When thinking about coaching, very rarely do we ever envision a coach outside of athletics or business. My work in student success and academic advising however, has taught me that coaching lies at the intersection of advising, mentoring, and student support services.
The importance for developing a coaching framework at our institutions is extremely important, and very relevant.
A couple of months ago, I had the great opportunity to spend one of my mornings among colleagues learning about coaching and brain-based learning in higher education. Here is my personal plug though: I, for one, am not a neuroscientist and I don’t claim to be an expert on the human brain under any circumstances. With that being said, I do believe it is important to understand how the brain processes information in order for there to be an effective coaching session with a student, colleague, peer etc. . .
Each one of us has what is called the limbic system. The limbic system controls our basic emotions (fear, anger, pleasure). If a person experiences a real or perceived threat, cortisol (stress hormone) secretion increases. When fear is too high, no learning can occur until the threat is removed. Additionally, when a listener (student) perceives that the speaker (in this case, student affairs professional) is the only one who is right during the conversation, cortisol levels can increase and cause the student to not take away anything from the advising session.
As student affairs professionals, we can decrease cortisol levels and increase oxytocin levels (trust network) by listening to our students, asking them discovery based questions, and taking the time to reframe and refocus the discussion as needed. This is easier said than done, I know. As an Academic Advisor, I have a current caseload of over 300 advisees (soon to hit the 400+ mark). During my peak advising season, I may have 12-15 students visit my office in a day. Each one of them has different needs.
It is our job as student affairs professionals to help our students fulfill their personal and professional goals. We need to ask them:
What is it that you don’t know?
What is it that you want?
What is it that you need?
Who or what can help you?
We need to remember that spending an additional 10-15 minutes with our students may be one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Clare Cady on Access to Higher Education