Action enquiry: Becoming a better one2one coach

I’ve been asked to do a workshop for Cornelsen to promote Up to Speed, a Business English coursebook written by Carole Eilertson and Louise Kennedy which I had the honor of being an advisor to, as one of a team. The two authors have other things going on and can’t do it. I really like the book, so if it helps it get more publicity, I’m in. This will be at BESIG this coming November, so I’m going to Posznan, Poland – wow!

A workshop should be more than a book PR event, it needs to contain interesting approaches that stand on their own. The book focusses on one2one language coaching (Einzelcoaching), so I’ll make that my main project focus for the next half year.

I need to reflect on my teaching practice and do some “action enquiry”: redefine and refine my didactic approach in one2one, find students willing to go down that road with me and then evaluate what we have done to see whether the approach translates to effective learning. A nice project. It will bring back those great discussions we had with Louise and Carole. I’ve focussed on one day workshops lately and have longstanding company courses, but have taken a break from one2one. One of the things I’ll be rethinking now is how to keep one2one courses on track; after all, they are often more chaotic and less regular  due to my clients’ complicated schedules and very limited time and ad hoc problems to be solved. But when we get sidetracked and lose track of where we’re going there is less progress. Focus is so important, so defining small steps to achieve small gains is essential.

PS: My four categories for a small gains spreadsheet:

  1. Goal and purpose
  2. When
  3. What and how
  4. 360° feedback

This is a rough scheme. Not sure how to break down bigger goals into smaller ones visually – I probably should put them on a separate sheet. Especially with one2ones the agenda changes so quickly – this is the problem – because I’m an immediate resource, and there is always a pressing need for something right here and right now. I have to be able to document what goal we have been working on for the 360° feedback. – I wish I could get all of my one2one students to set up a blog, to reflect and extend the lesson productively. You know, maybe I should make it mandatory…. Hmm… Anyway, a few of my students are starting up again.

If you are a teacher, how do you monitor whether you are still on track in your one2one courses? Or do you feel you don’t need to? If you are a project manager, how do you visualize and monitor small gains or “wins”?

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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

4 thoughts on “Action enquiry: Becoming a better one2one coach”

  1. Hi Anne,

    Mmm, interesting.

    I find there are at least three basic one2one types.

    1. Those with the mega-ego who like to have their own show.
    In such cases I find my role more as that of a therapist.

    2. Those who don’t quite know where to begin in the language language process – could be easy or often very tricky if they just don’t grasp how to learn a second language.

    3. Those who want to learn / brush up their English quickly and intensively. Here I could imagine being able to measure progress in some way. They may be eager to experiment with different methods – mind-mapping etc.

    But of course these examples may come accross as making a sweeping statement since the world is made up of individuals unlimited.
    I’m really looking forward to hearing more.

  2. Thanks Joan,
    Will think about your three types some more. We’re talking about negotiating goals. The student wants to make progress of some kind (and not waste her/his time or money) and we want to make it happen. But too much of their own agenda can hinder it, and so can too much “baggage” that keeps them back. As the course progresses we have to move the goalposts – this is what I am thinking most about. We need to renegotiate the course quite often. I have done this in the past, but feel like I’ve tended to lose the thread and the big picture too easily under the pressure of daily business. I do think I know what works best, but a student may have a very subjective impression regarding his or her own success. I’ve had students who were happy just to hear themselves speak English – they didn’t made any measurable progress in the language they produced, but the lessons were, as you say, therapeutic. Or I’ve had students who thought they knew what “medicine” they needed and just wanted me to administer it, but I knew it was quite wrong for them. A standardized feedback procedure in shorter cycles could perhaps hold a mirror up to both them and me and keep us both happier and more involved.

    I’m not sure that language learning can be broken down this way. In projects small gains are great – but in a language course? Tests only check short-term memory, so I think they are only interesting for motivation, not for evaluation. So how to define true progress? The reason I’m so keen on blogs is that they can document a development process. Anyway – 3 days off! Finally time to think :) Have a good weekend, Joan!

  3. I also tend to get distracted by short term goals and thinking “Oh, we could do this too” or “This would really go down well with that student”, but there are things I have used to stay on track when I have got things together more:
    – Get them to periodically do the same task that they have to do in their job (e.g. a standard sales presentation), showing them how what we have done in class ties into it and asking them how much more work they need on it
    – Keep a list of vocabulary, functional language etc that I have taught and try to recycle them and ask them which ones they have heard, read or used
    – Negotiate language that they will try to use in the next week at work and discuss if they managed it
    – Point out when something would help them get to the next level, which I take to mean being able to cope with the next textbook up in their chosen field, e.g. Tech Talk or Market Leader, even if we aren’t using the book

    That’s all I can think of for now. Look forward to you writing up what you talk about in the workshop

  4. Thanks, Alex,

    Having a student repeat a standard activity is really quite wise. It would need to be recorded as a series so you can compare objectively. Sometimes, especially after a break, students will notice that they have actually lost their skill or fluency – a very frustrating moment that brings home “use it or lose it!” But I’ll have to think about how to turn it into a portfolio my students can actually enjoy and perhaps even show.

    I’m also being quite strict about consistently negotiating goals on a lesson to lesson basis (what did we say we were going to do, what have we actually done, how did it go, what are we going to do next?) and hope that will give us a better sense of the actual progress we are making. So the ticket is controlled progress in small increments.

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