Should you give up teaching for coaching?

One of my standard lines about teaching writing is that it requires coach’s mindset rather than the traditional teacher’s mindset.

I’m having to rethink whether that’s still an appropriate line.

A tweet sent me to Karen Vogt’s post “Coaching: A New Frame for Teaching and Learning”  at the Next Generation Learning website earlier this week.

By the end of the third paragraph, it was clear to me that the author and I had distinctly different concepts of what is meant by coaching.

Vogt writes:

I have understood coaching in a very basic way—the coach is not an expert like a mentor or distinguished professor; the coach spends more time asking questions and listening than providing solutions and advice.

To me, that sounds more like a counselor than either a  teacher or a  coach.

When I hear the word coach, I think of someone who is (1) expert at doing some activity and (2) expert at enabling others to learn to do that activity. In other words, I think of coaching in terms of hands-on skills rather than content learning.

I suspect that more people understand coaching as I define it than as Vogt defines simply because sports are more popular than personal development courses.

That said, however, I will have to watch my language carefully in the future if the concept of coaching is undergoing change.

A second point Vogt made gave me something else to chew over.

She asks:

How can educators reaffirm that learners are not deficient; that it is instead their prior learning opportunities that have been deficient?

My first reaction is to stand up and cheer: There are way too many students whose educational problems are the result of having been to school.

My second reaction would be to rephrase that sentence like this:

How can educators reaffirm that learners are not deficient defective; that it is instead their prior learning opportunities that have teaching that was deficient?

I’ve had many college students whose skills were deficient although the students themselves were not defective. The students had had opportunities to learn those skills in the past; however, they often had misunderstood what they were taught in elementary school—and teacher after teacher failed to to catch the misunderstanding.

Vogt has some other observations that those of you who teach “content courses” may find stimulate your thinking. If you have a couple minutes, take a look at her article.

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