Differentiating Academic Coaching Roles

Extending the conversation from Academic Coaching for Adult Learners, I am finding that the word coach is a bit ambiguous, even within the context of academics only. As the coaching concept has established itself as a norm in business training, both internally and external consulting, more higher education adoptions have become evident, transitioning from terminology of mentorship to academic coaching, but what is that, exactly?

One of the major outcomes of Dr. Buch-Wagler and Dr. Rose’s testing my recently developed academic coaching framework was that coaching role has to be explicitly explained to the learner, both for the student’s motivation and to reduce wasting everybody’s time “clearing the air” on why they were actually there.



As a result, three major coaching roles within academics has become apparent to me.

Facilitating Coach

This coach is simply a facilitator who can not only teach the topic represented in the course, but teach on the meta level for decision making skills, prioritisation, communication, and writing skills. This takes an enormous amount of energy because if the course of study is economics, the facilitator is rightfully focused on economics, but perhaps not as focused on coaching how to better communicate within that course experience, or help the student develop better study skills. However, this can be accomplished through consistent phone or text conversations, and simply listening. By listening to the fears and challenges, a wise facilitator can help guide the learner through their maze of frustration.

Learning Coach

This coach is the one focused on learning strategies in order to be successful in the fast paced environment of accelerated learning especially. The meta focus is to help ensure that not all soft skill development falls onto the facilitator and provides more assurance to the institution that students are being given academic support beyond simply competencies. Most adult learners have been out of school for decades, and study skills, if they had any in the first place, are totally forgotten. The learning coach is a crucial third party influence that can make a difference across several courses.

Planning Coach

This coach is simply an advisor who is out of the reactive damage control behavior and able to engage the student in a proactive manner. There is plenty of research demonstrating the value of this type of coaching, which is frequently called invasive advising. Additional tactics that correlated with academic coaching include helping students develop a planning calendar that represents study and participation and isn’t just centered on the program’s immediate content. This time management helps to address the incredible amount of last minute and sloppy work that so often leads to plagiarism. We can provide models all day long, but until somebody helps students implement one of them, the already overwhelmed adult learner is unlikely to take action.

All of these academic coaching roles are essential for the adult learner to succeed in adding yet another extremely time consuming and mentally challenging component to their life. However, for these roles to be achieve their impact, once again, the point must be made that the academic coaching mindset must be adopted as an organizational habit rather than sourcing within a single program or department.

Crossposted at my LinkedIn account titled Differentiating Academic Coaching Roles.

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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.