Last year, we noticed that a number of our long-term students were going through a ‘mid-course crisis’ and one by one seemed to be having a ‘I’m not learning anything’ meltdown and although students attempted to comfort their teachers by explaining to them that, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, we knew it was our responsibility to knock this infamous learning plateau on the head once and for all. The answer we came up with was coaching!
We began offering our students ‘Tutor Meetings’, the chance to sit with their tutor every few weeks to discuss their level of progress and language learning difficulties and to support them in setting learning goals and objectives on their path of self-guided learning.
We soon found that even the most experienced teachers were finding ‘changing hats’ from teacher to ELT coach to be outside of their comfort zone. It’s not part of our initial training after all! So… we had to ask ourselves how we could equip our teachers with some useful tools to coach our students more effectively…..and this is what we came up with!
The Wheel of Language Learning
This is based on the ‘Wheel of Life’, designed by Paul J. Meyer, founder of Success Motivation Institute in 1977, for the purpose of Life Coaching. Meyer noticed how if the spokes on a bike were not aligned, the bike tire would not roll evenly and felt that a person’s life was the same way.
I’ve adapted this to the Wheel of Language Learning and began using it with your students, allowing them to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses in the areas of listening, spoken Interaction, spoken production, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.
Once the student marked the wheel, areas of language imbalance were highlighted, giving a visual representation for the student and tutor to analyze and discuss together. Wait for the ‘light-bulb moment’ when students suddenly ‘see’ the areas they need to work on. Viewing it like this also gives them a target to aim towards! Download the wheel here!
The hard slog unfortunately didn’t end when the student became consciously aware of their areas of imbalance. No, there wasn’t an ELT fairy hovering over head, waiting to spin the wheel of language learning to transform our B1 students in to C1 students.
Our tutors helped students to focus their attention on an area of the wheel they wanted to develop and then make commitments to take actions to make them happen. With support and encouragement, positive changes began to happen! So how did they plan?
The Grow Model
This is where The GROW Model comes in! Another tool used by life and business coaches around the world. After your students establish their areas of language imbalance, it’s time to plan for change!
Students need to set realistic goals and targets and create an action plan! Foord and Barber have outlined The GROW Model on their blog, Learner Coaching ELT whereby students set GOALS, look at the REALITY, consider their OPTIONS and then plan their next steps and their WAY FORWARD.
Support your students as they set their own language goals and ask the right questions so that they are challenged to think about how they are going to achieve them.
Here is a link to a GROW model template we have created that you can download now to use with your students.
Try out these tools and let us know if they work for your students. Are your students more focused? Is it clearer to them what areas they need to focus on? Are they more committed to making the changes they said they would?
Let us know if you double-up as a teacher and ELT coach and share your experiences here….