Could your students coach other students?
There has been a big take-up in a number of schools, primary and secondary, implementing student coaching. The highlights from the program have been many; especially the impact on the student coaches themselves. Benefits include improved overall confidence in interacting with their peers, improved listening skills, improvements in their ability to empathise and support their peers when working towards their goals.
Two Directors of The Education Group in New Zealand, Roween Higgie and Dr Nicky Knight, have been working with a small number of schools to establish the program and get feedback on what works for student coaches (aged between 10 and 18) and their coachees in multicultural schools. In Australia, Claudia Owad from GCI has been working with several schools including St Ives High School in Sydney’s north.
New Zealand examples
The Students Coaching Students (SCS) program involves an initial meeting between the school and the Growth Coaching New Zealand trainer, a ‘Train the Trainer’ two-day workshop for lead teachers in order to become familiar with the resources and processes for training student coaches and then a follow-up session six months later reflecting on progress made and determining next steps. Back in their schools, the lead teachers train the students to coach their peers on learning, sporting, cultural or social goals.
Overall, the program has been very successful in a range of schools, at different year levels and also with student coaches and coachees who are English Language Learners. Sometimes the students are coaching each other in their first language.
The end of year celebration for the student coaches with their families and whānau has been another highlight with the students receiving their certificates, sharing their reflections on what they have gained from the program, coaching their parents and doing activities from the student training program. One of their favourites is getting their parents to make four equilateral triangles from six ice-cream sticks (reflecting on internal emotions when solving a challenging problem). It did prove to be quite a challenge for the adults.
Here we feature three New Zealand schools, a middle school and two primary schools, and one Australian secondary school with student coaching programs.
Auckland Normal Intermediate School (Years 7 and 8)
Watch Abbie confidently coaching Norman
Shane Devery, Deputy Principal, has seen the benefits of the program which has been running for four years in the school. A highlight was the confidence displayed by the students coaching adults at a Coaching in Education Symposium in August 2018. The adults were amazed by the students’ competence. Feedback from the parents of the student coaches has been very positive with many noticing an increased level of confidence in their children. Shane talks about the program below:
Mt Roskill Primary School (Years 0-6 with student coaches in Years 5 and 6)
Mt Roskill Primary School is a large, multicultural school in central Auckland. Over 80% of the students in Mt Roskill Primary speak two or more languages and English is often their second language.
Watch below excerpts of teachers Louise and Bridget who had students involved in the program
Veronica van der Straaten, the Deputy Principal continues their story and gives a short summary of the program and its evaluation
As a school, we have been successfully engaged in adult coaching with teaching staff since 2013
Students coaches were trained in 2018 and coached 75 students over the year
The students met every three weeks in Terms 2, 3 and part way through Term 4
Student coaches focused on their coachee’s mathematics goals
Coaches practiced active listening, asking the best questions and developed a greater understanding of a coaching way of being
At times the student coaches found the training challenging, so mindfulness activities were used to help focus the students
A survey of the student coaches indicated that all had improved on the eight coaching skills
87% said they were more confident, 80% felt they were better listeners, 76% said they thought they were better at recognising other people’s feelings, 68% felt they were more responsible for their own learning, 73% said their ability to focus and concentrate had improved while 70% identified that they could now ask deeper questions.
52% of the coachees thought they had improved in their mathematics ability through the coaching they received.
Example of Student Coaching Conversation
Watch students involved in Students Coaching Students program talking about their experiences
Kohia Terrace School (Students from Years 0-8 - Students coaches in Years 6 - 8)
Watch student Olivia talk about her experiences as a student coach
Principal Alison Spence, who is also Lead Trainer for the program, summarises the implementation and the benefits.
Why did Kohlia Terrace School get involved in the Students Coaching Students Program?
We are now heading into our fourth year of student coaching. As a full primary, I felt it was important to offer this kind of program to our Year 7 and 8 students, to support their leadership role in their school and to empower them. I believe it has after talking to students who have left the school.
How is the program organised?
