Laura recently explained to me how we all are somewhat familiar with athletic coaches. Their job is to train athletes so they experience success in their sport. In the classroom, when teachers wear the mantle of coach, they are also involved in helping students experience success in an area of learning that students find challenging. An important aim of teacher-coaches is to move students to self-directed learning. To accomplish this, the teacher taps into the concept of efficacy: the belief that all students can learn and be productive members of their education community.
Teacher As Coach
You can improve students’ performance, achievement, self-confidence, and self-efficacy when you start thinking like a coach. Through his research, John Hattie discovered that feedback on student work had the most effect on learning. Therefore, thinking like a coach means that you offer students feedback on written work, collaborative and individual projects, literary conversations, and teamwork. Here’s the rub! For feedback to be meaningful to students, coaching should occur soon after students’ work has been completed or in the midst of a long-term project. I prefer a tight timeframe—preferably within two days or the next time the class meets.
Seven Tips That Support Coaching Students
Mull over these seven tips that can enable you to successfully coach students in any discipline. It’s not about choosing two or three. All seven work in concert to develop your coaching strength. It won’t be perfect the first few times you don the mantle of coach. However, take the time to reflect, self-evaluate and learn from mistakes.
Toss red pens & listen. Let students do most of the talking. Sit on your hands if you’re tempted to mark up a student’s paper. Invite the student to jot feedback on a sticky note. You can do the writing for young children as long as they tell you what to write. The more responsibility students have, the more self-directed they become.
Sit side-by-side. This enables you to listen, to observe what students write on sticky notes, and it also advances the trusting relationship between teacher-coach and student.
Negotiate needs & priorities. Find out what the student thinks he or she needs. Then negotiate, share the process of focusing needs and prioritizing them so you both know what to discuss first.
Think aloud and model. Develop a student’s mental model of a task such as brainstorming or what strong verbs look like. Thinking aloud and modeling are two coaching tools you’ll repeatedly use.
Provide feedback. Always start with what’s working, what the student does well. Remember, learning foundations are built on positive feedback. Then ask a question—How does paragraphing help the reading of dialogue?– that gets the student thinking about a need.
Negotiate goals. First see if the student can set a reasonable, achievable goal. If the child seems reluctant, share a few possibilities and let the student choose. Make sure you ask the student to discuss and then jot what has to be done to reach the goal and how much time will be needed.
Gradually release responsibility. The goal of coaching is for the student to experience and understand the process so he or she can become self-directed learners in the area being coached.
Take the Plunge
Set a goal for the upcoming school year and try coaching students. You might have to adjust your thinking and stop seeing work in terms of a grade. Instead, view student’s work as an opportunity for you to offer feedback that can help each one move forward. Keep in mind that it’s the student’s learning and progress that trumps giving a grade!
I suggest Laura’s new book Read Talk Write