aims to build the ACW community by sharing the experiences of academic writers.
Mar 03, 2016 by Kathryn Kleypas
As I suggested in the introduction to this blog series, you do not have to be an extensively trained or certified professional coach to use these skills to great effect. Mentoring faculty is only one way to use coaching, and a campus community can benefit in many ways from a coaching approach. For example:
The possibilities are endless. After I began the coaching training, I found myself relating to my students in a more coach-like way. The first time I saw the potential of this approach fully realized was in a basic writing course I was teaching to first-year students. We had completed a full-class peer-review activity using the drafts from two students who had volunteered their papers for the exercise. The papers varied in skill level, and the more skilled writer received applause from the class at the end of the review. The author of the other paper approached me after class telling me she was “really depressed” because she was a “bad writer” and had embarrassed herself in front of the class. I engaged her in a dialogue similar to the one I included in the blog about taming negative self-talk. I had never realized before what an iron grip negative self-talk can have on the minds of people! By the end of the dialogue, the student recognized her “gremlin,” and we developed strategies to send her gremlin out of the room whenever he began whispering his unwanted negative opinions in her ear.
Many university and college campuses have found have found that writing circles are effective in helping faculty write and publish articles. In your work as a writing coach, you can draw on the array of coaching strategies. In the developmental prewriting stages, you might ask your coachee what her vision is for her paper. You might ask this powerful question: “What is important to you about this paper?” Throughout the process, be attentive to the negative self-talk and help her defang her gremlins. Champion her by pointing out what she is doing really well. Challenge her and create an accountability structure that will keep her on target.
At a professional conference of academic advisors, I first learned about coaching and its uses in higher educational contexts. Students benefit hugely from a coaching approach when they are being advised. Asking them powerful questions such as, “Why do you love your favorite class the most?” and “If money were not an issue, what career would make you the happiest?” can provide you with information to make your advising session more effective. As an advisor you can even use coaching to help a student choose classes for the following term by using your active listening skills to learn about the student’s values and strengths. For example, when I review a student’s transcript for strengths and values, and I see that she is getting Cs and Ds in Accounting courses, and As and Bs in Spanish, Art, and English, I realize that she may not be drawing on a signature strength if she majors in Accounting. As a coach, my job is to see if this student’s vision of herself is to be an accountant and, if not, to help her identify what that vision is and then to help her find the confidence to pursue it.
A coaching approach can enrich and deepen the work you do on your campus and for your campus community. When I decided to pursue the training to become a certified coach, I only had in mind to use the skills I learned in my work with students as an academic advisor. I had no idea how much coaching would inform and improve my teaching, mentoring, peer reviewing, and performance evaluations of my staff. I soon discovered what a profound shift in attitude and approach coaching would provide me in my professional life, and how the ethos of coaching in a department and professional unit, and on the campus at large creates a vibrant spirit of curiosity, courage, appreciation, and growth.
What are other areas on your campus where you think a coaching approach might improve the desired outcomes of a department or unit?
Have you experimented with any of the skills described in the previous blogs?
How did the skills work for you?
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