Why coaching can be a transformative experience for your students, from Sophie Brown.

Coaching is supporting someone to come to their own decision or action by asking effective questions. Because coaching encourages individuals to discover their own answers rather than giving them advice, it helps them to develop crucial skills such as independent thinking, responsibility and ownership. Coaching is becoming increasingly popular across the education sector and is often used as a CPD technique for NQTs and senior leaders. But coaching can also have a transformative impact on young people, by equipping them with the tools needed to prioritise their personal development and respond to challenging situations.

Our organisation uses coaching to empower young people to believe in themselves and discover their personal potential. But coaching can also be implemented through incremental changes to your teaching practice and the conversations you have in your classroom. Below, we share some of the key coaching techniques that we use in our personal development programmes, to help you start using a coaching approach with your students.

Use coaching-style questioning

A key principle of coaching is using open questions that encourage students to come to their own conclusions. By using effective coaching questions, you establish a safe and positive environment in which students can develop their own thinking, make their own decisions, and better reflect on their personal development.

Some coaching questions you could use with your students include:

  • What are you learning the most from?
  • What do you feel most/least confident about?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • How can I best support you moving forward?

If a student is struggling to answer your question, don’t rush them – it may be that they need a bit more time to develop their thoughts. Aim to do much less of the talking than your student. Try not to give them advice, but instead continue to use open questions to further explore their thinking.

Make space for regular reflection

Reflection is a central part of coaching. By regularly taking time to reflect, students can become more aware of their strengths, skills they’ve developed, and areas where they could improve. Build in regular opportunities for your students to reflect on what they’ve achieved and the skills they’ve used. For example, when we take students on trips, we always start the day by setting a goal and then ask them to reflect on it at the end of the day. Did they communicate with someone new? Did they show confidence by taking part in a new activity? Reflection exercises can be a good way of helping students to identify things they may not previously have recognised as strengths or achievements, while boosting their confidence as they start to spot the skills they’ve developed. 

The more you bookend an experience, lesson or task with some reflection time, the better students will become at doing this themselves.

Record students’ skills development

If you’re getting students to regularly reflect, encourage them to keep a record of the skills they’re developing. This process helps to familiarise them with the language needed to talk about their skills, identify their strengths and recognise the progress they are making. In our coaching sessions, we ask students to record their skills development using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This structure helps students to expand on their examples and get them used to using this common interview technique!

Peer coaching

Part of the power of coaching techniques is that they can be learned and used by anyone. So why not encourage your students to use a coaching approach with one another? Set students a paired task and challenge one of them to only ask questions. Can they manage to not give any answers or advice? This can be a fun way to introduce students to the principles of coaching while boosting their confidence as they realise that they can support their classmates to achieve their goals. Encouraging students to support their peers can also inspire them to be more proactive about their own personal development.


  • Sophie Brown

    Sophie is a communications and marketing officer at Yes Futures; an award-winning charity which aims to empower young people to believe in themselves and discover their personal potential.
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