What is academic coaching?

HAVE you ever heard of an academic coach? Similar to a coach for sports, an academic coach helps students improve in academics and life skills. The academic coach helps to improve learning fitness. Almost every student can benefit from having an academic coach. It is a one-on-one process geared to help the student overcome barriers to academic achievement by teaching learning strategies and skills such as time management.

Academic coaching is a fairly new modality in the field of learning strategies and assistance. It is not the same as counselling or tutoring. It enhances and boosts the learning experience across all subjects, so it is not subject-specific as is the case with tutoring. The intention is for students to become self-directed learners and the goal is to achieve improved grades and a less stressful learning experience. Students take ownership of their academic success, thus taking charge of their education and career path.

Each academic coaching session is different and tailor-made for the particular student. The first session provides a holistic picture of the student and includes an assessment of the student's learning style, strengths and weakness, along with a personalised plan of action. It is a dynamic process of questioning and probing. The action plan typically addresses time management, procrastination, motivation, note taking, reading strategies, test anxiety, and study skills. These would be addressed in further sessions.

Sessions with students are private, but when it is deemed appropriate and potentially beneficial to the student, the academic coach will enlist the support of parents. If necessary, parents may be asked to participate in their child's coaching sessions or to attend sessions of their own. For sure, academic coaching requires commitment from both students and parents.

Students feeling overwhelmed and/or procrastinate benefit greatly from academic coaching. They are taught time management, organisational skills, and accountability.

To a small extent, academic coaching may mimic mentorship, but it is not the same. It is much deeper than that. Academic coaching is a resource for teasing out the root causes of student complaints such as: "I failed an exam" or "I can't study" or "My mind goes blank in an exam". The coach delves into the issues then determines strategies and interventions that will best fit the student's particular set of challenges.

Active learning and study strategies are not typically taught in the classroom. While some students find studying intuitive, there are others that struggle to find the best strategy for themselves. An academic coach will help in formulating an effective study plan and will teach specific study skills.

The foundation for effective academic coaching is the relationship between the coach and student. The coach must be able to create a comfortable, safe space for the student to engage in conversation. It is a partnership and so trust is a must in the process. Students develop proficiencies in goal setting, time management, learning strategies, and study skills.

To change behaviour and develop new skills and habits, there are no quick fixes. Sustained effort along with consistent practice are necessary for the student to achieve long-term and long-standing change. Coaching is only successful if the student and parents are willing to cooperate. Students who have completed their recommended sessions and who stick to the recommended plan, show increased confidence and upward movement in their grades. They are empowered, show resilience and their intrinsic motivation is boosted.

Perhaps it's time to consider an academic coach.

Dr Karla Hylton is the founder and CEO of Your Empowerment Solutions (YES) Institute, offering mathematics and science tutoring as well as a host of workshops for parents, teachers, and students. She is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. Reach her at (876) 564-1347; e-mail: ceo@yes-institute.com; or visit www.yes-institute.com, or www.khylton.com.


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