Peer to peer coaching is an important way of improving young people's resilience (academic and mental health) and self confidence. Peer coaching can help pupils develop their potential. I don't think there is a more pressing issue facing us globally now. The recent statistics across the UK show an increase in anxiety; and a lack of confidence. Waiting times for mental health services show a large increase. Many parents and teachers report a lack of aspiration in their children and young people.. Online reporting of bullying is at record levels (http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16413505.online-bullying-warning-as-scots-pupils-go-back-to-school/). Another survey recently found that a quarter of 14 year old children reported having self harmed. This shows a stark need to focus on the anxiety crisis facing our children. (http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16413505.online-bullying-warning-as-scots-pupils-go-back-to-school/).
Through TeachMindset I have the amazing privilege of working across the UK and beyond, supporting the training of peer coaching and mentoring in schools. The research evidence tells us that using pupils to peer coach fellow pupils has a positive impact on the academic resilience and confidence of young people. Trusted relationships make a difference for pupils who require additional nurture support and help develop social capital and widen networks and reduce their isolation.
There are many programmes underway in schools to help increase resilience. Many focus on Growth Mindset (realising that with help, support, taking feedback & criticism and effort we can all improve). Yet many of these programmes and interventions do not lead to behavioural change in children and young people. Peer led coaching and mentoring changes that directly by encouraging pupils to take feedback and critique from peers; set goals and reflect on what is working for them. These are the key ingredients for developing a Growth Mindset in our pupils too.
How does Peer led coaching work?
Peer led coaching works by having senior pupils coach and mentor younger pupils frequently. I use both inter-changeably in the context of this form of intervention. This is an opportunity for younger pupils to talk about issues that they face with their school work or school life. Peer coaches work to build a sustained relationship and encourage their mentees to set goals which are reviewed and used as the basis for action. The whole purpose of the coaching is for the peer coaches to work in an asset based way to find solutions together with their mentees. I advocate weekly coaching for a sustained period for maximum impact on academic resilience and attainment. A good length of a coaching relationship allows for strong bonds to be built between pupil coach and their mentee.
There are three successful elements of a successful pupil led peer coaching school based programme: selection of mentors and mentees, mentor training and ongoing support.
Successful Ingredients for Peer Led Coaching
In terms of selection, getting young people who have the potential to be a positive role model, have an interest in mentoring and good communication skills is key. However, think about the young people who will be receiving peer coaching. What is their background and experience? Ensuring a good fit and match between mentor and mentee is important - so try and consider this when recruiting - you want both to be able to have some things in common and be able to relate to each other's experience.
I always encourage school to take a calculated risk with their mentors in terms of ensuring that the mentors will also benefit from the skills; knowledge and experience of being a mentor. Don't always go for the same pupils in school who get selected for everything.
Training Peer Coaches
Effective and quality training of peer coaches is critical. This needs to be engaging and skills based. I work with the team of young mentors to develop their own mindset; work on their own aspirations; develop their communication skills and ensure they know the importance of good boundaries and the limits to confidentiality. Role-play and skills based practiced of coaching is vital as as giving mentors an opportunity to practice open ended questioning.
It is important to work on the Peer Coaches own goals and ensure that they receive coaching too so that they can see effective coaching modelled and apply this to their own coaching and help them with their own academic achievement.
Support for Peer Led Coaches In School
Developing an effective support team in school to support pupil peer coaching when underway is a crucial ingredient for success too. Ensuring that mentors and mentees get support; and have a clear point of contact is essential if issues arise. To make coaching easier, you might consider having the peer coaches meet together at the same time in the same venue. This has the benefit of making it logistically easier to have a member of the support team present. This means that they can observe what is happening and provide feedback to mentors on an ongoing basis.
In my coaching programmes across the UK I always work to ensure the mentors get recognition for their voluntary participation such as Saltire or Youth Achievement Awards, important if we are thinking about raising attainment. Careful attention needs to be paid to timetabling in school. Effective planning means that mentees own academic attainment doesn't drop as a result of being a peer coach by missing core lessons.
Overall, I have seen a huge increase in confidence of young people who are coaches and those being coached. Of all the interventions that schools are adopting. By embedding a sustained peer led coaching and mentoring programme in your own school can yield a much greater benefit than bringing in countless guest speakers for one off inputs on resilience, motivation and confidence.
If you are interested in us providing peer led coaching in your school, please get in touch below.
John Paul Fitzpatrick, Director, Teachmindset Ltd