Coaching participants

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As a coach you are not only focused on supporting your participants in obtaining certain knowledge and skills. You also offer support in making choices about assignments and the learning pace. The participant and his or her learning process always form the starting point of the coach trajectory. 

There are three types of activities that make up your coaching role: 

  1. Support
  2. Structure and guide
  3. Motivate and inspire

1. Support

For the progress of the learning process, it is essential to support your participants in learning independently. You can do so by setting personal goals and organising coaching sessions with your participants. 

Setting personal goals
Besides obtaining the learning goals within a programme, it is also important to develop the necessary skills for self-directed learning. At the start of the programme you set a list of personal learning goals with each participant. This will offer you and your participants some guidance during the learning process. Furthermore, personal learning goals help your participants to learn consciously and independently. It also becomes easier to decide on what is needed to achieve these goals and which learning activities and assignments will contribute to them. 

Some examples of personal learning goals: 

  • I want to learn how to choose my next assignment based on a reflection on my previous assignments. 
  • I want to learn how to put strength to my opinion with valid argumentation. 
  • I want to learn how to make a preparation plan for my exam. 

When you help your students with formulating personal learning goals, it is important to do it SMART.SMART means: 

  • Specific: what specific goal does the participant want to work on?
  • Measurable: is there a clear description of what the participant needs to do to achieve the goal? 
  • Achievable: did the participant agree with the set learning goals? Is he or she motivated to achieve the goal?
  • Relevant/Reasonable: is it possible to achieve the goal? Or does it ask too much from the participant?
  • Time-bound: when will it be decided if the participant achieved the goal? 

Coaching sessions
As a coach, we would like to advise you to have regular coaching sessions with your participant during the learning process. Coaching can take place during classes. Here you can have one-on-one sessions with individual participants while the others work independently. In the ideal situation you conduct one coaching session at the start of the programme and at least three during the programme. You can use theGROW-modelto shape your coaching sessions: 

Phase Description Example questions
G- GOAL  In this phase you’ll set personal learning goals. 

What would you like to achieve in this session?


What would you like to learn in this programme?


How do you measure if the goal is achieved?

R- REALITY During this phase, the participant is made aware of his/her reality. Investigate how his/her situation affects the set learning goals.

Why do you want to achieve this goal, what’s in it for you?


Can you give some examples in which you used the skills?


How did it go during the past week/month?


How did you tackle problems you’ve encountered? 


What worked well, what not so well? 

O- OPTIONS Identify and assess the available options. Encourage creative thinking, brainstorming and solution-oriented thinking. 

What options do you have?


What worked for you in the past?


What haven’t you tried yet, what might work?

W- WRAP-UP Help the participant to decide on the next steps. Develop an action plan and motivate the participant.

What will be your next steps?


What obstacles might you come across?


Who could help you?



2. Structure and Guide

As a coach you provide structure to your participants’ learning process. This way, the participants know exactly what is expected of them. In addition, you also provide structure in the assignments to let participants know how they contribute to finishing the programme. Offering structure positively contributes to motivation and supporting self-guided learning. A structured learning environment and targeted feedback will provide your participants with the confidence to achieve their goals. 


Self-guided learning

In self-guided learning, the participant becomes responsible for his/her own learning process. The participant will take on a proactive role in achieving the set goals. Be aware that not every participant is already gifted with the skill of self-guided learning. Therefore, it is important that you coach them in this process. One way to do this is by scaffolding.  

The scaffolding method is based on the principle of decreasing assistance. In the beginning you offer the participant a lot of support. The more skilled the participant gets, the less support you give. You provide the participant with the necessary tools to reach the desired skill level. The more skilled the particpant gets, the less tools you need. That’s why you start withan active form of guidance at the beginningof the programme and decrease this slowly to a more self-study oriented format. As a result, the participants will slowly take more responsibility for their own learning process.  

Some ideas to guide your participants:

  • If necessary, start with a small selection of exercises at the beginning of the learning process. This way you prevent them from picking the hardest exercises right away and allow them to build up some confidence. 
  • Let your participants make their own planning and reflect on it periodically.
  • Let your participants reflect on their own learning process. You can do so by letting them answer questions at three particular moments: (1) at the beginning of the exercise, (2) during the exercise, and (3) after the exercise. Possible questions are: 
    • 1) At the beginning of the exercise:
      • What is the goal? 
      • What do I know already? 
      • How am I going to approach the exercise?
      • Will I be able to do it? 
      • When am I satisfied? 
    • 2) During the exercise:
      • Is this the right way to do it? 
      • Do I understand what I am doing?
      • Can I do it differently?
      • Do I have enough time left?
      • What is hard for me to do?
    • 3) After the exercise:
      • Did I do everything the right way?
      • What will I do differently or exactly the same next time? 
      • What are my thoughts on the exercise?
      • Did I achieve the goal? How did I do that?
      • Am I satisfied with the result? 

Providing feedback

Providing guidance during the learning process is not your only task as a coach. You also offer support in integrating the knowledge, skills and behaviour that is necessary to act professionally. Feedback is powerful means to end, because: 

  • Feedback helps participants gain insight in the necessity of obtaining certain knowledge and learning specific skills. 
  • Feedback supports the development of self-reflection in learning. 
  • Feedback provides participants with information about their learning. 
  • Feedback encourages dialogue between the coach and its participants. It opens up room to resolve misunderstandings and ask for advice. 
  • Feedback steers participants towards the expected results. 

You can arrange your feedback by using the following tips: 

  1. Actively engage your participants in discussions and reflection about the learning goals. Why did the particular exercise contribute into achieving this goal? Why was this exercise important? 
  2. Engage your participants in reviewing the assignments. For example, let your students peer review each other's work based on predetermined criteria. 
  3. Engage your participants in the feedback process. For example, by asking them to (1) write down questions, (2) name the strengths and weaknesses of their work, or (3) reflect on the process. 
  4. Formulate the points of improvements as clearly as possible in your feedback. Make sure you do not describe, judge, interpret or evaluate the exercise. Feedback is meant to support the learning process. 
  5. Limit the amount of feedback, so participants are not overwhelmed. 
  6. You can either choose to discuss the feedback with a participant in a one-on-one conversation or let the participants discuss the feedback together. 
  7. Your feedback should support your participants in identifying the next steps themselves. Define some action points to help them in the right direction. 

Provide feedback on the exercises before they are final once in a while and allow your participants to improve them. 


3. Motivate and Inspire

As a coach you stimulate your participants to get the best out of themselves, direct their learning and achieve their personal goals. Here are some tips to motivate and inspire your participants: 

  1. Let participants make their own choices
    The participant will be more motivated to learn when he/she can pick their own exercises or goals to work on. Because they pick their task themselves, they will feel more responsible for completing the task as well. Try this in your lessons as well. Let the participants decide on what they would like to learn. For example, pick an exercise together which you will discuss in the next lesson. 
  2. Create meaningful education/trainings  
    Education that is meaningful for the participant will result in a higher level of engagement and motivation. Education can be made meaningful by (1) always stating the purpose of the lesson first, (2) explaining why the lesson is important, and (3) setting clear expectations.   
  3. Let participants set their own personal learning goals 
    As mentioned earlier, setting personal goals contributes to participants' level of motivation and responsibility. Short term goals are most effective.
  4. Provide regular feedback on the exercises
    Providing regular feedback is an important factor for increasing the participant’s motivation and confidence. 
  5. Stay connected
    A good relationship between both you and your participants and among your participants, contributes to higher levels of motivation. Show interest and schedule regular coaching sessions. Also, use interactive working methods to encourage collaboration and motivation amongst participants. 
  6. Linking to job realities
    An interesting way to link your lessons to job realities is to organise an excursion, invite a guest speaker or set up a masterclass. 


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