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Instruction or Coaching/Mentoring?

Simple definition, okay?

  • Instruction – telling people what to do or how to do it.
    • Learning is mostly pedagogical, which means that learning is directed by the teacher.
  • Coaching and Mentoring – supporting the student’s journey to finding their own answer.
    • Learning is mostly andragogical, which means that learning is directed by the student.

Are both needed? Absolutely. The adept teacher will use all approaches while helping their student to reach their goal.

Adults (who are the focus of my work here) expect more autonomy in their learning than younger students though. So to optimize your training, incorporate more coaching and mentoring.

Consider this “how to open a door” example with the eager student standing outside helplessly waiting to learn how to open the door:

“Turn the knob counterclockwise” [Instruction – Okay]


“What would happen if you tried turning the knob counter-clockwise?” [Coaching – Good]


“Do you think turning the knob counter-clockwise or turning it clockwise would produce better results?” (in sales they call this the “assumptive close.” By assuming you will do something, they move straight to your options. Like, ‘do you want your new car to be red or blue?’) [Coaching – Better]


“What does your best judgment tell you?” (Great question to ask your students. Lousy question to ask your spouse, by the way!) [Coaching – Best]


Now, will you be forwarding this to 5 people in your network, or 10 people?

Mike McKenna

About the author

Mike McKenna is the founder and president of TEAM Solutions. He helps public and private sector leaders improve their outcomes before, during and after a planned event or unplanned crisis.

Please contact Mike via the Contact page.

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