Teaching academic classes like sports?


Sometimes students wish academic classes were more like performance based sports, but how would it work? How do they respond differently to coaching versus teaching?

Practice versus instruction

With coaching the emphasis in on practice; students spend time warming up before learning and practicing new skills. Then, coaches watch students practice most of the time. When teaching, warm-ups are typically used as a classroom management technique to get students quiet and focused, or as a daily assessment to identify students that are falling behind. In an upper level academic class, warm-ups are often disposed of as a waste of time. The emphasis is on instruction to master new skills. Although, there is time to practice in class students are expected to perform newly learned skills on their own at home without the teacher present.  The teacher requires more unsupervised effort than the coach does.

Effort versus attentiveness

Coaches watch students to assess skill level and make sure they are exerting effort. They often depend on other students to police student behavior. On the other hand, teachers usually watch students to make sure they behave properly. Good academic students are attentively occupied with their own work and do not bother to watch the behavior of others. However, they are often willing to help individual struggling students.

Making more effort at running increases a student’s ability in track. Making more effort in math, may allow a student to solve problems faster, but will not result in learning how to find derivatives of an equation. After all this is a procedure uncovered by someone far older and educated than they. The student must concentrate to master academic skills and attentiveness is not always observable. Teachers cannot tell precisely what skills students have mastered until they see the assigned work. So a lot of assignments have to be made.

Obvious versus out of sight accomplishments

Instruction on coaching indicates feedback is given to show that the coach cares rather than to let students know how well they are performing because athletes already know this.[1] They constantly watch what others are doing, comparing themselves. They tend to copy those who perform the best. In a class room, students are not always sure if they have mastered new skills. Sometimes they confuse and transpose two different procedures – especially in math and foreign languages. So they need feedback to know how well they are doing.

They may know who the best student in the class is, but copying the work of this student won’t help any.  The ability to learn is basically an invisible skill, which each student must be able to do on their own or they will fail.

[1] Coaching Principles, (2012) http://www.asep.com/courses/ASEP_Previews




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