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Academic Coaching

Most of us have areas of our lives we want to change; many of us have good ideas for making those changes, but it can be extremely difficult to establish new patterns without help. How many times have you resolved to change a habit and made concerted efforts to shift your behavior, only to end up back where you started?

Coaching provides the support and structure to make lasting changes. This professional relationship can help anyone to specify his or her goals, get unstuck, develop a concrete plan, and then follow through.

Academic coaching is a structured partnership between a coach and student. The goal of this coaching partnership is improved scholastic performance and increased enjoyment and enthusiasm for the learning process. The coach provides support by assessing needs; setting goals; and offering feedback and guidance. The student provides a desire to improve and a willingness to look at new ways of doing things.

Typically, academic coaching involves a weekly session, usually over the telephone (or at the home of the student) that lasts 15 to 20 minutes and sometimes longer. The student and coach will meet for the majority of the time which, although highly individualized, often focuses on the "THREE A's": Attitude (feelings and expectations about the learning environment), Aptitude (the current state and development of skills), and Approach (strategies, plans and goals).

Once a week, the coach will update the parent or guardian on progress and give a "heads-up" on ways they can support their young person between coaching sessions. In all cases, parents are welcome to take part in the coaching sessions either as participants or as observers.

Is Academic Coaching Another Name for Tutoring?

No. Academic coaching is much more global in its focus. Coaches work with the "whole person" by offering a wide range of assistance and support. Tutoring, on the other hand, is very specific, often to the point that it targets a particular topic, such as algebra, French, or Civil War battles. Tutoring often prepares the student for specific tests, like the SAT or ACT.

It is true that a good tutor will also do some coaching and an academic coach will often tutor the student, but the two roles are very different in scope, and it is not unheard of for a student to work with both.

How Long Does Academic Coaching Take?

Most academic coaching is situational and limited in its scope. Often it is a response to a specific problem or challenge in the learning environment, such as poor performance or lack of motivation. In other situations there may be no scholastic issue other than a feeling that the student's potential is not being realized. Studies have shown that a four-month coaching session has great benefit by reinforcing skills and habits necessary to do well in school.

Who Can Profit From Academic Coaching?

Any child or adult in the learning process can improve his or her chances of success by working with a coach. That said, there are practical issues that arise when working with children under seven or eight that make it most effective for an academic coach to coach the parent and then have the parent coach their child. In general, though, if youngsters understand and respond to a series of rewards for appropriate behavior, they can profit from academic coaching. Adults and young adults can almost universally get value from the coaching partnership.

Can Academic Coaching Be Used In Place of Medication?

No, academic coaching does not replace drugs prescribed for medical conditions such as ADD or ADHD. Issues as to the appropriateness of medications are wholly the domain of parents, students, and medical professionals. However, an academic coach should know of any medications taken by the learner and can work constructively with the healthcare provider in hopes of augmenting the effectiveness of any prescribed medications

How Can Your Student Benefit from Coaching?

  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Better study habits
  • Improved social and communication skills
  • Increased motivation
  • Greater scholastic accomplishment
  • Less struggle with and more enjoyment of their educational experience
  • Fuller development of accountability and responsibility

What Are Some of the Things Students Accomplish with Coaching?

  • Efficient personal management
  • Effective planning and scheduling practices
  • Development of proactive behaviors
  • Regular practice of goal-setting and goal-clarification activities
  • Academic and social balance
  • Increased self-knowledge of learning style
  • Implementation of wellness habits
  • Development of self-discipline
  • Managing fear and self-esteem issues
  • Continued personal and academic growth
  • Ability to move out of “comfort zone.”
  • Renewed excitement and curiosity for learning

Initial Coaching Session (90 minutes)

  • Setting personal mission statement
  • Values assessment
  • Setting long-term goals
  • Determining obstacles to meeting goals
  • Learning styles assessment
  • Inventory skill strength and resources
  • Defining what tasks should be targeted
Upon completion of evaluation, Coach Sydnor will email an evaluation report to the parents within 48 hours.

Weekly Coaching Sessions (15 to 20 minutes)

  • Review successes and why they worked well
  • Analyze problems and obstacles
  • Assess current skills and supports
  • Define needed skills and supports
  • Review long-term goals and personal mission statement
  • Set short-term goals for upcoming week

Examples of Target Behaviors Improved by Coaching

  • Determine an organization/schedule method that will work
  • Gain consistency in plotting due dates, deadlines, targeted dates, appointments
  • Develop a better method of note-taking
  • Learn more efficient study strategies
  • Develop test-taking strategies and reduce test anxiety
  • Learn to set and keep personal time limits for school and leisure
  • Learn to break tasks into manageable steps and assess time needed
  • Upcoming project will need research (10-20 hours = 2,3,4, or ?? evenings?), materials (shopping in advance), writing or construction time (10 hours = 2 afternoons or 5 nights?), someone to edit (ask and schedule), final draft (2 hours) I don’t really understand this bullet point
  • Study schedule for final exam may need a semester-long or 6-week plan that includes reviewing a set number of  chapters with notes per week, organizing a study group, utilizing flash cards for drill and practice (after dinner for 20 minutes each night), reviewing old tests, creating study guides
  • Accept responsibility for getting as much as you can from the resources available to you
  • Improve communication with teachers
  • Realize that there are many choices and different ways of doing things, and that every individual needs to find what works for them

Some of the Methods Used

  • Developing written goals
  • Creating an ideal day and week
  • Applying the Art of Achievement through the 7Cs (Clear Conception, Confidence, Consistency, Commitment, Concentration, Character, Capacity to Enjoy)
  • Keeping weekly “To Do” lists with specific tasks prioritized and clear steps
  • Learning exercise to improve efficiency in memory, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary, etc
  • Role-playing conversations with teachers to negotiate and problem-solve
  • Receiving schedule reminders from coach, either by phone or online
  • Use chining??? (I’d like to know what it is, too) to see where things break down so future problems can be anticipated

Coaching is not therapy. Coaching provides the mechanics of a skill, but the individual develops the skill through guided practice until the skill become consistent and habitual. Coaching focuses on individual success. Failures are compared to successes only in terms of objectively looking at why one situation worked and another did not. The goal is to define individual skills and resources, build on them, and make positive behavioral change that the individual desires. A coach provides information, guidance, structure, and that extra "push". This push motivates individuals to stay on track by helping them to focus on personal goals.

Individual coaching is typically conducted by telephone, or in person when possible, with interim email contact as needed. Students can be coached twice or three times weekly. Parents are called weekly and given a report on students' academic progress.

Coaching Agreement

A successful coaching relationship is built upon a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. We ask each client to join us in clarifying our roles and responsibilities before beginning work together.

In general, we agree that the coach WILL:

  • Listen closely to the needs of students and parents
  • Ask powerful and insightful questions
  • Give honest feedback
  • Offer strategies to develop organizational skills
  • Help set goals and develop the plans to meet them
  • Model proactive and responsible behaviors
  • Provide structure, support, and encouragement

The coach will NOT:

  • Diagnose or treat any condition
  • Provide counseling or therapy
  • Do the work of the student

The student WILL:

  • Agree to work constructively in the coaching relationship
  • Listen to new ideas and provide some of his/her own
  • Take the risk of "stretching" a bit
  • Adopt new and more effective approaches to learning
  • Give feedback to the coach about his/her concerns
  • Take ownership for his/her progress and accomplishments