking, test-taking, and understanding how to use a syllabus. Academic coaches meet with the student regularly throughout the semester, usually once a week. Coaches work with students in all kinds of situations, not just those who are struggling academically. Some highly motivated, high-achieving students will have a coach to improve their learning efficiency. Academic coaching also occurs to help students prepare for entrance exams to gain entry to schools or universities. Academic coaching is a huge industry in Asia. For example, in India, a majority of students be it of any class or stream, visit a coaching centre or a 'study circle'.
      • Perhaps there will soon be a separate article in Wikipedia on academic coaching. For now, it is discussed within the concept of tutoring. - post by learningcoach
  • This link is to a Google search for documents on academic coaching in a post-secondary setting. I have not investigated a majority of the items listed.

    tags: search, academic coaching

  • academic

    • academic coaching and courses for at-risk students
      • It is important to ask why coaching is only needed in "at-risk" situations. It would seem to be better to implement coaching as a preventative, more than a corrective, measure. - post by learningcoach
    • The goals of academic coaching is to provide intensive coaching and mentoring in a student’s first two terms at Kaplan, with an effort to prepare students to be increasingly academically and personally self-sufficient, more adept at solving and preventing barriers to education, and to be better positioned for greater and consistent academic success as they move through the first two terms and into the remainder of the degree program. The ultimate measure of success will be demonstration of a higher retention rate of students into their third term than is presently the case.
      • This could be better-written, but the essentials are there. Again, one wonders why this program is only for "at-risk" students. - post by learningcoach

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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