Less Teaching, More Coaching

Less Teaching, More Coaching

Matt EasterdayMatt Easterday

To capitalize on teachable moments, ditch the syllabus and start coaching, Northwestern University’s Matt Easterday wrote in The Hechinger Report.

Easterday, assistant professor of learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), argued that students often don’t benefit from a fixed syllabus for open-ended, project-based learning courses because learning doesn’t happen on schedule.

“Plotting a fixed schedule of assignments and readings far in advance risks giving the right information at the wrong time,” he wrote. “With good intentions, we may plan teachable moments right out of the course.”

Instead, instructors should rely on coaching. Rather than delivering content that’s easily found online, coaches can spend their time meeting with teams to help them analyze obstacles, plan next steps and find resources. Coaches don’t teach the same idea to all students at the same time before they need it. Instead, they wait until someone is stuck on a problem and needs more knowledge, Easterday wrote.

“While it may be hard to imagine a life without syllabi, giving students the right information at the wrong time often leads to students who don’t want to read and learning that doesn’t stick,” wrote Easterday,  one of three SESP faculty members to be named a 2016-17 Public Voices Fellow.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 1/19/17