Once trained, students become 'Code Coaches' in the playground at break times helping to sort issues, giving out our school ‘Code' of Behaviour Kete cards. Students also coach in classrooms once a week. Their coaching could be based on relationships or learning goals related to our school learning pathways.
How are the student coaches selected? How old are they?
Students are asked to apply from Year 6 and 7. We do take all students who apply through an application process and the Year 8 previously trained students support the training of the new group of students.
How often do the students coach each other?
Formally it is once a week and then the playground work.
Benefits for the coach and coachee and impact on school culture?
The students are more aware of their own strengths. It has changed the way leaders in the school talk to students. Their conversations / discussions around issues are from a culture of coaching rather than a talking to / more hierarchal culture. And particularly for those students who are coaches, they get it so much more.
Next steps for this program at Kohia Terrace School?
To formalise the program. The training for 2019 will be one full day with the students, and then three or four one and a half hour blocks. I am interested in how other schools are working with student coaches. It would be great to get together with other schools to hear more about this.
Long term benefits of being a student coach
The NZ program has demonstrated that the benefits can last beyond involvement in the program. Hear William’s story. He was trained as a student coach at Auckland Normal Intermediate School in Year 7 and 8 and talks about the impact of this experience on his life at secondary school. He is now in Year 11.
Natasha Mercer, Head Teacher Teaching and Learning at St Ives HS, and coordinator of the program, sees the concept of students coaching students as the perfect solution to three questions the school kept coming back to:
How can we encourage students to achieve their best whilst also supporting wellbeing and reducing anxiety?
How can we ensure our secondary schools are places where each and every student feels known, valued and cared for?
How can we provide a competitive edge for our students who face an increasingly uncertain future of automation and reduced job certainty?
It was decided to start by training a small group of Year 11 students through the GCI Students Coaching Students program. Our rationale for selecting this group was two-fold: firstly, it was hoped that by becoming trained coaches, these students would be able to better manage and reflect upon their learning as they entered their senior courses. The second reason was more pragmatic: Year 10 students facilitate the school’s Peer Support program and it was preferable to keep these two programs distinct and separate
We invited all students in Year 11 to apply for the coaching program. Using the GCI resources provided, our students completed 12 hours of initial training. They were then matched up with two year 8 students, who had self-selected via an application process. Coaches first met the students they would be coaching at a special morning tea. We found this informal first meeting was a very effective way to start building those important coaching relationships, whilst also providing an opportunity to organise the first coaching sessions.
Coaching sessions take place during scheduled ‘coaching weeks’ where our coaches select the times that best suit them to meet with their ‘coachees’. This suits our coaches better as they can minimise the disruption to their own schedules and avoids any disruptions to the school day. Coaching sessions are 20 minutes, and are held fortnightly. Coaching officially takes place in the library, with a teacher nearby should any difficult situations arise. Interestingly, we have found a number of coaches reported that they are also having informal ‘corridor conversations’ where they can have a more informal chat with their ‘coachee’ and do a quick ‘check in’ between classes.
Less than six months in and we are already seeing some tangible benefits. Some of our Year 8 students have reported being more organised; all of those surveyed were able to articulate their goal and how they were working towards it. The next step for us to consider how we ‘scale up’ this pilot program so that more students can take part in this valuable experience.
What worked well?
Finally, we would like to share a few key-takeaways we have learnt from our experiences thus far:
Start with a pilot program and be prepared to be flexible. There will be bumps along the way and this is much easier to manage with a smaller group.
An application process is essential for both the coaches and the students being coached. Clear explanation of what coaching is - and what it isn’t - is vital as part of this stage.
Some of the strongest student coaches might be those you don’t expect. Try to capture those quiet students who are often overlooked; they can be some your best coaches.
You will lose a few student coaches along the way for various reasons. Be sure to account for this during your planning.
It’s vitally important to have a champion team, not just one or two people driving the program. We have found 3-4 key people is a good number.
Coach your coaches! Consider how you can provide coaching for your student coaches so that they can better understand the experience and pick up some tips along the way.
Make regular opportunities to reflect and seek feedback from your team of student coaches. Not only will this help improve the program but also highlights to your coaches that their expertise and opinions are valued.