At Niekée, Mundium College, all students are coached in such a way that they can demonstrate their progress to the coach and their parents, as well as reflect on it themselves. Coach/trainer Aimée Dalemans shares her thoughts about these three-way discussions and gives a few tips of her own.
Freedom and self-reflection
The education landscape in Niekée gives students a great deal of freedom and responsibility. Students receive guidance from coaches (teachers), whose main objective in this context is to teach students to reflect. This is something they do every day, starting with a daily kick-off and closing off the day with a recap. The targets for the day are established during the kick off and how the day then progresses is discussed during the recap. In-depth discussions regularly take place between the students and the coach.
At Niekée, progress discussions with parents are actually led by the students. “The three-way discussion is a key part of our school’s approach,” insists Aimée. “It’s both a goal and a means of giving students ownership.” During the discussion the parents, the coach and the student all discuss the student’s progress. “It’s the student’s chance to reveal what he wants to do, how he wants to do it and what he will need in the process.”
“After the discussion my father was really proud of me. Later on I will be able to work in my father’s business, but he also wants to help me open my own supermarket. I will already be able to talk to employees.”
During the three-way discussion, use is made of a digital coaching document, which is kept up to date by students regularly throughout the year. This document is therefore comparable to a portfolio. It describes students’ skills and the tasks they have completed, so that their parents are given some insight into how well they are progressing.
“I had to tell my parents everything myself, which was quite nerve-wracking. The only times my coach said anything was at the beginning and at the end of the discussion. My sister is still in primary school and she too was able to make a sort of entry in the digital document. She enjoyed it so much that she almost cannot wait until she can make a real entry. My parents said after the discussion that I had told them much more about myself than the teacher would have done.”
What does this require of the teacher?
To enable them to coach and help students conduct the three-way discussions, teachers at Niekée are themselves given the necessary training. “Among other things, it’s about conducting Socratic discussions and then reflecting. To be able to coach effectively you also have to know yourself well and be aware how you’d react and behave in certain situations,” adds Aimée, who, as an internal coach, supervises the whole process on the work floor.
“I don’t usually like talking to my parents about school, so it’s something I never do at home. An advantage of these discussions is that whereas in the past it was always about me, now I can do the talking. But I reckon that if you do it yourself you have to do it properly. Sometimes, during the discussion, questions that I find awkward are asked, such as: what don’t you like about school, and what are my qualities? I had to seek the help of my coach with questions like these.”
Tips for the three-way discussions
- Silences during a discussion are not necessarily a bad thing.
- If, as a teacher, you take too much control of a discussion, a student might clam up or get away with an answer that’s too short.
- The student gets to control these discussions, with the coach only intervening if the student omits to communicate important information to his or her parents.