Student Development? What is the "BEST" approach?

“You only had one job!”


“Yeah I did...but which one was it...Instructor? Teacher? Coach? Mentor?”


Instructor, teacher, coach or mentor?

In many cases the four titles of instructor, teacher, coach and mentor are used in an interchangeable way. Little regard, if any, is given to any specific differences between these roles. On the very surface of it, there are indeed broad similarities across these roles, generically all being concerned with the development and leadership of others towards a defined task.

A deeper analysis however presents us with a very different picture. One where the specific roles become distinct in respect of their orientation, subject focus and process of delivery. The question is which is best? Is one specific approach more beneficial in generating results over and above another?

More importantly within your classes, in your academy or school, which role do you adopt?


Teaching vs Coaching Matrix

The Instructor

The Instructor is a performance orientated role. Being an expert in the subject or skill, the instructor educates other through demonstration of and subsequent assessment of a specific capability. The instructor shows how to do something, a technique, an exercise or how to use a piece of equipment. They provide an opportunity for the student to rehearse and demonstrate their competence in that specific capability (or specific subject), giving feedback based on the proficiency of the student. The role of the instructor is “hands-on”, providing direct interaction and communication with the student.


The Teacher

The Teacher is also performance orientated role. The teacher is again an expert in the subject, skill or capability being taught. They fulfill many (if not all) the responsibilities undertaken by the instructor. The key difference between a teacher and an instructor is in the application of the subject/skill being taught. The role of a teacher is more focused toward the general application of the skill. They enable the student to realise the concepts behind the specific capability, facilitating the successful application in related situations.

Typically the teacher is based within the education of a broader curriculum, enabling the acquisition and development of a wider range of capabilities and knowledge. The role however remains to be a performance orientated one, with “hands-on” direct interactions with the student. The role of the teacher again, remains to be a one-way interaction which seeks to develop and subsequently assess the students performance against specific criteria.


The Coach

The Coach is a person orientated role. The coach seeks to facilitate mastery of a skill or subject area, working with students to improve and develop their self efficacy (self confidence relative to the performance of a specific task/goal). The coach then works with the student to investigate their competency and their beliefs/anxieties associated with this. They provide request feedback from the student and further provide their own feedback to better support and guide the student. In this respect, coaching is a cyclical, ongoing interaction with the student, which uses a more “ hands-off” indirect form of interaction.

The emphasis on the coach is to generate a better intrinsic understanding within the student, of their own performance and progress. Whilst the coach may use some of the direct approaches of the instructor and teacher, having the student demonstrate and rehearse specific skills, their focus remains on the long term development of the student. The coach’s focus provides the student opportunity to understand the barriers they have in regards to their own individual development. Then through a process of empathic questioning, feedback and support, the coach works with the student to get them to identify and action the appropriate solutions.