In recent years, teachers have become both the teachers and the coaches of students. This change in terminology reflects a change in role, with teachers coming to fulfil a more supportive, encouraging and supervisory function. The focus is on the student’s development into a competent professional practitioner, with the teacher fading more into the background.

The proper supervision of students requires a number of principles or elements, including the following:

Active listening

Active listening is intended to promote the student’s discussion, involvement and reflection (e.g. reflection on what went well and not so well when performing a task). In addition, teachers use active listening to show that they are interested. Possibilities for active listening include:

  • Paraphrasing the student’s contributions (reformulating the contribution in the teacher’s own words). If the student does not think that what the teacher says is correct, the student will be inclined to elaborate further.
  • Summarising the student’s contributions
  • Reflecting on the student’s contributions
  • Encouraging the student to contribute by nodding and maintaining eye contact.

Giving feedback

Giving feedback can achieve two goals. Feedback provides students with insight into their own knowledge and skills. At the same time, it can be used to guide students in the development of self-evaluation skills. Teachers should therefore try to let students relate their own experiences first. What did the student think went well and not so well? How would the student like to improve the less positive aspects?

Ask concretising questions

The objective is to have students arrive at a number of concrete observations and to promote reflection on the part of students (e.g. with regard to a particular learning situation). Possibilities for doing this include:

  • Posing W questions (e.g. What did you want? What did you think? What did you do?)
  • Posing open-ended questions (not yes/no questions)
  • Asking specific questions (no overly general questions: not ‘What did you think of it yourself?’, but ‘List three positive points/learning points’). By asking specific questions, teachers provide students with a concrete guide for reflecting on a situation.

Other important points

The following areas of attention are also important in a ‘coaching relationship’:

  • Make the objectives and expectations of the relationship very clear. What do you wish to achieve and what do you expect of the student?
  • Attention should also be directed towards the practical side of the supervisory relationship: Will you meet at regular times? How do you and the student view these sessions? Should the student prepare anything for the meetings? How long will the conversation last?
  • Make a list of working points. This provides students with concrete suggestions for points on which they can work.

Want to know more?

Boreen, J., Johnson, M. K. , Niday, D., & Potts, J. (2000). Mentoring Beginning Teachers: Guiding, Reflecting, coaching. Portland, Maine, Stenhouse Publishers.

GROW@Bournemouth University (n.d.). Coaching (and Mentoring) for University Undergraduates: Some Issues from the Literature. Retrieved from the Bournemouth University website.

Hattie, J. (2009). The contributions from teaching approaches. In Visible leraning. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement (pp.161-236) . London & New York: Routledge.

Parsloe, E. , & Wray, M. (2000). Coaching and mentoring: practical methods to improve learning. London, Kogan Page.