Ready to "level up?"
Here are three levels of increasing coaching intensity through which you progressively unfold your coaching skills in the classroom.
- At the first level you will use the course goals and a set of coaching questions that step-by-step take the whole class though what they need to change in order to succeed.
- At the second level you will guide the whole class in choosing a shared area to work on, set their own goals; and then use selected coaching cards within the well-known GROW coaching framework to drive the process forwards.
- At the third level you will invite a student to volunteer to be silently coached, on their choice of topic, in front of a silent and respectful class. Your questions will come from you and your choice of coaching cards.
3 Levels of Coaching a Class
Course Goal plus Predetermined Coaching Questions
Pick a course goal that is well-known.
When I teach English I notice that the course goal: "Give a short speech in front of an audience", can be challenging, and there is plenty of opportunity for personal development as well as language development for the students, so I offer to coach them through the process.
- Martin Richards
Use a set of predetermined questions that you show and / or read aloud to the class.
With a class that is new to coaching I read the questions aloud because it allows me to control the pace, and to repeat or explain the questions as necessary. Once the steps are better known I can show them on the board, or even give them out on paper, and allow the students to coach themselves and each other.
- Martin Richards
The Goal is ..... (referred to as 'that' below)
- How do you feel about 'that'?
- What part of 'that' do you want to improve?
- On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you today with 'that' ?
- How do you know you are that satisfied?
- On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied would you like to be with 'that'?
- How will you know that you have succeeded?
- What will it feel like to have that level of satisfaction?
- What is getting in your way?
- What one thing can you change that might move you in the right direction?
- What resources do you need in order to succeed?
- What strategies can you use? Which feels right today?
- When will you start with this strategy? (Now!)
When introducing this process to a class I allow plenty of space for discussion between the questions, so that the students can own the process.
For some students, coaching is a natural and accepted process that they recognise from their sports training or perhaps their parent's business profession.
For other students this is a new process that opens up exciting opportunities and empowers them to make life choices.
For some students this process can be distinctly uncomfortable because it asks questions for which they have no answers, they have never thought like this before.
So your need to prepare the students for what the coaching process might open up for them, and keep an eye open for how the coaching process is affecting them whilst you are asking the questions.
Indeed, for some groups the experience was so new that the goal changed to "How can we include more of this in our lessons?", and it was their goal, not mine.
- Martin Richards
Class goal plus a variety of questions within a set framework
Guide the students in selecting an area to work on.
Examples of suitable areas can come from Student Advisory Meetings.
- Ask the students to work in small groups to brainstorm some areas they would like to work with, under the heading, e.g. "What do we want to be better in this classroom?". Each group selects their top three areas.
- Collate the groups' top three areas on the whiteboard. Give the students three votes each, that they will use to select the area for coaching.
- Each group describes their top three areas, explaining to the class why they think they are important.
- Now the students vote, two votes on the one area they most individually want, one vote one their second choice. By this democratic process most students will have accepted the chosen area.
- Write the area in LARGE LETTERS on the board, ensuring that you have formulated the chosen areas as the students wish.
Coaching the Whole Class
Your focus will be on the class as a whole. Consider the individual students to be voices of the class. Your task is to take the whole class through the four GROW steps, paying attention to the class goal, and including as many voices as possible.
The GROW coaching questions, on cards
The coaching cards are a useful coaching aid, and have four types of questions, with 10 questions of each type: Goals, Reality, Opportunity, Willingness
Using the coaching cards
- Place the cards, split into the four types, face down on the table.
- Pick up one Goals card and ask several students the same question.
- Add open follow up questions as necessary, until you feel there is sufficient consensus.
- Then move to the Reality cards and repeat the process of asking the same question of several students, making sure to include as many different voices as possible, listening for consensus.
- Repeat with Opportunity cards.
- And finally use the Willingness cards.
Note you = the whole class
Sample questions from the coaching cards.
What exactly do you want to achieve?
What's the dream?
If everything was possible, what would your goal be?
What does your situation look like?
What have you done about your situation so far?
How do you feel about the situation?
If you had a list of all the opportunities, what might be on that list?
What alternatives have you thought about?
What alternatives have you not thought about?
On a scale of 1-10 how willing are you to move ahead?
What resistance is there in you to taking these steps?
What could make it easier for you to reach your goal?
When I use this process with classes that are not functioning well, the process soon reveals what is holding them back from having the kind of class that they wish to have. There can be varying dreams of what an ideal classroom situation is like, they can see different realities and don't agree on the opportunities. Their willingness to move ahead, to make a change, can range from 'enthusiastic' to 'hostile'.
Having said that, a few days after the process in class there seems to come a resolution that any step in any direction is better than being locked in the old situation. There is a 'shift', an increased awareness, and willingness. Once that happens, a similar process can be repeated in order to define 'better' goals and 'better' strategies.
My task during the process is to stand in the cross-fire and facilitate mutual understanding, knowing what may come out of the process is well worth the effort.
- Martin Richards
When I use this process on a well-functioning class the result is a deeper sense of understanding, respect and acceptance; and a willingness to compromise on class goals and greater energy for collaboration.
It is a wonderful process to witness. My task is then to keep out of the way of their development, and to hold the process in a neutral way. - Martin Richards
Student choice of goal and an intuitive coaching process.
At this level you will be coaching one individual in such a way that the whole class gains the benefit of being coached. The reason is that it's almost impossible to not be affected by watching the coaching process, even when it is done in silence.
You will need to prepare the class by reminding them about respect and confidentiality. With these in place you can proceed to make magic.
- Invite all the students to think about what they would like to get coaching on, and assure them that everything will be done in secret in this session.
- Look for a student who is ready to be coached. Usually their body language will be the clearest indicator, they may lean forward, track you with their gaze, or perhaps they dodge making contact with you. - Martin Richards
- Once you have selected the volunteer, bring them to the front of the class and settle the room into a comfortable geography, usually with the rest of the class facing the pair of you, at the front of the class.
- Say to the rest of the class. "Please show a quiet respect for what the volunteer is sharing with us."
- Say to everyone, "Everything we say in this room, stays in this room.", "OK?".
Make sure that everyone is on board with this.
- Ask the volunteer "Do you have a clear subject to be coached on?", "Just say 'yes', you don't need to tell me what it is."
- Say to the volunteer "Please say 'yes' when you have an answer. Keep everything else secret to yourself."
Ask the volunteer these questions, pausing for a 'yes'. If the student cannot answer 'yes', go back to the previous question and continue from there.
- "Are you clear about what you want to achieve?"
- "Can you describe your goal in a positive way?"
- "When you reach your goal, how will it feel?"
(allow enough time for this to become colourful and convincing)
- "If you had a list of all the resources you need, what might be on that list?"
- "If you could ask anyone for advice, who might you ask?"
- "What would you ask them?"
- "On a scale of 1-10 how willing are you to move ahead?"
(show the number as five, six... fingers)
- "What one thing could make it easier for you to reach your goal?"
- "Can you start to write an Action Plan that will bring you closer to your goal?"
Bringing the volunteer out of the coaching can be done by asking them which questions they found most helpful, most challenging. And asking them how clear their action plan is, and how committed they are to seeing it through.
Remember to thank the volunteer om behalf of the class.
On rare occasions the volunteer is not fully ready to be coached, and I pause in the middle of the questions and ask "What's happening to you right now?", and invite them to have a brief conversation about what's going on inside them at that time, before rounding off the session.
Most of the times I have done this, all the students in the class have reported having had powerful results from the coaching that they felt I had given them, even though my focus was on the volunteer. - Martin Richards