Academic Coach Target Areas: Communication Skills

As a continuation of focusing on the specific target areas as a learning coach to adult students, we move from Academic Expectations and into the realm of communication skills. It has been surprising to me how many students nod their heads sagely either virtually or in-person when I discuss the high value of communication skills. Everybody understand the need. And… many think that they are pretty decent at it.

Communication is crucial in all types of academic coaching. As a facilitating coach, I have found success with having students differentiate destructive and constructive conflict, and then have them share an example of how they have not only made a potentially destructive situation constructive, but how they have made a potentially constructive situation devolve into something that was destructive. This often starts exposing more self-awareness, although it’s important to understand the vulnerability we are asking of them when we enter these conversations. A certain level of trust is needed at this point.

This tactic can also be highly successful with a learning coach who is focused on the overall learning success strategies for adult students across a longer period of time. Here are a few more.

  • Education around defensive language. People know that defensiveness is not a good thing. That can be made even more evident with the constructive versus destructive conflict conversation. However, as it has been shown that IQ can drop as much as 20 points in a state of defensiveness, students find it helpful to realize that frankly, we’re just getting dumber the angrier we get. However, those defensive walls are not always completely evident. Presenting telltale signs of defensiveness helps student self-identify if they fall prey to it. Examples include
    • All or nothing mindset
    • Physical reaction
    • Mind reading tendencies
    • Jumping to conclusions
    • Overwhelming the person with information to make a point
    • Blame tendencies
  • Education around addressing defensive language. Even if people are aware that they fall prey to defensive behaviours, it is a huge challenge to address it. A three step process of 1) acknowledgement, 2) not initially responding, and 3) self-checking negativity with response is a valuable “list” to provide learners who are needing to collaborate in discussions but know they have such tendencies. Looking at posted discussion collaboration together, if available, can help students also identify how they’ve handled potentially negative responses.
  • Introducing the lower levels of affective taxonomy as self-checking mechanisms. This is not a suggestion to tell your coachees to use the affective domain of learning to improve communication effectiveness! Rather, break down how the receiving, responding, and even valuing levels of emotional development so greatly assists communication capability.
    • Receiving – the ability to listen and truly hear their peers’ perspective
    • Responding – the ability to contribute unique perspectives to a collaborative discussion
    • Valuing – the ability to share perspectives while knowing there are opinions that differ from your experiences … and be able to respect those opinions

None of these are skills that can simply be ticked on a checklist. They each take intentional work, but also provide a structure for scaffolding a learner’s ability to improve their communication skills.

Crossposted at LinkedIn at Academic Coach Target Areas: Communication Skills.

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.