Proceedings of The Physiological Society
University of Oxford (2011) Proc Physiol Soc 23, PC10
A life coaching approach that keeps students on track
1. Health Sciences, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
One of the essential qualities for student achievement and success is persistence, yet motivation to accomplish project and/or assessment tasks can sometimes be complex. Some student behaviours present a continual challenge for tutors who are striving to support independent learning and creative problem solving e.g. through projects and assessments (Di Carlo, 2009). Moreover, being on the receiving end of criticism, albeit well-intentioned, can leave students feeling vulnerable, defensive and even ashamed about lack of progress (Francis and Woodcock, 1996). An oft-heard response to this situation is ‘I’ll try’ which indicates that s/he is willing to make an effort of some kind but which also denotes a degree of ambivalence or lack of commitment. A life coaching approach (Neenan and Dryden, 2002)was therefore adopted to improve motivation amongst students. A simple proforma was developed to provide a framework that has been used during academic and personal tutorials with more than 300 students taking a range of courses in physiology and health sciences. The majority were able to identify individual challenges and unique learning outcomes through the use of structured prompt questions. This stage also helped to discuss barriers that hindered progress. Targets were set by each student who also identified a personal incentive for achievement of significant goals. Once completed, the action plan was signed by both parties; sessions for individuals took 30-40 minutes. For some courses and groups, the pro forma was completed during group sessions or workshops. Students were encouraged to use a reflective cycle in preparation for review sessions when the action plan was updated and further goals agreed. Student evaluations reveal that the strategy helps to ensure that they remain focused on ways in which actions can bring about improvements in achievement and support completion of assessments. An important feature of the framework is that students feel in control at all times. In addition, use of the pro forma ensures that feedback is specific and factual thus supporting further progress. The framework thus appears to promote dialogue concerning behaviour not performance because it avoids dwelling on past mistakes. A model that identifies five key steps which link problem-solving with decision-making is proposed. The goal-setting approach appears to elicit greater levels of student enthusiasm and supports decision-making while the review process helps to ensure accountability for desired actions. The life coaching strategy therefore appears to facilitate deeper appreciation of the implications of persistence and action by encouraging individual learners to take greater responsibility for the consequences of their activity or inactivity.
Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements