Research Paper By Sherry Fang
(Teaching Coach, Blended Coach, TAIPEI)
William Arthur Ward once said “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” When a teacher tells or explains, she holds a dominant role in the teacher-student relationship. When a teacher demonstrates, a teacher allows herself to be in the students’ points of view. When a teacher inspires, she is no longer the superior but the coach that facilitates the learning process while building trust with the coachee. The quote signifies the important role of a coach in the adult language learning process. However, not all teachers were trained with this very ideology.
This research paper will explore the reasons behind the necessity of how blended coaching and teaching practices are essential for adult language learners. I will start off the paper by exploring the traditional teaching methods of second languages. Secondly, the coaching methodologies and components of the coaching practices will be addressed. Third, I will talk about different coaching models that can be applied to the language teaching process. Finally, the paper will address how blending both teaching and coaching methodologies in the language learning process can achieve maximum results for adult students and truly enriches their learning journeys. I will also focus mainly on adult language learners throughout the research paper.
Define teaching /coaching
Before exploring the methodology of different practices, let us take a look at the definition of teaching and coaching. Teaching by definition according to Oxford online dictionary means the action of guiding the studies of, imparting the knowledge of and conducting instructions. On the other hand, coaching means the action of training, giving extra help, and prompting or urging someone with instruction. Rachel Marie Paling, the founder of ELF Efficient Language Coaching, summarizes that teaching is a transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the learner whereas coaching incorporates teaching and training with more personalized aspects of teaching (ELF.com). We can also conclude that students tend to be more passive under teaching methodology while more active under coaching methodology.
Ever since the 1950s, different methods and approaches have been developed and evolved through times. During the 1970s, according to David Nunan, author of Practical English Language Teaching, a significant reassessment of language occurred. Linguistics began to look at language as a tool for expressing meaning. With the reassessment, approaches such as Communicative language teaching (CLT) came to life (Nunan, 2003, p.5). This is a really important turning point of teaching because this methodology emphasized fluency over accuracy. Hence, learning-centered education and task-based language teaching were later developed to enhance the accuracy of the language (Nunan, 2003, p.7). These methodologies are especially suitable for adult language learners with specific needs and tasks that needed to be accomplished. However, Nunan suggested that many still argued that learners do not have the knowledge to make informed decisions about the learning methodologies. Teachers were often viewed as the boss in the relationship (Nunan, 2003, p.9). Therefore, teachers adopt different teaching methodologies as they see fit.
Paling mentioned that if looking at a broader picture of teaching, the teacher is portrayed as the active player and responsible for all the sharing of the knowledge, and then the learner is portrayed as the passive receiver of this relationship. She also suggested that normally teachers facilitate the teaching process involving a certain set of books or materials. The style of teaching can often be formalized and instructive. The relationship between the instructor and students can easily evolve to be impersonal (Pailing).
As previously mentioned, the act of pure coaching involves the coachee during the process. International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” (https://coachfederation.org/about)The most important and the first step of the coaching process is to establish the coaching agreement with the clients. This also allows the coach and clients to talk about the goals and come to an agreed-upon time-bound goals (PCC Markers. Competency 2: Creating the Coaching Agreement). Mirroring the Communicative language teaching, the instructor or coach can help the client or language learner to set their learning goals before the learning process. Under the same competency, the coach/instructor helps the clients define achievable tasks in order to resolve the issue at hand. Rachel Pailing also advocates that by utilizing the traditional coaching practices, the language coach must adopt the goal-setting process as the first step. The coach and coachee must set goals that can be committed by the coachee. This is the most crucial step in language coaching. After setting the goals, they will proceed to pinpoint the learning strategies and actions that will facilitate the learning process in order to achieve the desirable goals (ELF.com).
