98: Coaching Conversations





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  1. Hear the problem or issue fully.
    • Ask questions to determine what happened, when it happened, why it happened.
    • Reflect back content and emotions without giving advice.
  2. Get more details.
    • Ask more questions to find out:
      • duration of problem?
      • what’s been tried already?
      • who’s been affected?
      • what does everyone think the problem is?
      • anything work at all (even part time)?
    • Reflect back content and emotions without giving advice.
  3. Honor their ideas for a solution.
    • Ask questions to help him, her or them describe their possible next steps
      • What should be done next?
      • Who might benefit?
      • How long will next step(s) take?
      • What resources do you need?
      • How will you know if it’s working?
      • What are the merits of various solutions?
  4. Ask if they want your advice.
    • If not, confirm what they will next.
    • If they really need but don’t want it, offer it.
  5. Give your advice and make a plan.
    • Don’t just give the answer – create a mentoring moment
    • Think aloud (making thinking visible).
    • Explain considerations for choice
    • Explain why you selected choice
    • Explain what was considered and ruled out and why
    • If one exists, explain impact of a similar experience you’ve had and what you would’ve done better now that you know more
    • Explain what things they did not consider in their choice – unintended consequences, impact on stakeholders, resources needed, time needed, skills needed, etc.
  6. Plan
    • Decide on a next step
    • Decide when they will check back with you
    • Decide how they will know if next step is working


Coaching conversations are a critical tool in managing teams during PBL projects.  Teams will sometimes reach an impasse and will need the assistance of a facilitator to think through a problem.  Observing the steps above will help teachers guide students through the process of analyzing, brainstorming, evaluating, and planning possible solutions to their team problems.


Preparation Steps
  • Prior to needing to facilitate these conversations, offer up the Coaching Conversation as one of a selection of extra support tools that teams can use when they are feeling stuck or overwhelmed.
  • Teach students what are the purpose and format of Coaching conversations.
  • Observe teams to identify if any teams might need a coaching conversation.
Early Implementation Steps
  • If a team requests (or is perceived to be in need of) a coaching conversations, facilitate one using the steps listed in the WHAT section.
  • After the conversations have students reflect and provide feedback on how the session went.
  • Set up a plan to implement and evaluate next steps.
  • Check in on teams to see if their next steps worked.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Teach students how to have coaching conversations with their team mates.  While scaffolding this skill provide: a checklist of steps, modeling of steps, and practice role play opportunities.
  • After observing the steps being modeled or role played, ask students to brainstorm situations that may require coaching conversations.
  • To help students be more effective listeners during coaching conversations, look at ideas in here and here.

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