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Coaching Methodology
Student Support

Summaries remind students that you’re listening — and connect them to their goals

As a student support professional, you’ve had a lot of meetings with students at your institution. Have you ever completed one of those meetings, been happy with the work you’ve done, but wondered if that friendly goodbye was enough? Have you ever felt like you and your learner made a clear plan for the next steps and the learner sounded motivated to complete them, but something tells you they won’t follow through with the plan?Sounds like you need to end the meeting with a summary.

Insights from an expert

To learn more about how to build and share a summary at the end of your student meetings, we spoke with long-time InsideTrack Success Coach Kristin Olson-Huddle. “Think of it as a way to succinctly restate the key points and action items from your meeting,” she explains. “Summarizing gives the learner a clear idea of what was discussed and what they need to do next. It helps them be accountable.” With that in mind, she shared three different scenarios where a summary can be a valuable tool.

1.  Start with a role statement

Clarity and transparency can work wonders when having a conversation with a student. “My role is to understand where you’re at and support you in clarifying your next steps towards your goals. I want to summarize what we talked about…”

Summarizing conversations isn’t a natural process, but when you start by calling out your role and then name what you are doing in the conversation, it can actually make a lot of sense to the learner and illuminate the importance of their next steps.

This also lets them know that there is someone in their corner — someone whose defined role is to make sure they’re supported through their learning process. This can be transformative, especially for students who haven’t had a dedicated person supporting them like this. “My role is to collaborate with you on a strong plan towards your goal that identifies your next action. So let’s review…”

2.  Create a formula for success

The purpose of a summary is to capture what you’ve completed in a meeting and connect that information to long-term goals. This helps the learner “connect the dots” to see that the effort they’re making now (studying for a test, connecting with a math tutor, scheduling a financial aid appointment) will get them closer to where they want to end up (a certain GPA, into a specialized program, having family there to watch graduation). One way to do this is to try a simple formula:

Column A  | Short-Term Step

Your next step

The plan we discussed

Your homework

Missing out on X

Column B | Long-Term Goal


Learner's long-term goal

Getting a good grade

Dream Job

Pick a topic from either column that is most relevant to the conversation you had and plug it into this simple formula, where the short-term step in Column A connects to the long-term goal in Column B. Ask a question — ideally one that you don’t really know the answer to. Let your curiosity drive how you put this together.

How does Column A connect to Column B?

It’s not unusual for a learner to be surprised by the question. They may need clarification and time to think about it. Use transparency to guide them: “I know your goal is to keep your 3.0 GPA for acceptance to the nursing program. Can you tell me how finishing your project before the weekend connects to that goal?”

How does this work?

When you’re close to something, change can often be difficult to perceive. So you need to be purposeful and call attention to the change that is happening for the learner. In doing so, they’ll be better able to see (and understand) that the effort they’re making to complete the next step gets them that much closer to their end goal. Naming the connection can increase the motivation to do the task at hand. It also makes it more meaningful to do a small step when the learner can see it as contributing to their end goal.

3. Try a summary in text communications

The same summary concept also works well with text exchanges. Even when meeting students where they’re at by using texting, it’s important to communicate our humanity and personalization. Summaries remind students that you’re there, you’re listening and you care about their next steps to success. Here’s an actual example from one of our InsideTrack coaches:

“I'm glad you have landed on a path that feels so right to you.

I' m also so glad we had the chance to connect today. Please keep me posted on how all your efforts go to get ready for our fall start. I'm here to support you!

As a summary, your next steps are to get registered and keep working on the financing end of things.You are on the right track!”

Using text with a learner may feel even more casual than an in-person conversation. Yet in a world where learners are managing work, caregiving, covid precautions and other obligations — along with coursework — it’s crucial to be able to deliver the same impact through text. Tacking on a summary with transparency may seem redundant, but distilling the conversation into a summary can emphasize the main points of the text exchange and make it a simple reference point for the learner to return to.

In summary…

Summaries are a key component for working with your learners. Whether you’re meeting in person or on Zoom, communicating via phone or text, crafting a strong summary to illustrate the importance of the actions discussed in the meeting can have a lasting impact. We’ll leave you with another great example from one of our coaches:

Coach: As your course wraps up, I want to take some time to reflect. What’s one thing you learned that will help you as you move forward?

Student: I’ve learned how important our jobs as healthcare professionals are. How we  communicate, handle our emotions and treat our patients is key in their success. Patients count on healthcare professionals to give the best care needed, and it’s our job to follow through with that.

Coach: Appreciate you sharing your lens, Gabriel*. It definitely sounds like you have deeply engaged in the course curriculum and material. I look forward to getting into your next phase within your journey!

Student: Thank you so much for your constant support through my first phase! You’re greatly appreciated.

* student name changed

Looking for more coaching tips? Check out our coaching frames blog, where you can learn all about framing your coaching conversations to enhance your conversations.

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