In the education environment these two words teaching, and coaching are used indistinctively as though they are synonyms. Though, two questions arise. Do they have the same meaning or is there a difference between them? And why is it also important to shed a light to these two definitions?

I must confess that both, teacher and coach have a common goal which is to help the students grow in knowledge and become aware of their capability. They both support the individual. They both make learning possible.

What is the role of a teacher?

Teaching is a step-by-step approach to learning. It is mostly a one-way communication where the teacher-the bearer of the knowledge acquired through study and experience- imparts this knowledge little by little, to one or more students.

The teacher introduces new topics to the students of which they did not have previous knowledge. The goal is to present new concepts in an easy manner that will allow them to digest it easily.

Generally, they follow a curriculum which must be completed in a certain amount of time.The students are tested regularly to assure that the concepts are understood. The person responsible for the change in the students is mainly the teacher.

A complete beginner would benefit from having a teacher because the latter will show him/her the basic so that he/she may have an overview of the topics or subject.

A teacher is generally one-to- many and cannot adapt his/her teaching to the needs of everyone. It is a one-size fit all approach. The exception is obviously when tutoring one-on-one.

What is the role of a coach?

A coach helps you refine and develop the skill that you have already learned. A coach helps the coachee tap into that knowledge or use it in a different way to get the results expected.

A coach reshapes something that is already there. The coach’s aim is to increase the student’s abilities. Coaches adjust to their coachees’ needs so that the session is personalised. What is discussed in the sessions have immediate application in the real world.

“Coaches help people to help themselves.”

The coach starts from the premise that you have the answer within you. So, he/she asks pertinent questions and works with you so that you come out with the answers and solutions. In other word, it pulls them out.

It allows you -through the structure of the sessions- to take ownership of the changes that are happening.

Coaching is focused on the development of the individual in a holistic way. And coaching draws knowledge out of you.

It is said that “teachers lead by pushing whereas coaches lead by pulling”.

Teachers introduce the knowledge. They direct the conversation; they know the answer and push their students toward such knowledge to open their minds.

Whereas coaches focus on asking the right questions to allow the coachees to discover by themselves the required knowledge that they assume they already know, even though they might not be aware of it yet. They just need to pull these solutions out.

Coaching, or teaching?

The answer is simply both.

Teachers are necessary especially at the beginning of the learning process where the students need to learn the fundamentals of what they intend to study. This will allow them to ponder the extent of what they know and what they lack, as well as giving them an insight about whether they need help with coaching or not.

I have for example various students preparing for their GCSE French, Spanish, and Italian. They receive instructions on their subject at school, but they realise that they need further coaching to unlock that knowledge. I also give constant feedback to allow them to adjust and fine tune their proficiency in the language.

Coaches and teachers have different roles, but I must say that they complement each other.

Someone who is an absolute beginner will take more advantage if he/she has a teacher. When they have the necessary skills, they might benefit from having a coach that can challenge them and enable them to draw more resources from within to get to the fulfilment of their goals. Someone who for example enjoys self-study might need a Coach who can prod them in the right direction.

Students would benefit greatly if teaching and coaching were combined. In the beginner’s stage when students need more instruction, we should use more the teacher’s approach but, as they progress, teachers should act more Like coaches helping them solve specific problems so that they may reach their next milestones.

I am aware of the difficulties mainly in a classroom environment where the number of students is high but, training teachers in combining coaching techniques with their teaching seems to be the next natural step in education and especially in language teaching.

Let’s not forget that both coaching and teaching have only one objective: to help others realise their potential.

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