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Coaching learners

February 01, 2007

Hello again,

In my last posting about personalising learning I suggested that schools need to try to devise individual learning plans to run alongside group courses. One way of helping learners...

... map their personal learning route is with a technique widely used in coaching. Part of the aim in personalising learning is to help individuals improve their learning skills. This means they need to be involved in setting their own objectives and making plans to achieve them. By using the GROW approach teachers can help learners discover their own route to their goals.

GROW stands for goal, reality, options, wrap-up. By structuring interviews with learners in this way, teachers can encourage learners to develop a powerful autonomy.
In the goal phase, the teacher needs to ask questions that elicit from the students their objectives for the term and the enabling aims that will help them achieve these. A starting question could be: what do you want to achieve by the end of this term/course? Let us say the student replies: I want to be more confident in using English at work. This helps the teacher frame supplementary questions that elicit what tasks the student performs in English at work and who s/he interacts with. Once the tasks and role sets are identified, the basis for a series of aims is established. For example: using the telephone, writing emails, participating in meetings.

The reality phase helps the learner establish his or her current levels of competence. The teacher can ask what the learner perceives as weaknesses and strengths. Thus, the learner might lack confidence in understanding messages received by telephone and may fear making mistakes when writing emails. S/he might, however, say the s/he is more confident in face-to-face meetings.

In the options phase, the teacher helps the learner establish what work can be done to build on strengths and work on weaknesses. The teacher can explore how much the learner knows about the school’s resources and how to use them and what help the learner would like from the teacher.

The interview can be wrapped up by the teacher using the information obtained to help the learner devise a step-by-step plan for achieving his/her objectives.

The GROW technique is powerful because it draws out from the learner exactly what is needed and how it can be achieved. The learner has thus devised a meaningful personal plan rather having to follow a route determined by somebody else. The teacher needs to remember to stick as far as possible to questioning and to only make suggestions when the students can’t see the way ahead for themselves.

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