Friday, August 22, 2014

Coaching students to follow through

It's always best to influence students in positive directions with the least use of positional power possible. We want to save our power for only when we really need it and help develop students' abilities to make good decisions. We want our students to develop good judgment and operate with social reciprocity as part of a community of learners. When we do this, we are empowering our students to own their behavior, learning, etc.

But we all know there are times when we are coaching kids that we really want them to commit and follow through with a direction we've established together. We've all had those experiences where we thought a student had agreed to a decision only to lack follow through. They may nod approvingly, but that should not be mistaken for a true commitment to action.

Here are a couple of phrases I sometimes use to try to get a firmer commitment and call them to action. After discussing an issue with a student and arriving at a solution, I will ask them to summarize our discussion, "What is your understanding of what we've discussed?' I might follow that up with another question, "How will you take responsibility in this situation?" And finally, "What are you going to do next (or next time)?"

If I am not able to get a feeling of mutual cooperation from this type of discussion, I might get a little stronger with my accountability language. I want to invite the student to offer a stronger commitment beyond just head nodding. I think questions are usually much more powerful than statements, "Can I fully count on you to follow through with this plan?"

After having a conversation like this, it is much easier to address the lack of follow through if it still occurs, "When we discussed this last time, I remember you agreed to do such and such. When we don't follow through on commitments, there are consequences for self and others."

But most of the time, if we get a really firm commitment, students will do their best to follow through with their actions. Of course, having a great relationship built on mutual respect is so important for any of this to be effective.

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