I had mentioned that there were two major practice levels that an academic coach needs in order to focus on the learning strategies for adult learners in my post titled Inspect and Adapt: A Learning Coach Practice. In that post, I had explored the “big picture” approach to coaching with the underlying goal of helping students transition away from fixed mindset thinking. This second level digs into the target areas for a learning coach to focus along with strategies on addressing those areas. This is the first post in a short series focused on the more specific areas, starting with Academic Expectations. Future posts will explore Communication Skills, Grammar Skills, and Writing Skills. These are crucial areas to target with students and I’ll discuss what strategies learning coaches can employ to help students establish and accomplish goals within those areas.
Most adult learners are already overwhelmed and even feel a certain amount of pressure to be in school in the first place. Maybe they need a job or want a promotion. Maybe they feel like their job is threatened if they don’t get a degree. Many of our adult learners are very focused on a single outcome: get a degree.
Then they open the material. *BOOM* Slapped with what feels like a huge amount of information, it’s not too surprising that it’s left unread. Keep in mind that a two-page letter from the insurance company is bound to get minimal attention with a mild attempt to get the bottom line as quickly as possible. Your syllabus is going to get about the same treatment. Thus, we have a surprising lack of awareness around due dates, writing expectations, collaboration expectations, and general policies.
The facilitating coach, as I dubbed the title in my post titled Differentiating Academic Coaching Roles, can go quite a long distance in addressing this particular gap by chunking the information better and developing personal relationships with the students. In my own experience, I have sent small 1-minute video clips to students on one major thing at a time (due dates versus discussions versus submissions), which has helped students retain the knowledge better. Also, by being willing to pick up the phone and have personal conversations, I’ve noticed a much higher percentage of contact for questions, although be prepared for massive texting as the preferred communication method.
However, the learning coach, dedicated to the development of study skills and soft skills, can cover the following points around academic expectations.
- Planning with forgiveness. A common theme is for anybody to set lofty goals, fail, then quit. Helping students get to planning with reality is something that the advisor acting as a planning coach can achieve, but also, just helping students get to the point where the forgive themselves, and adjust their plans to be more realistic each time.
- This is for all coaching roles. Many adult learners are frankly….afraid. Then we inundate them with information, have no emotional connection, and then notice how quiet they are … which is likely because their brains just exploded. Listening. Let them share their frustrations and don’t just reference them to the rubric.
- Share basic adult learning methods. Without bogging students down in theory, share with them that their emotions are absolutely backed scientifically. Explain that adults learn experientially. Share the value of journaling. Describe what authentic assessment is without the terminology. It is surprising how many new adult learners are fearful that they are weird, and finding out that there is an entire sector of education dedicated to them is extremely gratifying.
The major goals for academic expectations should involve not only awareness of the basics, but an organised approach to the learning experience, willingness to ask questions and obtain clarification, and continual engagement throughout the course.
Crossposted at my LinkedIn account for Academic Coach Target Areas: Academic Expectations