Learning can be uneven over time, especially when a student has a complex learning profile, a learning disability or struggles with emotional dysregulation. Students may find it difficult to be fully present to learn certain strategies and skills, or take reasoning and problem solving to higher levels. An effective academic coach can help students overcome these gaps in learning and functioning.
For many students (especially those with Executive Function Disorders and/or ADHD) simply learning the skills or knowledge is not sufficient. One of the key misunderstandings that teachers and parents believe is that students will be able to apply the skills independently once they have mastered them. However, for these students, the challenge lies not in knowing what to do, but rather in the actual ‘doing’; they struggle to transfer their knowledge into action. Due to neurological anomalies in the structure of their brains, it is a challenge for them to perform the tasks without consistent external structure and accountability.
Academic coaching provides the much-needed time and space each week to focus on the processes of learning: organizing, collaboratively planning, reviewing and revising, previewing pending work, and starting assignments. In addition, the one-on-one nature of coaching allows for direct instruction in skills that may have been missed or may need reinforcement. The aim is to heighten awareness of what it takes to achieve academic success and anchor this with new strategies, a supportive relationship, and personal accountability.
In the past, researchers believed that the frontal lobes of the brain (the part of the brain that controls judgment, language, memory, and emotional regulation) developed to their fullest by the time students reached their high teens, but current research indicates that the frontal lobes continue to mature until approximately 25 years. Does that mean students will always struggle? Certainly not! Over time, many students require less external support when the routines and habits become automatic, or when they begin to meet with success; success breeds confidence which breeds further success. They also may become intrinsically motivated when they can specialize in high-interest subjects, or they find a job in a field that they care about. Often physical environment plays a role, too. For example, when students see others around them working in college dorms, they are often more motivated to work independently.