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Why we ask, not tell - the empowering benefits of Coaching

Samuel Gipson
Samuel Gipson (16 posts) Head of Secondary View Profile

The power of asking is something we often forget. Asking people how they are feeling, what they want to eat, what they want to do or how they want to solve a problem is incredibly impactful and highly important. When we ask questions, we empower. It gives individuals a choice, agency, and a stake in what happens next.

Secondary Coaching Programme Photos

At Nord Anglia Manila, ‘asking’ students is central to supporting them to develop and grow into the innovators, leaders, and creators of tomorrow. Our coaching program is at the heart of this.

In many schools’ teachers assume the role of all-knowing beings, telling students what to do, how to do things and when to do them. These schools do not prepare students for the world of tomorrow and life beyond the order and structure of their four walls. Nord Anglia Manila takes the opposite approach.

At Nord Anglia Manila, while our teachers are deeply knowledgeable and subject experts, we are confident enough in ourselves to appreciate we do not know everything and cannot predict the future. According to recent research from Dell Technologies 85% of the jobs of 2030 do not exist today. If our teachers are to successfully support students as they move into an unknown future, we need to not only ensure our students have fantastic subject knowledge, but they are also supported in the development of soft skills and life approaches that will allow them to be successful regardless of the future they find themselves navigating.

Coaching is the practice of asking individuals questions in a structured manner with the aim of guiding them to develop their own solutions and next steps rooted in self-knowledge. Coaching does not seek to diagnose problems or tell people what to do. It is the art of helping people realize they have the answers, or at least the ability to find answers, themselves. It is the opposite of mentoring.

Every half-term (six to eight weeks) all students in Secondary engage in at least one to two targeted coaching sessions with a House Tutor, centred on goals they may have for the year ahead, academic progress, or on their AATL (Attitude & Approach to Learning) grades. While these sessions are centred on learning, they are also opportunities for students to explore other challenges they may be facing.

Read more on ATL (Attitude & Approach to Learning) here.

OSCAR Framework infographic

Our coaching follows the OSCAR framework, a solution-focused approach, which stands for Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions, and Review. OSCAR coaching is a 5-step process that starts with framing an achievable and realistic outcome or goal. Each step is framed by a series of targeted questions that help individuals explore issues and obstacles and self-identify the best first steps for them to take to achieve their desired outcomes.

Coaching ties deeply with our growing emphasis on cognitive science and metacognition. Metacognition, in simple terms, is understanding how we think and learn, or thinking about thinking. Through targeted questioning framed around our AATL criteria the coaching program presents students with an opportunity to reflect on how they are thinking and what changes they can make to enhance progress.

The program helps students develop the skills of perseverance, resilience, creativity, and problem solving in a supported and structured environment.

The impact of the program has been clear. As the graph below shows, the impact of the pandemic and forced physical school closures had a significant impact on the percentage of A* grades our students

were achieving (e.g., Term 3 bar in red). While overall attainment of A*-C grades stayed stable, fewer students were pushing the boundaries and achieving at the higher end of the grade spectrum.

Beginning in 2020-21 we introduced the AATL and coaching program and immediately saw growth between Term 1 and Term 2 (green bar) in relation to the percentage of A* grades. Moving into 2021-22  the percentage of A* grades has increased even further, and we are returning to (and predicted to exceed) pre-pandemic A* grades across the secondary school in Term 3 of 2021-22.


Grade increase with coaching and aatl program chart

By asking and not telling, students are given the opportunity to frame their own solutions and next steps over which they take significantly greater ownership. Consequently, they are significantly more likely to achieve their goals, make progress, and develop the skillset and tools to be the innovators, leaders, and creators of tomorrow.

Secondary kids 2

Secondary School

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