Learner coaching refers to a style of teaching which looks to change or challenge the traditional roles of teacher and student. The idea is expounded and developed at the blog "Learner Coaching ELT", which is run by Daniel Barber and Duncan Foord.
Difference in perspective
In the traditional perspective of language teaching students come to a class where they are given knowledge by the teacher. They might or might not be set homework which might or might not interest them and which they might or might not do. The focus is on whatever the teacher decides to focus on in class.
While more modern forms of teaching have attempted to make classes more student-centered, the ideas behind teacher coaching come from the world of coaching. A "coach" in an athletics sense serves to direct and monitor the athlete's progress. It would be absurd for an athlete to train only when he/she was in the presence of the coach.
If we transfer this insight to the English language classroom we can see that it should be the teacher's responsibility to encourage the student to spend various hours of self-study outside of the classroom and the class sessions should spend at least some time reviewing and evaluating this self-study.
Having decided to inspire your students to practice English outside of class you will need to either suggest or elicit possibilities. Ideally these should be things in which the student has a prior interest or in which they are involved in the normal course of their lives. Possibilities include:
- Writing emails, which could later be reviewed with the teacher.
- Participating in on-line forums, wikis or blogs.
- Listening to podcasts.
- Watching films in English. (Many students find this difficult at first. Try suggesting that they watch the whole film in their native language first and then watch twenty minutes of the film in English.)
- Watching the news in English if an appropriate channel is available. (The news is a useful activity as students will probably already be familiar with the context of the stories from their local news broadcasts.)
- Watching documentaries in English. TDT broadcasts frequently include original English soundtracks. (Documentaries are good as they typically have a single voice, which does little more than comment on the image on the screen with a calm clear delivery.)
- Some countries have English-language radio stations or programs for students. Alternatively apps can be downloaded which turn smartphones into internet radios.
- With the rise of the internet, reading opportunities at all levels and on any subject under the sun are now freely available to anyone.
- Students with ebooks or other mobile technology can obtain English language copies of books they are reading.
- Where students are employed in international companies there may be company material in English. This material should be of interest to the student and may also be useful in class.
- Arranging an exchange language class with a student who wishes to practice the student's native language.
- Using Skype to arrange exchange classes.
- Students can use their "inner voice" to practice English. This involves them composing dialogues in their minds based on what they should say under certain circumstances.
In your review session ask them which of these activities they carried out and what they got out of it.
For some students it will be effective to create a coaching sheet and obtain a commitment from them to carry out tasks within a certain time-frame. An example can be found at Learner Coaching ELT.