Explore the magic of coaching

Thoughts, tips and insights from the experts on how coaching and coaching strategies can help your students.

When a coach and a student truly connect, the results can be magical. The joy of the student who overcomes a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The amazement of an adult learner who doesn’t think they can hack it but end up succeeding. The relief that students of all ages and all backgrounds find from talking to a coach — helping them turn struggles into strategies for achieving their goals.

Recently, InsideTrack Success Coaches Emilia Gilroy-Sander and Taylor Jabour hosted “The Magic of Coaching” session at the ASU+GSV Virtual Summit. Participants got a firsthand taste of what higher ed coaching is all about and how InsideTrack coaching helps unlock potential for all students. What are the top eight reasons why students drop out? How does coaching engage students? What are the KSABs and how can they help determine what issues and obstacles are holding students back? Following the brief presentation was a Q&A that brought to light plenty of “magical” student stories. And to keep the magic going, we’ve asked each Coach three additional questions related to student success.

Sharing the magic

A post webinar Q&A with Emilia Gilroy-Sander and Taylor Jabour, InsideTrack Success Coaches

Can you tell us about a moment when you saw magic in a student?

Emilia: So many magic moments! One student that comes to mind is Beverly. When we started, statistics and math were such a barrier for her that she was strongly considering dropping out of the program. Her mindset was “I have failed statistics before, I have never been good at math, and I’m failing again. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.”

It got to the point where Beverly was questioning whether or not she belonged in school. I knew she had a strong motivation to get her nursing degree, but she didn’t see a way to overcome this barrier. So one day I asked her, point blank, “If there was a way to work through this and stay in the program, would you want to?” Her answer was an emphatic “Yes! Of course! But I don’t know how.” That started the shift in perspective.

I reminded her that it’s totally normal to not know “how” just yet, but the fact that she wants to get through it gives us something to build on. I also normalized what she was experiencing and shared that I’d worked with other nursing students who failed stats more than once before they ended up passing. Through coaching, we were able to discuss how she had approached extreme challenges in the past and pulled out themes from that. She knew she wanted to use her community (inside and outside of school), she had to start asking questions, and if her plan for the week wasn’t working, she committed to asking for feedback and altering the plan. As a result of this perspective shift, Beverly was able to see herself as somebody who has overcome hard things before and had the strength to try to overcome this challenge in front of her.

At the end of the class, I’ll never forget what she said. “This class and all the challenges I was faced with changed my identity. Now I AM somebody who is good at math — and I’ve never felt that way in all my life. I realize that there are certain things that I identify with because of my past, but I now have proof that those things can change… that I can change.”

Taylor: One story that I love to share is about an adult-professional student who was returning to college while balancing work and being a mother of two children. For her, it was all about time management — making sure she maximized the time she had for completing schoolwork. She also faced challenges that were a burden on her mentally, such as a high school guidance counselor telling her she wouldn’t make it in college and the fact that she had failed out the first time she began school some 20 years ago. We discussed these experiences and their effect on her. She was determined to succeed and set an example for her children. We were able to use those experiences to motivate her and consistently reinforce her belief in herself with every good grade that she earned. She was on the honor roll at the end of both semesters. Her results were amazing — but just as amazing was the way that she did it.

During our coaching meetings, we sometimes had to speak about where she could find the time or the resources to get things done. But once we figured out a plan, she made it happen. I remember her finishing papers while she was waiting at a child’s dance class and other school work completed under less than ideal circumstances. Despite those challenges, she still got excellent grades. And she did all this while supporting her children with their homework and maintaining her current job. The last bit of magic here is that at the end of the spring semester, due to her amazing work in her classes, she was selected by one of her teachers to attend a statewide convention as a representative of her school.

How can staff add elements of coaching to their everyday interactions with students?

Emilia: I think adding more open-ended assessment in student interactions can go a long way to uncovering obstacles and providing tailored support to each student. It’s understandable that everybody’s really busy and has a lot on their plates, so adding in deeper assessment can be impactful even when we ask just one more question. I like to call it “seize the moment to coach.” For example, a student shares that they need to get more organized this week with everything going on. We could leave it at that… or we could ask “what’s one thing you want to implement this week to be more organized?” Or maybe a student shares, “I’m really tired and pretty stressed.” And we could follow-up with, “I’m hearing that a lot from students right now — how do you think that’s impacting school?” Asking these questions doesn’t have to be face-to-face or voice-to-voice, we can also do this in our written interactions — including emails, in-app messaging and texts. It’s a subtle shift but it can make a huge difference.

Taylor: Staff members can always assume the best and seek to understand the student by assessing the challenges they’re facing. Once that is determined, it’s important to talk with the student about their goals and why those goals matter to them. Then create a plan to help them get there — always reinforcing the student’s “why.” Sometimes people are busy or have heard the same challenges repeatedly, so there’s the temptation to just tell the student the information they need to know. Now, the information provided to a student is usually correct. But oftentimes, it doesn’t result in the actions being taken in the way that we hope. Putting the elements of coaching into conversations when we are supporting students is more likely to lead to the results that we hope to see.

What magic does higher ed need right now?

Emilia: Adversity like we are experiencing right now often presents opportunities we might otherwise miss. I’d say the magic lies within our students — we need to give them the opportunity to share what they need and take action quickly. Who knows if or when things will ever be going back to the way they were, so let’s take this opportunity to learn everything we can about the student experience and design systems that consider the diverse needs and abilities of all.

Taylor: If there was one bit of magic that I wish higher education had right now, it would be more people, coaches or other staff working in this capacity to support the experience and success of students. Many of the factors that have the greatest impact on retention have been curtailed because of coronavirus. Having coaches able to connect with and support the student body at a time like this would be a game-changer for many schools — giving them the ability to help students succeed through these challenging circumstances. Connecting coaches to students also helps improve and provide feedback on the student experience, as well as collecting insight on the issues students are experiencing in order to inform the administration on the best ways to support them.

Watch as Success Coaches Emilia and Taylor talk all things coaching and answer questions during a session at the recent ASU+GSV Virtual Summit.

Want more insights and tips?

Talk to our coaches and ask them the questions that will help you and your students.

Talk to a Coach

Please fill out the form below for access to our webinars.

Related Resources