From One SA Pro to Another: Encouraging Independence

Have you ever had a student who has questions and wants answers NOW?

There are times when directly answering those questions – especially if the need is urgent – can be the best decision.

Often, however, we want to help the student find his or her own answers, or at least engaged in brainstorming where to find answers. When all is said and done, we won’t be there to support students every moment of their lives, so anything we can do to empower them in developing their own problem solving skills will set them up for long-term success when coaching ends.

It can be easy to assume that a student wouldn’t ask a question unless they had no idea as to how to find the solution on their own. Sometimes that’s true – but it’s important for us to find that out before we jump in and do the problem solving for them.

This article from Edutopia is geared toward classroom teachers, but has some great pointers on supporting students in avoiding “learned helplessness.” 

Here are two lines of questioning to consider:

What have you tried so far?

This is an easy question to ask even if the need is urgent. You as a coach are showing respect for the possibility that the student may have already been trying to find the answer elsewhere, while gathering further information.

What do you think are options for getting the answers you need?

This question can be the beginning of many great coaching moments! You may find out your student has already thought of the idea you were going to share. This shows how your student thinks and offers insight into their strengths and self-sufficiency. Alternatively, you may find out your student had zero idea what to do.  This, too, is important information that you would not have received if you had just provided the solutionEither way – you have coaching opportunities that you would not have had if you had not asked the questions.

For the student on the verge of figuring it out for themselves, you have an opportunity to encourage and recognize strengths – and a better idea as to how much you should be concerned about this student’s success without coaching support.

For the student who has no idea, you have an opportunity to support that student in developing their ability to find solutions to important questions on their own – and a better idea about what they need to gain in coaching in order to be set up for future success.

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