How to Use Life Coaching Techniques for Student Success

Implementing coaching techniques when working with students can feel overwhelming when you’re in a position at a school or institution that requires the sharing of knowledge, information, resources, policies, expectations, and procedures. Academic Advisors are expected to direct students in choosing classes to ensure on-time graduation. College Counselors are expected to be the go-to source for information for students in the college-going process. Tutors are expected to teach students the things they aren’t quite grasping. All these roles and many more have designated tasks to meet student success, how is life coaching going to make that any easier?

Blending these expectations with coaching really comes down to two things: (1) balancing knowledge-based coaching with empowerment-based coaching, and (2) co-creating an agenda. Let’s tackle each of these individually.

Balancing knowledge-based coaching with Empowerment-based coaching

Knowledge-based coaching is when you have information, resources, or suggestions to share with your students, while empowerment-based coaching is when you lean into our powerful questions to elicit insights and answers from your students. As coaches, you don’t want to lean too much into knowledge-based coaching at the risk of developing a dependent relationship where your students see you as the problem-solver, advise-giver, or answer-provider. One way of stepping into knowledge-based coaching while also empowering our students’ choice is by asking permission.

Let’s say you’re working with a student who you think could benefit from using a planner. To shift towards knowledge-based coaching while also empowering the student’s choice, you could say “I have an idea for you. Are you open to it?” This gives your student the opportunity to decide if they’re seeking advice or not.

When the student agrees that they’re open to hearing your idea, you can say, “Many students I’ve worked with have found success in using a planner and I think it could be beneficial to you as well. What are your thoughts on using a planner?” You’re offering your idea and immediately opening the conversation back up into an empowerment-based conversation with your student.

Co-creating an Agenda

Alongside the balance of these two coaching approaches, it’s also important to co-create the agenda as it relates to blending advising, mentoring, tutoring, or counseling with coaching. In a pure coaching relationship, sessions begin by setting a clear agenda that comes from your students. “What would you like to focus on today?”

As previously mentioned, there are many times where you’re expected to cover certain topics or resources at particular moments with your students. This does not mean that you completely throw the agenda setting step out the window, but it does allow for an opportunity to co-create the agenda a bit more.

For example, “I know we need to get you registered for next semester’s classes today, but I also want to make sure you’re getting what you need too. What would be helpful for you to get out of our session?”

You’re bringing to your student’s attention that you have an agenda and while you open the opportunity for your student to be an active participant in the direction of the conversation.

Even with these two techniques, it takes practice to find the balance between knowledge-based coaching and empowerment-based coaching as well as managing multiple agendas in a single session. In your upcoming student sessions, experiment, play around with this balance, see what feels best for you that works for your students. These techniques will make have a positive impact on your relationships with your students while also contributing to their success.

Interested in learning more about how life coaching can help in academia? 

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