Coaching for Independent Learning

How Does it Work?

The Coaching for Independent Learning programme begins by collecting information from the adults who work closest with the child; importantly parents, but sometimes teachers and learning support experts. This information is collected in the form of questionnaires and interviews with key individuals.

Next comes getting the young person’s commitment to try coaching. It is important that the child is on board because we require the child to lead the process with the support of the coach. An initial informal conversation with the young person and coach will establish a rapport and a commitment, on both parts, to the process.

The Evaluation

The coach then carries out an evaluation with your child; the evaluation is about an hour and a half, but can be broken up over two sessions and can be conducted on Skype or face to face. The assessment involves the coach gathering background information from the young person about their executive skills strengths and weaknesses, their interests and motivations, their long term goals and interim goals and then identifying the obstacles to achieving them. Together the coach and the young person devise a realistic plan with strategies to reach their goals using SMART objectives. For example, a young person’s goal could be to reduce disciplinary interventions (detentions) for failure to hand in homework within the next half term or to go from a C to B in English GCSE predicted grade before their mocks. The coach then produces a comprehensive report detailing the young person’s executive skills strengths and weaknesses and a bespoke plan of how to tackle the challenges, starting with the most pressing. This plan is submitted to the parents to review. The coach will also take into account any reports that have already been produced (for example an educational assessment by a Psychologist) and tailor the coaching according to the needs that have already been identified.

Getting Started

Working from the plan the daily coaching sessions begin. The aim of these coaching sessions is to form good habits in terms of executive skills; the exact content and format of the coaching depends on the bespoke plan and agreed objectives. The coaching sessions take place on Skype and are usually between 15‐30 minutes. The coach may also send reminders to the child via text. Once aweek the coach and the young person have a longer session, which also involves going over aspecific study skill to support the young person to reach their goals. For example, a session could bebased around writing an essay or studying for a test. In between sessions the coach might need to liaise with teachers and parents or remind the young person about an upcoming task. The coach and the student regularly review progress against the SMART objectives set.

Duration

The intensive daily coaching phases usually takes about 4-6 weeks, during this time the child and coach work very closely often making contact more than twice a day. This intensive period of coaching is the most crucial part of the process; it ingrains core habits that will form the basis of all coaching work on-going. After this initial phase the sessions are then twice weekly, normally for a further 6 weeks. Typically, the sessions will then decrease to once a week for 8 weeks and then once a month for 7 months to ensure that the young person is continuing to reach their potential. Each young person has different needs and will progress at different speeds, however we have found that the first four weeks of daily coaching is essential in order to support the young person to make initial headway.

Progression

It is important to ensure that the student has completely mastered each level before moving on to the next level ‐ occasionally coaches may agree with the student to revert to a previous level to cement habits fully.

Eligibility for this programme will depend on your child’s profile. Please arrange a free consultation with a Connections in Mind director to assess which programme is suitable for your child.

Case Study

Cameron 17 years old when we met him.  His mother was desperate for help, she felt he was on a downward trajectory in terms of mood and could see that his chronic procrastination the root cause.  During our evaluation process we learned that he struggled with planning and prioritising, task initiation, metacognition, organization and sustained attention. In addition, he experienced low mood and social anxiety and this was exacerbated by the high expectations held by his very academic school environment.

Cameron’s goals for coaching focused on working towards completing and submitting homework as well as developing a balanced routine, this included study time, establishing regular sleeping patterns, exercise and social activities. Practical strategies aimed at enhancing his executive skills included organization of schoolwork, time management and record keeping. We also integrated mindfulness as a strategy to help focus attention and emotional control. It was important to develop a supportive and trusting relationship with the student and meeting on a weekly basis was important. These meetings also provided an opportunity to observe how he struggled when completing his work, which enabled our coach to tailor the interventions to his needs.  Our coach worked closely with the parents, which allowed a fuller insight into the impact of his difficulties as well as provided him with a supportive collaborative network.

Over the Autumn term the student successfully submitted homework on time, received positive school reports, his A Level predictions increased and he was more able to manage his own deadlines. He used social incentives, such as meeting up with friends on the weekends as a motivation to achieve his academic goals. Through this, he became more socially active, increased in hobbies and interests and his mood improved considerably.