How Coaching Generates Student Insights

One student’s personal discovery can inspire institutional improvement

Conversations between a student and coach are a delicate balancing act. To the student, it can feel like a casual chat, meandering through different topics and sharing what comes to mind. But that tȇte-à-tȇte is disguising hard work. During an effective coaching meeting, students identify their goals and challenges and plan concrete steps to keep moving forward. Keep reading to learn how coaching techniques inspire moments of personal insight — and how student insight can become an institutional advantage.

A coach’s careful calibration of questions, pauses and on-the-spot assessments guide students in the right direction. At the same time, by acting with transparency and expressing deep understanding of the student’s situation, coaches create a foundation of trust. That trust inspires students to share new insights they’re discovering about their higher education journey. That insight ignites a chain reaction of ongoing institutional improvement.

To a coach’s ears, one student’s personal discovery becomes a valuable student insight about the higher ed experience. When institutions hear those student insights, they get access to priceless firsthand feedback. The same discovery that inspired the individual student toward greater success can now help the institution better enhance the success of all learners.  

Coaching gives institutions the edge in effectively supporting all learners — creating a powerful advantage that starts with a conversation.

Ask tough questions

Sometimes it’s OK to stump your students. In coaching, that’s when the most meaningful discoveries can happen. 

Andrew kept getting what he called “tough, out-of-the-box” questions from his coach. Those questions prompted him to think about possibilities for his future that had never occurred to him, and learn about opportunities he likely would never have found on his own. All of that inquiry led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in game art and animation — a choice that may have once seemed unlikely for this small-town student.

Student Insight: Setting a career goal can give you the confidence you need to carve your own educational path.

Institutional Advantage: With a deeper understanding of student decision-making and the career exploration process, institutions can help students take greater ownership for their educational goals.

Ask too many questions

Asking “why” once may not be enough. For InsideTrack Coaches, asking it five times is just right. “The Five Whys is the idea that you’re digging deeper into someone’s answers,” explained Lisa Thompson, an InsideTrack Coach. “We’re getting to your core values, getting to the root of why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

When Thompson tried the technique with Caroline, a prospective business school student, it gave Caroline the “a-ha” of why she was drawn to a career in project management. Equipped with a clear direction for her statement of intent, Caroline completed the application, was accepted and started her first term.

Student Insight: Tapping into her core motivation for pursuing a certain degree program led Caroline to a new appreciation for her existing talents and skills.

Institutional Advantage: Enhanced student motivation creates a ripple effect of institutional outcomes: more finished applications, more enrollments and a better shot at completion.

Use the power of a warm introduction

Making an effective introduction is an art. Beyond following the Miss Manners rules of who’s presented to whom, you need to convey why making this connection will benefit everyone involved.

InsideTrack Coaches use a “warm introduction” to foster a student’s sense of belonging to their institution. For Leslie, a prospective student, a warm introduction from her coach to a faculty member connected her with the director of the program she was interested in. After corresponding with the director, Leslie got the information she needed to decide on next steps — and a leg up on networking in her new career. 

Student Insight: Making early connections with mentors and building networking skills are critical to a successful graduate education.

Institutional Advantage: When academic staff meet with prospective students, they learn firsthand how they can make a profound impact on student enrollment and success.

Start from strength

When student support is a normal part of the education journey, everyone wins. Students get the guidance and help they may not have known they needed, and institutions get a school community engaged in all the services and resources on offer. But how can a student who’s already successful benefit from coaching? By recognizing their strengths and learning to apply them to any situation.

Carter sailed through an important milestone that could have left other students adrift. He changed his major to Music Industry Studies without missing a beat. His coach helped him see how his ability to turn a challenging experience (in this case, not feeling inspired by his initial major) into positive change gave him a strong foundation for future success. 

Student Insight: Identifying strengths while savoring a victory ensures that those strengths are ready to draw on when future challenges arise.

Institutional Advantage: Establishing a culture where student support is normalized gives successful students a way to continue cultivating their skills, and removes the stigma for those who need extra support.

Embrace the complaints

What’s a class without a complaint? According to InsideTrack Coaches, it’s probably not a class where anyone is learning.

One term, InsideTrack Coach Ron Callahan heard one gripe after another about the same accounting professor. She focused on things that weren’t important, the students said — like grammar. When he heard that, Callahan worked with his students on finding value in unexpected places. Learning correct comma use is a lifelong skill. But what’s even more important is learning how to persist through challenges without getting distracted or discouraged.

Student Insight: Sometimes a complaint is more than a complaint. These students thought that grammar rules were ruffling their feathers, but the real challenge was learning to see beyond temporary setbacks and stay motivated by long-term aims.

Institutional Advantage: Some student complaints are worth paying attention to. In this case, the institution got a rare opportunity to see a particular course requirement through the student’s eyes — and use that knowledge to communicate the course’s value in a persuasive way.

See how three institutions put student insights into action. 

Download 5 more stories of how a Student Insight becomes an Institutional Advantage.

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