Other practices educators can adapt from the traditional coaching world is the practice of coaching presence and creating trust and intimacy with the clients. The PCC Markers under the International Coaching Federation, states that the coach needs to “acknowledges and respect the client’s work in the coaching process.” In addition, the “coach encourages and allows the client to fully express him/herself.” Both competencies are applicable in the language coaching sessions where clients or language learners feel that they can fully trust the language coach and be able to make mistakes. At the same time, the language coach’s constant encouragement can strengthen the learner’s ability to progress. In Competency 4 of the PCC Marker, Coaching Presence, it states that “coach is observant, empathetic, and responsive”. This is important for the language coach to pay attention to because the clients will go through learning difficulties that may be caused by past negative learning experiences, current life obstacles, or just lack of concentration. By being empathetic and responsive, the language coach can observe the problematic areas and adjust the lessons or strategies accordingly. In the same competency, it states that the “coach notices and explores energy shifts in the client.” This is so critical in both one on one and in group learning sessions. Observing the energy level of the lessons allows the instructors to seize the opportunity of any given teaching moment and to change the dynamic of the class when necessary. For example, when the energy is low, the language coach should change the set-up of the group from sitting down to standing up, execute a faster-paced activity, asking more interesting questions, or simply taking a quick break. When the energy is high, the language coach can seize the opportunity and creates more learning by creating the relevancy of the content. As a coach, by allowing ourselves to be more present in the classroom, the learning result will exceed the expectation (https://coachfederation.org/pcc-markers).
Language coaching is the opposite of traditional language teaching. In fact, many educators argued that learners ultimately need to do the learning and take on a more active role in the process. Nunan suggested that there are several different ways to involve learners in the learning process, such as helping learners to create their own goals as well as teaching learners how to create their own learning tasks (Nunan, 2003). This involvement of learners in the learning process overlaps with the coaching ideology.
Similarly, Rachel Marie Paling of Efficient Language Coaching addressed that the coaching style signifies a more active role for the coachee and more active learning by allowing the coach to adapt to the coachee and the coachee’s way of learning. This way, the coach can tailor-made the lessons and materials for the coachee. She stated that “continuous feedback and acknowledgment creates an excellent learning environment and keeping the coachee motivated and committed also falls on the couch.” It is clear that the language coach and coachee have equal status and the client is accountable for its own learning process and the result. Hence, this creates motivation and often leads to more cost-effective learning proves. This mirrors the traditional coaching practices of coaching presence and creating trust and intimacy with the client.
GROW model has been one of the most used coaching models for different styles of coaching including education. The model was originally created by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore in the 1980s. Goal, Reality, Options, and Will is a way of journey. The goal, by using the model, the coach would lead the client to set short-term and long-term goals. The reality, the coach will then explore the current situations or problems that the client is facing. Option, the coach and the client identify and evaluate the different action strategies together. Last but not least, they will discuss the willingness to get the tasks done and the time frame (http://teachingnz.com/2017/09/08/coaching-beginning-teachers-using-the-grow-model/). The model also has been used by many educators in the past.
Using the GROW model, the language coach can set up long term goals before the session begins. The coach and coachee can decide what language goals they decided to achieve given the timeframe and availability of the client. It can be a specific language skill such as speaking and listening, writing or reading. It can also be a training of formal presentation to foreign investors or sales pitch to potential clients. In each session, the language coach and the client should set up short term goals even if it is a more informal conversation in order to establish results. The coach then helps the clients to address the reality or the current learning difficulties. It can be from issues with pronunciation, lack of confidence, lack of phrase that need for completing the presentation, or lack of understanding of certain grammar structures. It is possible to take a few sessions to explore the issues in order to understand the true issues at hand. After addressing the learning issues that need to be worked on, the coach and the client together find out what to be done.
A coach can help the language learner to think about the suitable learning methodology to correct the issues. For example, some clients prefer to learn through a series of questions and answering while the teacher tweaking the mistakes during the process. Some clients prefer to do so by going through a series of exercises with handouts. Last but not least, understand just how much time and resources the client is willing to spend on the process is crucial. Adult language learners are generally willing to complete the tasks but time is an issue they need to face. Coaches need to adjust the tasks to make sure they can be completed and not be affected by busy home life or busy work schedule.
