Appendix 2: Coaching Tips to promote active learning in online classes

As teachers, we know that a major part of our job is coaching students: providing motivation, encouragement, and guidance.  While it is essential of course that we provide expert knowledge of the language, solid instruction, accurate feedback, and reliable assessment, too much “instruction” and too little “coaching” can lead to demotivation for a lot of students.  Students may feel unappreciated and disconnected and simply get bored.  This is especially true in online classes. So here it is, a rule of thumb:  think of yourself as a coach first, and instructor second.

Here are some “coaching tips” to consider when you’re teaching listening and speaking.

The left column is the “goal”, the middle column is the behavior and attitude we’re trying to instill and encourage, the rightmost column is questions you can ask (continuously!) to try to promote the target attitude and behavior. 


What we’re trying to encourage:How can we tell if the students are moving toward this goal?What are some questions we can ask to “coach” our students?
Listen with feeling  greater affect – emotional response, laughter, surprise:   greater  interest,   passion, humor, appreciation,    What did you get out of this? What was meaningful for you? What was interesting to you?    
Listen with attention  Greater curiosity – hearing precise sounds,  recognizing unfamiliar words, noticing differences in usage, paying attention to nuance   What was new for you? What was confusing to you? What surprised you? What new expressions or new vocabulary did you learn? What was special about this speaker?
Listen with focus on meaningGreater desire to understand, seek confirmation,  seek expansion of ideas  What did the speaker say about…? What did the speaker mean by…? Did the speaker say… or…?
 Listen to respondGreater initiative to interact, more interaction; make stronger, more confident interpretations, friendliness, appreciation  What does your partner think about…? Do you and your partner agree that…? What do you (and partner) think is the most important…?
listen to learnGreater openness to new ideas and points of view; not just to comprehend interest in tracking progress, self-monitoring, expanding awareness    What did you learn in this lesson? What would like to know more about? Do you have any questions?


What we’re trying to encourage:How can we tell if the students are moving toward this goal?What are some questions we can ask / comments we can give to “coach” our students?
Speak with “presence”  More calmness, more attention to listeners (especially eye contact), slower paceIt’s OK, take your time… I’d really like to hear what you have to say… Thank you for contribution
Speak with “intention”  Less fear of making mistakes, more willingness to try to express new ideasIt’s OK to make mistakes…we learn from mistakes…mistakes are a sign that you’re trying new things… You’re getting your meaning across, thank you for trying so hard
Speak to build meaningMore preparation, more commitment to ideas, more willingness to hear feedbackYou sound very passionate about that idea, I enjoy hearing you speak so passionately; you really researched that idea well, good job, thank you for your contribution.
 Speak to connect with othersMore attempts to engage the audience, asking for confirmation and feedback, soliciting ideas from partnersDoesn’t it feel good to share your ideas? Be sure to ask your partners for feedback.  I really appreciate your openness.
Speak to learnMore willingness to practice, willing to submit outlines before speaking and revisions after speakingGood effort – I’d like you to do a revision and try again next class.  I’m glad to see you learning so much. Great effort!

Of course, you can modify and add to this set. It is intended to show that coaching can be delivered in the form of observation – noting students’ behavior and attitudes, goal-setting – giving intentions that students can strive for when they participate in class, questioning (ah, the power of questions!) – helping students notice possibilities for expanding the way they think, and positive feedback – rewarding students when they do something well!