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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Sumners

What Is Academic Coaching?

For many of the families we work with, academic coaching is a new and unfamiliar concept.

When I first started this company, it was also pretty new to me!

I first learned about it from a client - back when I still specialized in tutoring rather than coaching.

There are several parallels between tutoring and coaching: they both help students succeed in school, and they involve a caring, knowledgeable educator working with the student to help them achieve their goals.

However, there are several important differences. Let's dive into them, shall we?

Academic coaching is holistic

Academic coaching is a student-centered and holistic approach to education.

Academic coaches are caring and knowledgeable guides rather than content authorities.

During a tutoring session, the tutor may choose to focus on a specific type of question or problem the student is struggling with.

During an academic coaching session, we work collaboratively with students to set goals and progress toward them. That will certainly include working on that question or problem they are struggling with, but it will also include reflecting on their school day and planning the rest of their week.

We ask more questions than we give answers, and we empower students to develop their own solutions to problems as well as celebrate and build on their successes.

We acknowledge that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach, and we work with students to mindfully identify strategies that are worth trying.

Academic coaching is skills-based & future-oriented

Academic coaching provides support & learning for students just as tutoring does, but we approach all assignments with the deeper goal of teaching students successful strategies that they can always apply across the board - now and in the future.

For example, when we help a student study for a U.S. history test, we don't just care that they learn the history facts (although we certainly do care about that!); we are also practicing & modeling evidence-based study strategies with them that they can use on many different types of tests.

For example, we'll teach students how to use retrieval practice (the practice of remembering information so that you can more easily recall it on a test).

When students need help with creating an outline, rather than giving them a standard outline template, we collaborate with them to develop their own structured thinking that they can use for future writing assignments.

When students are struggling in a class, rather than contacting the teacher for them or asking their parents to contact the teacher, we help them open communication channels with their teacher, teaching them skills they can use in college and beyond when they need support.

Academic coaching is goal-oriented & long-term

Academic coaching is perfect for students who have goals they want to achieve but are struggling with how to achieve them.

It's also the right fit for students who have goals that are long-term: things like building confidence, improving writing skills, learning how to get and stay organized, and developing self-advocacy skills.

In some cases, students will benefit more from tutoring than coaching. This includes students who are only struggling in one subject area or topic (like fractions or reading historical texts) or students who are struggling with something short-term. It also includes students who do not want an academic coach.

Our best results come when students actively want our help rather than parents requiring them to have sessions.

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