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In today’s rapidly evolving educational landscape, the role of teachers extends far beyond the traditional classroom setting. With the increasing emphasis on personalized learning and student-centered approaches, the need for effective coaching in education has never been greater. In this article, we delve into why every teacher must be trained as a coach, exploring the benefits, challenges, and strategies for integrating coaching into teacher education programs.

Understanding Coaching in Education

Coaching in education involves a collaborative partnership between teachers aimed at improving teaching practices, enhancing student learning outcomes, and fostering professional growth. Unlike traditional teaching methods, which focus primarily on content delivery, coaching emphasizes inquiry, reflection, and continuous improvement. It is not about telling teachers what to do but rather guiding them through a process of self-discovery and empowerment.

University teachers with a role as coach do not always feel called to guide students with mental complaints. In addition, they doubt their own abilities and believe they should receive more training, writes NHL Stenden researcher Tatiana Ciff. Because every teacher has a role as a coach, this should become a mandatory part of teacher training, she argues.

About half of students reported psychological complaints during the pandemic year 2021. In 2022, when the lockdowns were over, this still applied to 43 percent of students. Research in 2023 showed that half of students again suffered from stress, fear of failure or other types of psychological problems.

The majority of (Dutch) higher professional education students with well-being problems expect help from coaches within the educational institution, researchers reported last year. However, do coaches in higher professional education notice enough when students have mental problems? What problems can or should coaches provide support for? And what should that support look like?

To find answers to the questions, NHL Stenden researcher Tatiana Ciff conducted a survey among 82 colleagues with a coaching role. Of these, 45 were women, and a quarter had less than five years of experience as a coach.

Female and younger coach more aware of mental complaints
The surveyed coaches are very aware of mental complaints and well-being problems among students, according to the research results. This awareness is greater among female coaches than among their male colleagues. Coaches with less than five or more than twenty years of experience are the most attentive to students with mental complaints. That is a worrying finding, Ciff writes. For example, coaches with seven years of experience are still early in their careers and are expected to connect with students.

In addition, female coaches were slightly more likely to be willing to help students with wellbeing problems, as were coaches with more than twenty years of work experience. However, that willingness is on average quite low (3.84 on a five-point scale) among coaches, Ciff writes. “Coaches indicated that they had doubts about assisting such students.” Teachers with coaching tasks are also only moderately inclined (3.66) to include welfare issues in coaching sessions. They are also not always confident in their ability to help students with welfare issues.

“In general, coaches are very aware that many students are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing, but are quite reluctant to discuss those issues with students, preferring to wait for a student to come to them themselves,” summarizes Ciff.

Students to take initiative
The best way to discuss mental complaints with students is ‘face-to-face’, respondents indicated. Nearly half of them believed that this type of support should be offered as soon as a student requests it. “This suggests that many coaches believe that integrating mental health and wellness issues should be done based on a student’s own need and initiative,” Ciff writes.

When asked how often such support should be offered, two-thirds of respondents said it should be offered every term.

Every teacher is a coach
The reluctance of coaches in higher professional education to guide students with mental complaints can be explained by the fact that most of them have not received coaching training during their training to become teachers, Ciff writes. Coach training is often not a mandatory part of such a training program, while teachers do have a coaching role that requires special skills.

“The solution lies in offering mandatory coaching courses to all teachers,” says Ciff. These should then be focused on the purpose of coaching, strategies, conversation skills, reporting, tips and mental health.

The coaches who participated in her research also believe that they should receive training in recognizing mental complaints and well-being problems. They suggested that attention should be paid to stress, depression, anxiety, study-related problems, motivation and perseverance.

In conclusion, every teacher must be trained as a coach to meet the evolving needs of 21st-century learners. By embracing coaching principles and practices, educators can enhance student outcomes, promote professional growth, and create a culture of continuous improvement in schools. Investing in coaching training programs and resources is not only beneficial for individual teachers but also essential for building a thriving educational community.

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