I have developed the U.S.E.E. model and have been utilizing it in my practice. U stands for Uncover the needs; S stands for Setting the action goals; E stands for Education; E stands for Execution. This model is specifically designed for working professionals who have the motivation and need to improve or acquire a new language. This model allows the coach/instructor to create a complete customized lesson plans for the clients. There are four phases of the model and the first two-phase would take up to 3.5 hours of consultation where the last two phases can be adjusted according to clients’ availability. However, it is advised to have at least 5 hours of the Education phase.
Similar to the GLOW model, the U.S.E.E. model allows the coach and client to set short term and long term goals of the learning process. However, the U.S.E.E. model focuses more on the work prior to goal setting. The Uncover the Need stage includes questions about the client’s career, short term and long term goals, personality traits, and learning behavior. This is to help the clients to fully realize their needs, preferred learning style, and previous learning hardships. More importantly, this stage points out the skill sets needed for their career as well as the language required for the skillsets. The findings from this stage will be sorted by the coach and the clients to come up with a solid lesson plan in the Set Action stage. The lesson plan indicates the client’s skill set, career goal, a language that would complement the skills, time frame, and the tasks that can be done adding to the lessons (homework).
Unlike the GROW model, the U.S.E.E. model also emphasizes the importance of execution of the lessons in real life. The education and execution phases are connected and intertwined. This is especially crucial for working professionals where language needs complement their job skills and ultimately, their achievements at work. The true motivation for language learning tied to the result they can see in their lives.
Importance of blended coaching
Coaching practices complement the teaching practices in language learning because it emphasizes the importance of the energy, space, the state of being of the learners. This is something traditional teaching never talks about. Going back to the quote by William Arthur Ward at the beginning of the research paper, what “inspires” students aren’t just the techniques of teaching but the importance of the energy level and the state of emotion of the students. With clear goals and motivation, students can feel energized and driven by the learning process. American Institutes for Research (AIR) partnered with the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) published a paper on Effective Coaching in 2015. It stated that “experimental and qualitative research supports the idea that several specific coaching practices are linked to improving teacher practice.” The practices that are said to be helpful in improving learner outcomes include observation, demonstration, performance feedback, and relationship-building-strategies (Kretlow& Bartholomew, 2010; Neuman& Cunningham, 2009; Stormont &Reinke, 2012; Snyder et al., 2015). With blended coaching and teaching, language coaches can create an interesting, creative, goal-driven, and cooperative environment for language learners everywhere.
PCC Markers. Retrieved from https://coachfederation.org/pcc-markers
(2013, November 4). The Differences between Language Teaching and Language Coaching. Retrieved from
Bethune, K. S., & Wood, C. L. (2013). Effects of coaching on teachers’ use of function-based interventions for students with severe disabilities. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 36(2), 97–114.
Kohler, F. W., Crilley, K. M., Shearer, D. D., & Good, G. (1997). Effects of peer coaching on teacher and student outcomes. Journal of Educational Research, 90(4), 240–250.
Kretlow, A. G., & Bartholomew, C. C. (2010). Using coaching to improve the fidelity of evidence-based practices: A review of studies. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 33(4), 279–299.
Kretlow, A. G., Cooke, N. L., & Wood, C. L. (2012). Using in-service and coaching to increase teachers’ accurate use of research-based strategies. Remedial and Special Education, 33(6), 348–361.
Neuman, S. B., & Cunningham, L. (2009). The impact of professional development and coaching on early language and literacy instructional practices. American Educational Research Journal, 46(2), 532–566.
Nunan, D. (2003). Practical English language teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Stormont, M., &Reinke, W. M. (2012). Using coaching to support classroom-level adoption and use of interventions within school-wide positive behavioral interventions and support systems. Beyond Behavior, 21(2), 11–19.