Thinking creatively to build student agency:
a student coaching opportunity

Never more so, has there been a time where we should support our students in talking.  Creating as many opportunities as we can for them to talk about themselves, their goals and aspirations, wellbeing and how to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

A philosophy of student centred and student driven structures, and a focus on agency in a school curriculum design has always underpinned the Kunskapsskolan schools (Sweden).  Solidified by encompassing personal and academic coaching conversations with clearly defined long term goals – these, then aligning to their short, and medium-term goals, enabling the individualised and personalised daily structures to be achieved.

The emergence of the pandemic and with the high levels of accountability particularly in the UK, at specific stages of a student’s education for schools, and, also pressures felt by the students, has seen a rise in concerns for, and calls for, more formally addressing the wellbeing agenda.

More recently, in the UK, the education inspection framework has been a little clearer on what this support may look like from a personal development and  character education perspective.  Developing this more, the aim for schools is to have a named member of the team to be a wellbeing or mental health lead by 2025.  With new guidance and structures to support.

This, however, seems to have been driven by the Covid pandemic, not necessarily by a moral purpose to ensure our young people are holistically supported in their development, or by underpinning pedagogy of whole school design (curricular, resource and timetabling).

The OECD has a clear strategy on developing student agency (learning compass).  The need to create supportive structures and place a focus on individualised holistic development is critical.

Organising opportunities for conversation, thinking, and reflective time to consider strategies, goals and wider personal development must be at the heart of our systems.  Doing this, ensures the development of the person, the intrinsic and reflective journey this can support is both relational and challenging.

We believe that coaching offers this structure, experiment and opportunity for schools and students alike.  We know through the work of Daniel Pink (2009) that staff like to have purpose, autonomy and feel masterful.  

  • Is this not the same for students?
  • Can we ensure this positive feeling is achieved and achievable for ALL students?
  • How do we create these opportunities?

The last bullet point can often create thoughts of the blockers that exist in our systems, stopping us from doing what we believe should and would have a positive impact on our schools.  So, we have schools across our network of schools that put this philosophy and practice into their organisational structure- weekly, purposefully, and never forgetting the challenge.

We aim to work with our schools by:

  1. Develop a coaching strategy and processes for student coaching.
  2. Build the understanding and competencies of teachers and children to have purposeful coaching conversations.
  3. Support the development of a curriculum design that facilitates a more autonomous learning and creates space for increased student agency – at points in the weekly timetable.
  4. Support the timetabling and resourcing of delivery, planning and reflection – creating space and time for robust goal setting.