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What is a Coach?

Using the ISSAQ approach, information is delivered at three levels. First, scores, feedback, and interventions are provided directly to the student. Second, similar information is provided to a "coach," or someone working with a student to foster their success. Third, information is aggregated to summarize trends across groups of students or even an entire college or university.

But what exactly is this role of coach designed to be?

In many cases, this person could also be referred to - either formally or informally - as an advisor. However, the term "coach" is used in the ISSAQ approach to help distinguish between traditional advising models, which focus on course and major selection, and more holistic advising and student support efforts. In considering the various ways in which institutions support students, three capacities are commonly needed:

Key decisions - such as course or major selection, general education management, transfer planning - needed to successfully navigate degree requirements and graduate

Supporting a holistic array of student strengths and challenges, including academic and co-curricular areas, to promote academic success and persistence




Addressing critical, episodic personal issues such as mental health, food stability, or housing. Generally needed occasionally by select students, but critical for health and success

Who should be a coach?

A variety of faculty, staff, and administrators can serve as a coach, provided they are sufficiently trained in understanding student strengths and challenges, having discussions with students, and connecting students with resources. In the majority of cases, a coach will be carrying the title of "advisor" or similar position, such as "coach" or "counselor." Each institution addresses these roles and responsibilities differently. 

For more information...

The resources below discuss higher education's transition from traditional, academically-based advising to a more holistic coaching model.

  • Barbuto Jr, J. E., Story, J. S., Fritz, S. M., & Schinstock, J. L. (2011). Full range advising: Transforming the advisor-advisee experience. Journal of College Student Development, 52(6), 656-670. Available online here

  • McWilliams, A., & Beam, L. (2013). Advising, counseling, coaching, mentoring: Models of developmental relationships in higher education. The Mentor: Innovative Scholarship on Academic Advising, 15. Available online here

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